Just boarded a plane from JFK airport in New York, heading home. I was coaching at a big national show in Saugerties outside New York for the last week.
It's always fun to travel and watch how others do things and often learn something useful. This trip was especially interesting because as I wasn’t competing I had time to watch and study others. I suppose before I start the standard wasn't very high in the bigger classes but the lack of horsemanship and quality riding was somewhat surprising.
As I was growing up we looked to the American riders for their smooth style and equitation seat but over time by being busy or having too many horses to ride and perhaps less attention to detail, it seems that the basics are fading away and other countries like Ireland who were not known for coaching until the last 10 years really are beginning to show the way.
Of course McLain Ward and a handful of other Americans are as good as any in the world but Darragh Kenny, Darragh Kerins, Richie Moloney and other American based Irish riders could give a riding lesson to many who think they are superior!!
Its the same old mantra that hard work and dedication with a good structure will pass out those who sit back on their laurels.
One interesting point I noticed was the lack of control the riders had in the course. On a distance that measured a little short on five strides many were just galloping in four some making it, others not. Generally in Europe we tend if it's a half stride to add another stride to keep the horse together but there is a happy medium.
Certainly leaving out strides all over the course will not work long term as the horse will get too open and the stride way too big to jump shorter distances. I firmly believe this is why many Americans have great success at home but find it harder when they travel to Europe. The ideal is to be able to do both lengthening and shortening which for most of us is what we try to achieve in our daily flat work.
The Irish Breeders Classic gets underway this Thursday in Barnadown and has been combined with the final of the national and premier leagues over the weekend. Hopefully the show will be well supported as for most of us it will be the last outdoor show of the season.
The Irish Aga Khan winning Team is being honoured at the Curragh this Saturday, organised by my horse feed supplier Gain. So a busy week ahead which is good- let's hope it's a fruitful one!