Breaking It Down with Stacia Madden at the Rutledge Farm Sessions

Stacia Madden at the Rutledge Farm Sessions

Middleburg, Va. – Nov. 10, 2019 – On Sunday, riders returned to Rutledge Farm in Middleburg, Virginia, for the opportunity to learn from top equitation guru Stacia Madden of Beacon Hill Show Stables. Part of the 2019 Rutledge Farm Sessions, the second day of Madden’s clinic focused on breaking down courses to simple exercises to keep horses focused and adjustable.

beEach section, ranging from 2’6” to 3’6”, once again began with simple flatwork. In addition to helping the horses warmup, Madden had the riders do stretches as well, including bringing their feet to their hand to stretch their thighs and bringing their legs in front of the saddle to correct their seat.

Stacia Madden adjusting a horse’s tack

Once riders were warmed up they focused on several exercises, including work without stirrups, shoulder in, haunches in and leg yields. The goal was to make sure the horses were on the riders’ aids as they prepared for jumping. The first exercise to prepare for jumping was cantering over poles.

Madden explained, “Sometimes at a horse show you won’t have a lot of tools, but you always have rails, and you can make them very simple or very complex. This is an example of how you can make three simple rails very complex.”

Setting three poles three strides apart, riders had to first canter both sections in a collected four strides. Then they had to canter them in the loose three strides. Finally they had to do the the loose three strides to the collected four strides, which is especially difficult because the horses tend to open their stride at the end. To prepare the riders to execute it correctly, riders had to first canter the first set in three strides and then halt before the final pole. This made the riders prepare the horses with the correct aids for the collected four strides.

Madden also focused on trot jumps, which are are good for teaching patience and control. She used a simple line and once all the riders were successful with trot poles and a trot jump, she said that the best way to the way to test the skill is to canter in and make the horses trot out. Then stopping straight at the end end of the ring will reinforce not rushing the trot jump.

Putting together the pieces for a successful jumping round, Madden asked riders to correctly execute a broken line. They warmed up with an easy seven-stride line, followed by a vertical to a swedish oxer in four strides. Riders were expected to navigate the four-stride broken line correctly and jump either the middle or the far side of the swedish oxer. If they jumped the end that was closer to the center of the ring then they risked a rail, which would result in a major deduction at a horse show.

At the end of the first section, Madden had riders break down a course into simple lines or fences followed by an exercise such as trotting a circle or stopping to recollect their horses and keep them focused. Once the course was completed successfully with the additional exercises, they then flowed through the course using the skills they learned the first time through to keep their horses organized.

All of the riders in each section successfully executed all of the exercises, and were thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from Madden throughout the weekend. Each year, the Rutledge Farm Sessions brings together the top professional to provide clinic opportunities for riders of all levels. For more information about Rutledge Farm and the Rutledge Farm Sessions, please visit

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