Kiersti Hogue had always wanted to ride in one of the clinics offered annually at California’s Equine Affaire. So, when the opportunity came along this year, she went to the famed exposition’s website, www.equineaffaire.com, and learned how to apply as a rider.
“I basically had to audition,” the 17-year-old huntseat rider explains. “I chose the Tim Grubb clinic, because he’s very well-known as an Olympic rider. I had to send in a video tape of me riding my horse, Oliver, over a course of jumps. I sent in a tape of me competing at Tucson (a large hunter-jumper show in Arizona) and kept my fingers crossed.”
Hogue was accepted to ride in the clinic held during Equine Affaire at Fairplex, the home of the Los Angeles County Fair in Pamona, Calif. The huge all-breed horse exposition and trade show ran February 1-4.
Hogue rode her “teenaged” warmblood gelding for the two-day clinic along with four other riders. During the clinic, grand prix jumper rider Tim Grubb wore a headset that allowed spectators in the grandstand to hear his instructions to the riders as well as his humorous asides and general remarks about horsemanship. In his affable yet no-nonsense British manner, Grubb worked with the riders on both flatwork and over fences exercises. His main focus was on how the rider’s position affects the performance of the horse. He also emphasized that the quality of the canter on the approach to the jump is foremost in ensuring a decent jumping effort.
Afterward, Hogue acknowledges that she was nervous riding in the clinic. “Of course. It’s in front of a whole grandstand of people. I didn’t want to do something horrible and be embarrassed.”
The worst did happen. While each of the other riders took a turn working on a jumping exercise, Oliver dozed off standing in the line-up. When it came time for Oliver to canter over the trio of jumps, he seemed surprised and stopped at the wall, unseating Hogue.
Fortunately, Grubb didn’t chastise her much. Instead, he just said flatly, “Get back on.” He also surmised that Oliver was a bit on the lazy side. “This is the kind of horse that you have to ride the first few jumps on a course as if you hate him a little bit.”
That concept made Hogue a lot more aggressive as she geared up to try the mini-course again. This time, she used more leg and Oliver complied. The two of them met with Grubb’s approval.
“You should give your trainer a kiss for finding you such a nice horse,” he said. He also complimented her and her horse for being properly turned out for a clinic.
“All of that made me feel good,” Hogue recalls. “Plus that stop woke me up. Now I realize that when I ride in medal classes where the jumps are a little spooky sometimes, I can’t just assume that Oliver is going to jump. I have to really ride to those types of jumps.”
In the end, was the Equine Affaire clinic worth the adventure?
“Absolutely!” she says. “Depending on who the clinicians are next year, I’d do it again.”