Five Lessons with Louise Serio: Preparation is Key

Middleburg, Va. – May 18, 2021 – Louise Serio, Chronicle of the Horse Hunter Horse Person of the Year and Hall of Fame Rider, traveled to Middleburg, Virginia Saturday, May 15, to kick off the 2021 Rutledge Farm Sessions clinic series. Serio worked with 16 riders of all ages and skill levels who were all eager to learn from her expertise. Throughout the day, riders learned key aspects of preparation, training and jumping courses. Here are five key takeaways from Saturday’s clinic:

1. The Warm-Up: The beginning of each section started with a thorough warm-up. Serio emphasized the importance of warming-up both the rider and the horse in order to be effective and successful later on in jumping. Riders started with a long relaxed trot to practice a light feel and to follow the motion of their horse. She also stressed the importance of no stirrup work to allow riders to focus on correct position at the trot and canter while still having a strong connection with their horse.

Serio commented, “During that warm-up we are really working on the rideability because most of us want to go onto jumping, and if we don’t work on that everyday, our positions and horses’ rideability really limits the accuracy of the riders. Good equitation makes you an effective rider.”

Lindsey Welsh and Kingsland

2. Using Your Aides:  Another key topic of the day was the importance of aides and how riders should use them effectively in order for the horse to be relaxed and balanced. Serio incorporated a unique exercise similar to pole bending for riders to understand how quickly and smooth aids need to be applied. Cones were set 21’ apart, and riders had to weave in and out while using a driving rein, having their hands turned over and wide, and while applying correct leg pressure and controlling their seat.

“It’s just something fun and different to do that really, really makes you have to use your different aids. You realize how quickly you have to turn and how much leg and how much hand you have to use,” explained Serio.

3. Trot Poles & Adjustability: A trot pole exercise was used to work on the adjustability of the horses. Serio set the ground poles a longer than normal, which encouraged riders to focus on lengthening their horse’s step for the poles and then shortening after in order to maneuver through the cone exercise. Riders also practiced the three seats: full seat, half seat, and driving seat; going forward at the canter in a half seat, keeping the forward canter in a full seat, then returning to medium canter. Serio made sure to emphasize the difference between slow, short, medium canter, asking riders to connect to their horses and make the hind end work up underneath them. A bounce exercise was also included with the goal for the riders to properly collect the stride and make it easy for the horse to jump.

Cindy Readyhough and Spies Like Us

4. The Long Approach: Serio set cones in the corners for riders to practice riding straight before the jump and then continuing straight after the jump. Serio explained, “Find the right track – your track has to be straight in front of the jump, over the jump and after the jump.” A long approach was challenging for some riders, so getting the track straight and looking straight was practiced in each section of the day.

5. The Icing on the Cake: With a successful course being the goal for each participant, “Pace, track, and distance” was the saying of the day for Serio, as riders combined what they learned in the warm-up and adjustability exercises to complete a course. Serio explained that pace is important in order to be an accurate rider and to allow the horses to jump well.

Kimberly O’Donnell and Roseau

From the opening circle, each rider had to make sure their horse had pace, that they were listening to the rider and lengthening early in the circle so adjustments can be made. Using what they have learned from the long approach exercise and making sure the horse is on the correct track and then finally riding straight and looking through for the correct distance.

Louise Serio

Footage from Serio’s Rutledge Farm Session will soon be available on the USEF network. Rutledge Farm is proud to bring on-demand access to all of the Rutledge Farm Sessions thanks to USEF Network. Using the code ‘Rutledge21’, all 2019-2021 clinics can be accessed from the comfort of your home for free!

For more information about the Rutledge Farm Sessions, click here.

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