Where else can you combine squats, stall-mucking and sports psychology but at the Robert Dover Horsemastership Week. Rosie Simoes, 17, traveled from Barrington Hills, Ill., to Wellington, Fla., to participate in the clinic on Jan. 2-6. She shares her experiences....
6:30 a.m.: Morning Stables
We started our day by doing basic chores in the barn—feeding the horses, cleaning stalls, cleaning and refilling water buckets, and hand walking. The 12 riders and nine auditors worked together to get it all done. To the outsider it may have looked quite odd because we were all in workout clothing! We worked quickly in the barn so that we could be on time for the fitness with Bob Gutowitz at 7.
7 a.m.: Work It!
Unsure of what to expect the first day, all riders and auditors marched into the covered arena promptly at 7 to experience our first workout with Robert Dover’s personal trainer, Bob Gutowitz.
Each day, we worked our muscles just like we work our horses’ muscles. He ran us through basic exercises, such as running in place, high knees and jumping jacks. Then, we moved on to more intense work. Bob had us run lengths across the arena and jump side-to-side over the arena railing… something that was easy at first, but became more difficult the longer you did it!
On other days, we did frog jumps (squat jumps) across the arena, sprints, and jumps over the arena railing. The real killer was having to squat and travel across the ring, keeping low to the ground the entire time in a form of crab walk. There was no doubt we would feel that in our thighs the next day!
Then Bob had us pick a partner, and we did wheel barrows across the arena. Although it was not supposed to be competitive in nature, many of us got competitive, as we raced to finish first.
Lunges, sprints and planks also kept us moving. On the final morning, Bob had us run backwards the full length of the arena. When we reached the end, he was standing slightly before X, and he had us squat jump to him before taking off in a sprint to the other end of the arena. We repeated this four times! Then for our final exercise, Bob had us do lunges across the arena.
At the end of our final workout, Bob talked to us about the importance of stretching at the end of exercising, and he reminded us never to bounce while we stretched our muscles. Bob did a great job the entire week, and we thank him greatly for working with us.
8:15 a.m.-12 p.m.: Lessons
There was a bit of a time crunch for the first riders to get on their horse after the workout, but the friendly environment in the barn made getting riders to the arena run smoothly. Many offered a free hand to help tack up horses, or even just to sweep the aisle. With 12 riders and nine auditors, it was nice to see everyone help and be so supportive of one another.
The 12 riders got split into two groups the first day: One group rode with Tina Konyot while the other group rode with Tuny Page, each for a 45-minute private lesson. Auditors and the riders not riding had the opportunity to watch two different instructors at the same clinic.
From watching, I found one exercise stuck in my head, which Tina used to help a rider who had a difficult time getting a clean flying change. While the horse was cantering, she had the rider turn the horse across the arena slightly past the end letter after coming out of the corner. The rider then was instructed to ride straight for a few strides, and then yield the horse onto the outside rein. Once the horse was honest on the rein, she had the rider ask for the flying change and immediately turn back to the opposing corner to repeat the exercise to the new direction, creating a figure-eight pattern.
Every Step Matters
On Day 2, we rode with Robert Dover and Katherine Bateson-Chandler. Katherine was a great instructor to watch. She stressed the importance of seeing what the horse was like in the warm-up so that you knew how to ride that day. She had one of the riders test the reactions and attentiveness of the horse by giving him a quick kick at the girth to see if he was quick off the leg. She was very effective with not allowing the horse to tighten up. During one ride, she encouraged the rider to post the trot if she felt the horse’s back begin to stiffen. This allowed the horse the opportunity to loosen up and relax before the rider sat again. Repeating this, the horse soon relaxed and gave the rider a better place to sit.
Katherine also had some great exercises to improve the quality of the canter. One of the horses needed to have more jump in the canter, so she had the rider ride a 20-meter circle in a ground-covering canter. From here, Katherine instructed the rider to decrease the size of the circle to about 10 meters while maintaining this larger gait. The horse then began to carry more on the hind legs in order to remain balanced on the smaller circle, creating a higher quality canter.
Like Katherine, Robert also did an amazing job teaching. His energy was great to have in the arena. He wanted the riders to envision the greatest version of themselves while riding, and he challenged us, which brought many riders and horses to their full potential.
He would often say things like, “Imagine that you are riding Valegro—think of the hind legs that horse has!” One exercise that he worked on with many of the riders was the rubber band exercise. With this, the rider has to ride on a 20-meter circle, extending on the arc of the circle and collecting near A. But Robert did not just want an extended trot and a collected trot; he wanted the very best extended trot, and a highly engaged, very collected trot!