Tips from the top – Robert Stevens SJ lesson

Word of my blog has been spreading, and it seems even a few top eventers have read the odd GHE post! Completely out of the blue Joanna from Robert Stevens Eventing got in touch to offer me a free SJ lesson with Robert himself! After reading a few of my event reports they thought that a lesson with Robert would be really beneficial to our SJ training. click images to enlarge

To start the lesson Robert wanted to see Soap move and agreed with Rosie Moss that his canter is too laid back, and not active enough. We worked on leg yielding, and shoulder in on a circle to engage his hind quarters to produce a true pace. Then we moved onto pushing forward and bringing back the canter and the affectiveness of my lower leg.

Robert asked me to do the following exercise – turn out your toes and put your leg on, stand up in the stirrups, and from that 2 point jumping position ask the horse from walk or halt straight into canter. This was to determin how affectively I was using my leg, and it’s alot trickier than it sounds!
After this we moved onto a grid, built up slowly from canter poles to 3 X poles, then 1 X pole to an upright and finally an oxer at 1m. He asked me to sit like I was sitting on pins as my weight back in the saddle affter the fence encourages Soap to shoot off! I also had to concentrate on squeezing on only the last stride and being able to come back to walk at any point in the approach. Below is a video from X pole to upright.

After the grid we moved onto an upright and an oxer jumped on a figure of 8, making sure we jumped the fences on an angle, turned as soon as possible after each fence, and let the fences come to us. This was tricky at first because I was still making Soap jump the oxer on a long stride but after a few attempts we managed a slower tighter turn and deeper spot to both fences. The lesson really put us through our paces, and gave us loads to work on in the next few weeks…

Things we need to work on are…

. Sit as if sitting on pins nearer the front of the saddle
. Turn out toes for a more affective lower leg
. Ride with shorter reins and a longer arm
. Squeeze on the last stride
. Ride the HORSE not the FENCE
. Wait for the fence to come to us
. Only work Soap in walk and canter when jumping no more trot
. Raised canter poles to produce a bouncey uphill canter
. Shoulder in on a circle to gain control of each 1/4 of the horse
. Bend his neck when slowing up to maintain softness

After the lesson Joanna gave me a guided tour of Robert’s new yard, and it is lovely! Huge arena, indoor stables, with room to store the lorry in! I was pleased to hear that all their horses from 4* to 4yr olds are turned out as much as possible, and they all looked relaxed and happy for it. There was a walker, washdown area, tack store, treadmill, and resident waggy lab! click images to enlarge

Robert teaches individuals and clinics, and currently has spaces available at Field Farm Stud for competition liveries. I am going to spend a few months working on what we need to improve, then will be back for another lesson!
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