Grant Wilson taught a show jumping clinic at Jenny Berryman's Southern Cross Farm in Windsor, S.C., on Jan. 31-Feb. 1, and three riders weighed in on their experience.
Every event rider seeks the thrill of the cross-country, for it is the sole reason why we compete in the sport. However, eventing consists of three phases, so we are constantly seeking guidance from those outside our discipline to hone the other two (sometimes less exhilarating) phases.
Recently I had the opportunity to ride with Grant Wilson and work on my most difficult phase: show jumping. Not only were my lessons extremely informative, but they were also highly productive, as Grant took the time to explain how and why we would engage in a certain exercise which was dependent upon the horse I was riding. Additionally, I noticed that he offered advice individually, regardless of group size, which is a huge plus in a clinician.
Grant offered many exercises that were beneficial to both horse and rider. One, for example, was placing two poles on a bending line in which the rider would come forward and do it in four strides, and then come collected and do it in five. The bend in the line helped to balance the horse but at the same time would highlight whether the rider allowed the horse's shoulder to fall in or not. I found the exercise extremely informative with my greener horse with his inside shoulder drift. It was equally as helpful on Al, as I was able to hone my distances, correct my turns and control the balance of the canter while in a half seat.
I enjoyed Grant's philosophy of slowing things down, allowing the horse to see and think about the exercise in front of him, and landing softly and halting in a straight line.
Everything is meant to be relaxed, rhythmic and organized, which are the key ingredients to a clear show jumping round and an elated horse and rider!
Furthermore, I enjoyed very much his attention to detail and his focus on the technicality in the phase in which we as eventers have all seen our demise. Grant's positive and charismatic attitude makes the clinics all the more enjoyable, whether it be on horseback or in the audience. I would highly recommend any aspiring rider, regardless of level and discipline to clinic with this exciting and up-and-coming individual.
Grant is refreshingly enthusiastic and attentive during the lessons and quick to assess both horse and rider. We started with simple cross-rails exercises with allotted distances between them, working on adjustability and control. Then we moved onto bending lines and rollbacks, again with appropriate striding that we needed to make work!
“Whoa” was a word we heard Grant ask us to use both verbally and with our body language so we were not running down to the fences on our forehands. There were combination exercises with poles in strategic places that encouraged our horses to use themselves correctly.
By the end of the lesson we were jumping our "appropriate" height with ease!
The clinic was SO SO SO AWESOME! I learned so much. Grant is one of the best, if not the best, instructors that I have ever worked with. He really cared, wanted us to get it right, and rolled up his shirt sleeves and dived in to help me to 1) understand what he was saying and to 2) show me how to do it.
I have never had an instructor be so committed to helping me to improve, and all in a cheerful way without pretense. He was very approachable and friendly and didn't give off an air of being "better" than me. Instead he made me feel like he was there for me to help me however he could.
After years of doing things the wrong way, but not knowing I was doing them the wrong way and being frustrated with what was going on, I finally UNDERSTOOD what I needed to do to get it right. I tend to be stiff and clamp with my legs, and I did not even know I was doing this. Grant showed me what I was doing and then he showed me how to do it right.
My horses both went from stiff, running and uncomfortable to soft and manageable. We went to Scooby's first horse trials the next day, and our stadium round was 180 degrees different and improved from the schooling show we did the week before. He was soft and listening to the jumps, the turns were totally do-able, the jumps were round, and we were, I dare say, harmonious.
Same thing on cross-country. Instead of having a runaway on course, I was able to just let him lope along and securely bring him back for the fences, and he was happy to oblige.