blog-35It’s a rare occasion when I leave the farm, but every once in a while it’s good to stretch my legs and my brain. So attending the OEF sponsored clinic “Course Design…The Master Plan” seemed a good way to do both. The clinic was an introduction to the basics of designing and the three clinicians, Chris Brandt, Evie Frisque, and Sally Sainsbury, represent some of the best course designers Canada has to offer. As coaches and riders, it’s easy to forget just how important course design is to the overall success of our show ring experiences. This clinic opened the door for riders, coaches, and course design enthusiasts like me to get the inside track on what it takes to build a better experience for horses and riders whether at home or at a show.

Three years ago, I attended a clinic similar to this one which was held at the same venue, Forest Hill Farm run by Scott and Dee Walker. Its a great facility on many levels but it has my vote because the upper lounge is spacious, heated, and has a lovely bathroom. Everything a girl needs! The other benefit to running the clinic out of a working farm is the ability to discuss the material in theory and then put it into practice out in the ring.

The clinic format this year varied slightly from the one I previously attended in that we not only built a course but had an opportunity to evaluate its overall effectiveness with a horse/rider demonstration provided by two Forest Hill riders. The ability to watch the horses and riders challenge the course at two different heights was great and they did an admirable job answering the questions put forth in the design of the course. The clinic also addressed the challenge of designing and building multiple courses out of a single track. This type of multitasking is essential at lower level horse shows where designers need to create multiple courses for a variety of heights and abilities without holding everyone up while they hoist jumps onto their backs in a effort to reinvent the ring.

The thing about clinics, especially good clinics, is there is never enough time to cover all of the material, questions, and discussion that you’d like. The experts have amassed a lifetime of information and as a participant you’re given a day or two to cram as much of it into your brain as humanly possible. It’s not an easy task, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

Overall, the knowledge gained was well worth setting the alarm for 5:00 a.m. to make the 8:00 a.m. start time. However, the fact that no one at the OEF recognized that providing tea is every bit as important as providing coffee meant that my poor brain had to muddle through day one in a tea deprived fog. I remedied the situation on day two and brought a large thermos full of English breakfast tea with me, which helped me stay on track and focused for the entire day.

I’d like to thank the OEF for organizing such a fantastic learning opportunity and I’d especially like to thank the clinicians for sharing their collective years of experience with us.