Wellington, FL – February 22, 2012 - The Zone 4 USEF/USHJA members gave its riders a unique opportunity to join a clinic at the Palm Beach Equine Sports Complex in Wellington, FL, on Monday, February 20, 2012. The clinician chosen for the first Riders Clinic of the year was the renowned Karen Healey. The clinic was free for all Zone 4 USEF/USHJA members of varying levels to either ride or audit at absolutely no cost, and the event proved to be nothing short of a success.
Healey’s reputation speaks for itself with numerous accolades and years of experience in the equitation, hunter and jumper rings. Not only did the Chronicle of the Horse name her the 2007 Hunter/Equitation Horseman of the Year, but also her winning system has led her clients to achieve success in the show ring time and time again. Similar to that of her mentor George H. Morris, Healey prides herself on developing horsemen in the truest sense of the word.
Healey started off the first session by explaining that she doesn’t teach equitation; however, she teaches riders to ride and horses to jump. She emphasized the importance of aids to the group of six riders: Charles Jacobs, Katie Jacobs, Olivia Woodson, Alex Cleveland, Natasha Mackoba and Sydney Casady. Healey observed the riders and their mounts to get a better feel for them before starting her demonstration, and to gain an additional amount of insight into each of the rider's and their mount.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re jumping 2’ 6” or 4’ 6”,” expressed Healey. “The same basics apply; when you close your leg the horse should go forward; you close your hands the horse should come back. You want to turn right and have the horse follow, you want to turn left, and the horse should follow you to the left."
“The clinic was wonderful,” remarked Natasha Mackoba. “I’ve heard what Karen has said before, but I just needed to hear it in a different way to understand how not to get the aids crossed and to become more organized. Her demonstration was fundamental for me.”
During the second group, Healey mounted Heather Callahan’s horse to show the right way to balance the horse before the jump. She phrased it as “Balance it right and your horse will help you jump.” The group watched as she demonstrated the movements and the use of reinforcing the right aids again pointing out their necessity in the ring.
After showing the second group the movements, she had each rider go through an in-and-out combination to see how they responded to the horse. As needed, she would correct the pair and have them continue the exercise until they succeeded. Healey worked with the riders on their hand position and the softness of the hand as well.
“Karen is such an amazing professional, she gives such good advice, and she’s so patient,” said Callahan. “She really took her time with each rider and horse. She gave us some great advice on how to work out issues we were having. I’m definitely going home knowing that I can improve on the softness of my hands and working on my corners and turns in my jump courses.” Callahan rides and trains out of Vero Beach, FL, with Atlantic Crossing.
The final session of the day had a more advanced group of six riders. The focus again was geared to each individual and their horse, but to advise the effectiveness of aids and how the riders should release and follow the horse. The riders worked on being ahead of their mount and working on making the horse more aware of what was going to happen next.
The clinic was successful in getting riders out not only from Lakeland and Vero Beach, FL, but also from other states within Zone 4. “I think it was a great clinic today,” smiled Healey. “We had a lot of different issues, green horses, green riders, but that’s life and that’s how you learn varsity. If you have a great lesson then you have a great rehearsal, but if you have a problem and you solved it during the lesson then you had an even better lesson. Sometimes you have to fail in order to succeed.”
Other than teaching clinics, Healey’s dedication to the equine industry also involves the governance and guidance of the sport, through serving on the USHJA Committee as a Chairperson for the Equitation Taskforce, a member of the Hunter Taskforce and as a committee member of the Trainers Certification Program. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the American Hunter-Jumper Foundation since 1995, as well as being an active member of the Trainer’s Committee.