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Paige Wilde - My lesson with William at the Billy Stud!

This month’s blog is probably the most exciting yet! This week I had my HQ bursary lesson with William Funnell down in Surrey at The Billy Stud. The 4-hour journey there was definitely worth it as Buddy and I learnt so much and had such an amazing time. This month I get to share with you all of the details and training exercises that I completed in my lesson and also some photos from behind the scenes at The Billy Stud.

Warming up:

Buddy is usually quite ‘lazy’ to warm up. I do struggle to get him off of the leg and Will could see that straight away, so he brought me on a circle around him and we did some exercises to help with that and to encourage Buddy to be sharper within the walk and trot. To start with, he pointed out that my knee needed to be more relaxed so that I could use my lower leg more effectively, but also that Buddy needed to keep his poll lowered and be more forwards into transitions rather than switching off.

Within the walk, I asked Buddy to lengthen and shorten his steps because William said this would also help the trot be more engaged. “The horse should listen to your leg on the first time of asking not the third, fourth, fifth”. The more we did, the sharper his transitions became between the walk and trot and also within the pace, where we asked for some extension and then collection. There wasn’t too much to work on in the canter, I just had to make sure that even if he was looking around the arena and jumps, he was still focusing on my leg aids.

Raised canter pole to a vertical:

The first jump exercise we worked on was just a simple cavaletti on a short 4 strides down to a vertical which was put up each time I came around to it. We had 5 aims to work on each time:

  • Keep him straight in his head and neck

  • Keep the canter forwards through the turns

  • Get him sat on his hind legs

  • Leave room for the last stride down the distance

  • Let him use his head and neck after the fence

To get the best jump out of him, I had to make sure I softened through my hands over the fence and on landing, to allow him to use himself properly.

Once we’d done this a few times, the exercise developed into the Raised pole on 4 to an oxer:

Once it became an oxer, I had him waiting enough so that he could then go more off of the leg and forward. Will also put a placing pole after the fence to encourage straightness and assist Buddy with his changes after a fence. We then progressed from this exercise to just jumping the oxer without the cavaletti. Will told me to get a good, forward canter before the fence and then to carry this through the turn so that I could then sit him back after the turn if I needed to. Buddy jumped this very nicely and I didn’t realise how wide it had gotten till I watched the videos back!

William’s Top Tip for me: “Don’t be afraid to give him a bloody good kick if he doesn’t listen to you in the walk!” which I felt as though I definitely needed reminding of.

Jumping around a course:

Our main objectives were letting him travel around the course , making sure I had the same rhythm at the beginning of the course that I had at the end and pushing him forwards on the landing. The second time I went around the course, I made sure to put these actions into place which meant it went so much better than the first course. Something else I’m without doubt guilty of is finishing the course and then just letting Buddy collapse back into the walk, which Will quite rightly pointed out I shouldn’t allow because otherwise I’m “untraining” him from all the warm up work I did at the beginning of the session. I should instead keep him trotting for a while and keep throwing in a few transitions to make sure the horse is still listening to me.

William said that the main thing I needed to work on around a course is actually something before I’ve even started. When I ask for the canter, I need to be able to get straight up into the correct ‘gear’ which I want to go around the course in. It should not take 5/6 strides to get him up to that, I want the forward canter that I had at the end of the course right from the get go.

And here's some other final thoughts from Will I wanted to share - that really stuck with me...

“It’s all about repetition, you need to keep asking for what you want and being consistent in the way you ask them.”
“What you can’t get them to do in the walk, you cannot expect them to do in the trot or canter.”

Will’s thoughts on Buddy:

“I like him, he’s cute” which is pretty high praise from a showjumper of that level who sees so many different horses every day!

Overall, I had such a fabulous experience and I am so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to take Buddy down there and learn so much. William also very kindly gave us a tour of the yard where we got to meet many of the horses including the infamous Billy Congo- now that’s a claim to fame! It is such a huge operation and you don’t realise how much goes on behind the scenes. All the staff were lovely and the facilities were amazing.

I cannot thank HorseQuest enough for all they have done for myself and the horses this year, they have been unbelievably supportive and the lesson was the cherry on top of the cake!

So, what’s next? Well, I head to Arena UK next week with both horses so let’s hope Buddy and I can take all we’ve learnt into the ring- where we jump our first 120!

I will update you all as soon as I can on and of course on here. I hope you’ve found the blog helpful with your own horses at home too.

Until next time,

Paige x


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