Over the years I’ve had the lucky privilege to observe and train with some pretty special international jump coaches: George Morris, Jody Sloper, amongst others … and now Albert Voorn, at Heath & Krissy Harris’ property at Mt White recently. Originally from the Netherlands, Albert was the Australian Showjumping Coach 1996-98 and a silver medalist at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. And although these fantastic trainers do share many similar techniques, they also show us that there are many ways to “Rome”.
Calmly, in moderate and melodious tones, he explains his training philosophy which remains the same for riders and horses of each level. He expects each group to perform these exercises for the same reasons: the rider must adapt themselves to the horse they’re sitting on, telling him where to go and in what speed - the rest he will work out for himself. Warm up involves riders finding the frame where the horse is comfortable, moving the horse up through the gears and lightening the seat; the horse forward from the spur and carrying the rider who must stay quiet and soft with their body.
Albert insists we place too much emphasis on the outside rein, causing our horses to be stiff and pulling them onto the forehand. He encourages riders to soften the outside rein, flexing and bending the horses to the inside, allowing the horse to turn. We witnessed the effectiveness of this - horses softening to the bend and balancing themselves. If the horse then locked onto the inside rein, the rider was to flex him and let him go. Is it the horse that pulls, or is it the rider? Can the aids the rider gives be as little as possible? Serpentines over uprights shows riders how they need to prioritise the smoothness of pace and track.
They then move on to the course - practicing these concepts over sequences of bending and related lines, combinations and oxers, making decisions about lines according to the abilities of their horse. Albert reminds them: “It’s by not forgetting your information that you get better! When the rails go up, can you still keep the quality of the basic paces and not do more? Keep the softness!” It is wonderful to see a trainer emphatic about harmony and the comfort of the horse. Why wouldn’t you want to do something that’s so beautiful?, he says. And we agreed.
Here's some video of the clinic: www.teamj.com.au