NorCal Hunter/Jumper Association Clinic Auditing


This past weekend I was lucky enough to audit the NorCal Clinic, taught this year by Mandy Porter. Mandy is one of my riding heroes, who I first noticed when I attended the SIHS Grand Prix and again when I found out that she competes many of Wild Turkey Farms' young horses (seriously, #horsegoals). As an instructor, I found her to be sympathetic, engaged, knowledgeable and super kind. I actually applied to ride in the clinic but count myself lucky that I didn’t get in since it’s been a rough few riding weeks (smoke, falls, rain, etc.). Had the clinic been in August or September, I would be crushed that I didn’t get in, but was happy to audit this time around!

There were two two-day session of the clinic. I missed the first day, gymnastics, but saw all of Day 2, coursework, and then some of Days 3 and 4.

A lot of the concepts covered were ideas I’d previously been introduced to in lessons. A lot of supple-ing exercises, figure eights, serpentines were used at the beginning of the sessions. The hardest exercise, in my opinion, was the canter to trot to canter transitions on a circle, so I think this will be the first one I attempt when I ride next. I also noted that when doing circles, serpentines or figure eights, don’t pull your inside rein down (many rider’s hands were too low) and your outside rein and outside leg should create a ‘wall’ so that your horse’s hind end doesn’t swing or fishtail out.

Main Emphasized Concepts

  • a good balanced, quality canter matters much more than distances, rhythm is more important than your distance

  • if you have an iffy distance, don’t let your horse know that it wasn’t exactly what you wanted - no last minute rein grabbing or pony kicking (bumping is fine)

  • when you start your course, get your horse in front of your leg (wish I could inset a clapping emoji here). get them moving off your leg and then collect! check that you have all your buttons that you’ll utilize during your course

  • track is also super important, don’t motorcycle turn, don’t cut corners!

What I liked most about her teaching was that she was really empathetic to everyone’s struggles. At one point, a rider was approaching the first fence and found it on the half stride, got a refusal. Found the same distance a second time, refusal. They lowered the fence slightly and she got over it and then got a refusal on the second fence, not because the distance but because the rider and the horse were both now questioning each other. Mandy wasn’t frustrated or angry, but was firm that they now absolutely had to get through the course. Both for the rider’s and the horse’s confidence. Through every portion of the course, Mandy could identify where one of the two felt like hesitating, told the rider “bump him with your leg, bump here" and they got successfully got through the course. She explained that the rider was stronger for having had a few refusals and then being brave enough to overcome. “You have to want to get to the other side of the jump."

Mandy never acted like these were struggles she doesn’t worry about or that she’s never had. I know I’ve had lessons like that where I think so myself, okay, if I can’t correct this I’m both ruining my own confidence and my horse’s, there’s no choice - I have to get over this fence.

The majority of the clinic progressed just like, very encouraging, and I think all the riders left feeling accomplished and got to do some complicated and challenging courses successfully. I definitely walked away feeling more excited to get back to jumping!