Last fall, Rutledge Farm in Middleburg, Virginia hosted Phillip Dutton for a one-day clinic for riders of all levels from Beginner Novice to Advanced. In this video, Dutton uses the warm-up on the flat and over small fences to engage the horse's hind end and establish the connection from leg to hand. "There’s a common thread between all of our phases, whether it’s dressage, show jumping, or cross-country, and that is the adjustability of your horse. To me, the biggest thing in doing well is getting your horse really connected from your leg to your hand. They’ve got to learn that you put your leg on, the hock comes under, and they come up [in front].”
First, Dutton has this group of riders start out at the walk, riding the shape of a rectangle and being sure to make square turns in the corners of the imaginary arena. Then he asks riders to focus on establishing the inside leg aid. "Bend them a little bit around to the right . . . and then leg yield them over to the wall. It's not just about asking, it's about getting a reaction." Dutton wanted to see a clear reaction from each horse when the rider put the leg on for the leg yield. After having riders leg yield in both directions at the walk, Dutton had the riders repeat the exercise at the trot.
Next, Dutton asked riders to move forward at the trot and collect at the trot, again establishing a clear reaction to the leg. "Remember, it's important for the horse to go, so kick him up and keep the flexion." Riders also performed a similar exercise, transitioning from the trot to the canter and then back to the trot.
For the final part of the warm-up, Dutton instructed riders to jump two small oxers on a two-stride angled line, focusing on establishing a straight line and keeping the focus on riding forward on that line. "You've got to show them the line." Riders successfully completed this exercise before moving on to jumping other more complex exercises and full courses.
Want to learn more from Phillip Dutton? Check out the full clinic report!