Training For Trials Sparsholt College
October 2011

The weekend of the 22 and 23rd of October saw the first Training for Trials weekend held at Sparsholt College in Hampshire, organised by Martyn Willis and Naomi Harbach.

The weekend was run with UKcc Level 1 coaches Naomi Harbach and Maxine Ingham and on the Sunday, newly qualified Level 3 coach Minta Winn. There were eight participants, ranging from Novices who had competed at club level to drivers who had never been to a show. We also had three backsteppers who came along to learn what they should or should not be doing to help keep their driver and turnout safe. Attendees travelled between 10 and 60+ miles to join the course.

Saturday covered a whole range of topics, with Maxine speaking about The Role of the Backstep, Harness and Maintenance and Dressage and Cones. Naomi covered Correct Dress for the three Phases, Fitness of the Horse and General Rules. The range of questions and interaction within the group was really great, questions like ?Do I always have to have my reins in one hand when I do a circle?? or ?Do my axles have to be extended for indoor events?? These questions may seem to be very easily answered but can be very daunting when you are new to the sport.

The Level 1 coaches, being classroom based, were able to set up the sessions and ?Stand Back? and let the group interact and work out the answers themselves. This fits completely with the UKcc brief. We also had video footage to back up the sessions and show how it should, and should not be done. This made for an interesting and very interactive day with comprehensive handouts given throughout.

Sunday was based outside, with all participants having an individual dressage and cones lesson and then a group obstacle lesson in the afternoon. During each individual lesson the rest of the group watched and interacted so were learning throughout each lesson, which made for a very inclusive day.

Minta mostly coved the basics and showed the drivers that their horse would only ever do what was asked of him. This in turn helped to build the confidence of each driver to ask a little more. Some practiced indoor tests while others concentrated on straightness and rein handling. A cones course was set up by Steve Lucas (National Course Designer) and Martyn Willis and it was measured and a time set. Everyone watched how the course designer measured it and they then were shown how to walk it and the tactics involved in making the time. Each driver was given six attempts at making the time, interestingly every turnout achieved this in no more than three rounds.

A group lesson on obstacle driving was the last session of the day. An Indoor obstacle was built with added outdoor compulsory flags. This was especially interesting because Minta also oversaw the drivers warm up, some drivers had temporarily forgotten the lessons from the morning and were being a little "gung-ho". Minta explained what effect that was having on the horses and how correct warm up will benefit obstacle driving. By watching each other, it not only taught the turnouts to stand still around other horses as they would sometimes have to at a show but the drivers were able to see where each other were making up or losing time. It was soon proved that a good working trot is very often fastest.

Having covered the theory side of the role of the backstep on Saturday, we also demonstrated this in a practical way with the turnouts on Sunday. Drivers and their back steppers were shown the correct way to help and get themselves out of trouble should they need to.

Everyone walked away from the weekend knowing that they could do it be it on the box seat or on the backstep and knowing how to follow safe and correct practice. We had five people put themselves forward for assessment so they could compete at BHDTA Affiliated club competition and all five were passed, bringing new blood into the sport and support to the local clubs. What was apparent over the course of the weekend was how well the two different levels of UKcc coach work together covering the different subject matters.

The ?Coaching? message was clear, no one was ?told? anything. This is a system that is clearly working if our feedback forms from the weekend are anything to go by. Here are a few comments that were written on our feedback sheets-

  • ?A brilliant and really informative two days. Thank you so much?
  • ?Brilliant, Informative, helpful. All questions discussed fully and sympathetically?
  • ?I would just like to thank you all for a fantastic weekend. I have gone from knowing very little about HDT to taking part in a dressage test, cones and obstacles and really enjoyed it?
  • Good weekend with thought provoking discussions, good support, with excellent training with turnout.
  • ?Excellent, enthusiastic and very participatory event. Designed to encourage and enthuse new comers to the sport and it achieved this.?

Maxine Ingham & Martyn Willis