Rio and I spent the weekend at The Paddocks Stables for a Julie Winkel clinic. This was our first clinic together and I was so so excited. Our host, Katja (owner and trainer at The Paddocks) did an incredible job of making sure everything ran smoothly and that all of the guests there for the clinic (horses and people!) had everything they needed at all times and felt welcome and comfortable. Seriously, she is SO nice. The barns were immaculate at all times as well; I was just so impressed with the whole operation there.
All of my fellow riders were also incredibly nice. I feel that some people have this perception that h/j people from competing barns are not friendly to one another, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone I met was super friendly and helpful. I didn’t think to bring my own muck bucket for example, and one of my fellow riders who I hadn’t ever met was super nice and absolutely made me feel welcome in borrowing hers. Might seem like a silly small thing, but it just makes my heart happy to meet such wonderful fellow equestrians.
For those not familiar with Julie, I have included a bit of her bio:
Julie Winkel has been a licensed Hunter, Equitation, Hunter Breeding and Jumper judge since 1984. She has officiated at prestigious events such as Devon, Harrisburg, Washington International, Capital Challenge, The Hampton Classic and Upperville Horse Shows. She has designed the courses and judged the ASPCA Maclay Finals, The USEF Medal Finals and The New England Equitation Finals.
Julie has trained and shown hunters and jumpers to the top level, nationally as well as internationally. She was a winner of multiple Grand Prix competitions and many Hunter championships during her career.
Ms. Winkel sits on the Board of Directors for USHJA, serves as chairman of Continuing Education Committee for USEF, serves as co-chair for Officials Committee for USHJA, serves on National Hunter Committee and the Licensed Officials Committee for USEF, Trainer Certification for USHJA, & Zone 10 Jumper Committee, as well as the Emerging Athlete Program Committee, and Trainer Symposium Committee.
With a bio like that, I am sure you can see what an absolute wealth of knowledge she is. To top it off, she is also super nice and approachable, and a very positive clinician. She is HUGE on the basics, and thoroughly explains and emphasizes them during her sessions.
During the flat part of the sessions, Julie explained the 4 different seats and their uses (half, light, full, and driving seat) as well as the 4 releases (mane, long, crest, and automatic). She explained in depth how our various seat positions communicate with the horse, and how important it is as the rider to consistently use the appropriate one to decrease dependence on the rein aids. She discussed how the various seats effect a horses’s balance, and how we can use that knowledge to help our horses stay on good balance. She also emphasized the ideal speed of each gait, and how transitions can be incorporated to sharpen our horses to the aids. We spent quite a bit of time the first day practicing halts as well, and Julie explained that if you “give” the hand at the exact right moment when halting, that your horse will always halt square.
On the second day of the clinic, Julie focused on explaining the mystery of hunter judging by outlining what the point deductions are for various mistakes. For example, if your horse misses the lead change and you trot to change lead, you automatically get dropped down to a score of 55 for breaking gait. If you don’t get a lead change and you counter canter to the next jump, you get dropped to a 60. So, it actually better to just maintain the counter canter then to fix it by trotting a few steps.
Everyone then got to jump a faux hunter course, and Julie described exactly how she would judge each round, which was super interesting. Smaller errors like a swap before the jump and a rubbed rail may only get a point or 2 deduction, or several depending on severity. A late change behind (raises hand) would typically get a point per stride late. So 2 strides late to complete the change would likely get a 2 point deduction. I was surprised to learn that using your crop during your round automatically drops your score down to a 60, even if used completely appropriately to back up your aids. Think of all those pony kids who would benefit from knowing that part of judging!
Rio was super well behaved the whole time and I am so proud of him. He even stayed mostly calm when cantering around a smallish ring filled with jumps and 5 other horses. That is a BIG deal for him and definite progress. He trailered really well too, and I was even able to load him by myself. Definitely a big deal if you remember that coming home from his splint bone surgery I couldn’t get him in the same trailer and eventually had to back the trailer up to a chute situation to force the issue.
Overall, we had a fun horsey filled weekend! A huge thank you to Julie for working with us, and The Paddocks for organizing everything and hosting us. Thank you MM for coming to support us, and for all the photos!