February 6, 2008 at 7.00pm

Clayton and Lucinda come to Brackenhurst

Kayleigh Nicholls reports on an “absolutely wonderful” evening

We’d been eagerly awaiting the visit from Lucinda and Clayton Fredericks at Brackenhurst Equestrian Centre, and what a night Hoyland Event had in store for us!

Commencing with Lucinda with her up and coming event mare, Prada, lungeing in the “lungee bungee” – a device that consists of elastic going from either side of the saddle, through an equalizer on the horse’s bit.  She explained that no matter where Prada put her head, she had equal pressure on her mouth, mirroring the “perfect hands”.  Lucinda told us the mare’s story and it was really quite amazing.  She came to Lucinda as a 6½-year-old only just broken.  In that year she “trotted around her first pre-novice” with Lucinda (she had not yet learnt how to canter into a jump) and underwent a lot of training.  A year later she was contesting the 7-year-old class at Le Lions d’Angers  – a 2 star contest! 

Next came in Clayton on the young 6-year-old event horse, Brookleigh.  Firstly he worked on the basics – having your horse stop, go and turn the moment you tell him to.  Progressing on to cantering over two poles set 4 strides apart, he showed how to shorten and put 6 strides in, or lengthen and put 3 strides in.  He explained how crucial it is to be able to lengthen and shorten your horse, especially on the cross-country course.  Next, he progressed on to a 4-loop serpentine with a jump every time he crossed the centre line.  Remaining in trot for the most part of this exercise,  he explained that it is important for a horse to be able to jump out of trot, “if your horse stumbles jumping up a step and there’s a jump right in front of you, the horse should still be able to jump it out of a trot as long as there is forward momentum.”

Following on from this, in came Lucinda riding a very hot Prada.  She also worked on lengthening and shortening your stride and used canter poles on a circle to do this.  Half of the circle had short strided canter poles and the other half had longer striding canter poles.  She then showed how canter poles can be used to aid the jumping and set up a square oxer with four canter poles leading up to it.  You could see how the canter poles forced the mare to think where she was putting her feet and stopped her from rushing at the jump.

Olympic Hope for China
Next in was Alex Hua Tian – a student of Lucinda and Clayton’s with very high hopes.  At just 18 years old, Alex is aiming to represent China in the 2008 Olympics and, in doing so, would not only be one of the youngest event riders to ever compete at this prestigious event, but also would be the first ever rider to ride for China at the Olympics.  He was riding a 13-year-old chestnut gelding, Castle Bonny Prince, who was apparently one of Alex’s most complex rides.  Lucinda taught Alex from the ground and they worked on his flatwork, starting off with leg-yield on a 10m circle, progressing on to leg yielding along the long side then changing the bend into travers.  It was also interesting to note that Alex never changed rein by directly trotting across the diagonal; instead he leg-yielded across the diagonal which kept the horse elevated and listening to his rider.  Lucinda explained that what she was doing with Alex was a typical ‘warm up’ session at a competition before entering the dressage arena.  She went on to say that she tends to ride three times before she goes in for the test – and in the last 5 minutes before entering the arena will lift her hands to lift the horse’s frame.

Rolex Kentucky Superstar
After a half-hour interval, the crowd returned to see the arena filled with some very interesting looking jumping exercises.  In came Clayton on his Rolex Kentucky superstar, “Ben Along Time” - what a treat!  Alex joined him on a horse he had not partnered for long who appeared to be giving him a bit of a fun ride over the jumps to begin with!  The aim of this session was to work on cross-country jumps within a schooling environment. 

Starting off with a barrel on its side poles were raised on to either side with a chute of poles on the ground after it.  They simply walked up to it, pushed at the last stride and popped the barrel (well, Benny did…Alex’s horse decided it was far too scary and tried to make a swift exit to the right before successfully negotiating it).  Gradually the poles were taken away until all that was left was the barrel on its own to jump, which both horses did perfectly.  Clayton explained that this exercise is a great one to teach inexperienced horses how to jump “skinnies”. 

Next, they moved on to arrowheads on an angle – tricky!  Clayton highlighted that the biggest problem when jumping a combination of jumps on an angle, is that a lot of riders try to turn the horse with their inside rein which causes the horse to fall out of its outside shoulder and therefore run out.  Instead, the rider should be turning the horse with their outside leg and outside rein, by turning their entire body.  To train this, Clayton and Alex jumped the first arrowhead, and then proceeded to execute a number of canter pirouettes before jumping the second arrowhead.  This got the horses back onto the hocks and turning with a straight neck.  When it came to riding the two arrowheads together, minus the pirouette, both horses did it perfectly. 

The final exercise was introducing horse and rider to jump a corner.  To do this, they had built a one-strided double, with the first part as a vertical and the second part as a corner.  This way the horse is in a rhythm and jumps the corner like it would a spread teaching both the horse and the rider how to tackle a corner (it will definitely be an exercise I’ll be using at home!).

For the final part of the evening we were in for a real treat as side by side, and to the music of “We are the Champions”, in cantered Ben Along Time and Headley Britannia.

‘Brit’s’ Story
 Lucinda cantered ‘Little Brit’ around and told us her story.  A ‘second rate’, small chestnut mare with a bad record was put on competition livery with Lucinda with a view for her to be sold.  However, as the time they spent together increased, Lucinda could see there was something good in the little mare and they started getting some good results.  After persuading an owner to buy the mare for Lucinda to ride, she progressed up the ranks and was soon contesting three and four star events (albeit with a bit of encouragement into the water!).  Of course, Brit’s most amazing achievements are her successive wins at Burghley ’06 and Badminton ’07.  Interestingly, Lucinda explained that the exercises earlier on in the demonstration could be shown in her riding of Brit – at Burghley she put 5 and 8 strides in a combination where most were putting in 3 and 5 strides, and at Badminton she put in 10 strides where Andrew Nicholson had previously put in 6! 

Another amazing addition to this story is that Brit, who is aiming to be on the Olympic team with Lucinda next year, has two foals on the way.  It’s not as odd as it sounds!  Using embryo transfer, she has two foals being born to surrogate mares and she may become the first mare to compete at the Olympics the same year she has offspring!

So there we have it, an absolutely wonderful evening with two of the biggest talents in eventing in the modern day.  After the demonstration, Lucinda and Clayton were kind enough to sign copies of their DVD and answer any questions (even though they had a 4 1/2hour drive home to contend with!).  Team Fredericks will definitely be the ones to watch this year.

“I would have to say that I enjoyed the demo as much as any that I’ve been too. Team Fredericks were likeable, informative and entertaining.”

“A wonderful night of quality entertainment”

“The highlight for me was to see Headley Britannia move…what a beauty!”

“A great evening … as good as it gets”

 “Very good value for money, very good tips and excellent entertainment”

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