Five Essential Exercises with Olympic Gold Medalist Will Simpson

Middleburg, Va. – October 12, 2019 – On a beautiful fall day, athletes gathered at the historic Rutledge Farm in Middleburg, Virginia for the opportunity to learn from Olympic gold-medalist Will Simpson. Aleco Bravo-Greenberg began hosting Simpson at the picturesque facility in 2017 and the Rutledge Farm Sessions have now made the clinic an annual event. During the clinic, Simpson focused on flatwork and gymnastics with four groups of athletes. He honed in on what he considers the four basics of show jumping –  going forward, slowing down, turning right and turning left. He noted that riders should work on those four things the rest of their riding career, and he showcased five exercises to help riders fine-tune their horses. 

Will Simpson and Aleco Bravo-Greenberg

1. Light Connection and Small-to-Big Circle Transition 

Simpson began with work on the flat. He encouraged riders to take contact, add leg, and let go as soon as the horse gave into the contact. He then asked riders to work on walk to canter transitions by doing the exercise he coined the “small circle to big circle.” Riders were encouraged to over bend their horse’s neck in a small circle using an opening rein. Simpson uses this exercise at home to get his horses to engage the hind end on the flat.

2. Finding a Distance Over a Pole

Making a Figure 8 over a single ground rail, riders had to look at the rail at the right time, oversteer, and adjust accordingly to insure the horse walked over the rail with its inside leg. This helps riders create a good distance – working on rhythm and eye control without frustrating the horse.

3. Eye Control Over Fences

As riders approached two single verticals on a circle, Simpson instructed them to begin looking at the fence at a specific point and then keep their eyes on the fence for the entirety of the approach. Once their eyes were fixed on the jump, they were instructed to oversteer and release until they found the right approach. If they needed more room, riders were to take a wider track rather than pull on the reins, which adjusted the stride. With this system, Simpson noted, the horse can flow a little more.

4. Line of 8 Bounces

Simpson setup a line of 8 bounces at 11 feet apart, noting that he sometimes makes it as tight as 9 feet and as long as 12 feet. This exercise creates a slinky effect, according to Simpson. The horses have to land with their hind end before they can lift their front end again, and really have to think about their body each time, encouraging them to jump around each fence.

5. One-Stride Line

The final exercise set a line of four oxer fences one stride apart at 21 feet. This exercise allows horses to showcase their improved jump after the slinky exercise, because they still have to be round and be careful with their hind end and front end over each fence. 

Athletes enjoyed having the opportunity to learn from Simpson and look forward to his return to the Rutledge Farm Sessions in 2020.  The 2019 Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series will continue with Olympic bronze-medalist Ali Brock, two-time Olympic gold-medalist Phillip Dutton, and renowned champion equitation trainer Stacia Madden. 

Will Simpson at Rutledge Farm

For more information about Rutledge Farm and the Rutledge Farm Sessions please visit

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