Equestrian Life

Informative Riding Clinic with Olympic Show Jumping Medalist

What do you do when Olympic Show jumper Joe Fargis holds a clinic in the frigid cold? You go, of course!

The cold doesn’t deter equestrians. We add a few more layers, bring a mug of coffee, and work or ride.  No matter what Mother Nature brings. The first weekend of December 2016 brought clinician and former Olympian show jumper Joe Fargis to Knightsbridge Farm in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey.


Knightsbridge Farm is owned and operated by Mary Babick, newly elected United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) President. The equestrian facility provides hunter/jumper training for all levels from lead line through to Grand Prix.

Sunrise at Knightsbridge Farm, Atlantic Highlands New Jersey
Sunrise at Knightsbridge Farm, Atlantic Highlands New Jersey

The riders are walking their horses while awaiting Joe’s arrival. It’s important to take time to introduce their mounts to the indoor ring and warm their muscles. When Joe Fargis walks in,  clad in a bright yellow jacket, he immediately commands the rider’s attention. First a quiz on a horses’ body parts. 7 riders standing in a circle, and there is much nervous laughter as none of the riders can answer all the parts correctly. So he goes through it a few times.

Joe Fargis quizzes riders on the horses anatomy.

Then it’s time for warm up. As an equine massage therapist I place a strong emphasis on proper warm up and cool down, so I was happy to see Joe’s method.

“Warming up horses nicely, slowly, loosely, logically.”

— Joe Fargis

Horses and riders began by tracking left on a loose rein. They transition from a walk to posted trot, then finally sit trot in large circles. Then they reverse direction. On each side riders were asked to release the inside hand and hold both reins loosely in the outside hand. Large, loose movements were asked for during warm up. The exercises appeared to relax the riders as much as the horses.

Once warm up was completed riders worked on flatwork while the jumps were set up, “It takes a village”, joked Joe as Mary Babick and her crew arranged what would become a central grid of 8 jumps. However, the biggest hurdle seemed to be transitioning to the canter:

“Before you canter collect the bit. You can’t just fall into the canter, you need to load the gun, compress the spring.”

— Joe Fargis

Some riders have more trouble than others and hearing your name from Joe’s lips repeatedly appeared to create some anxiety, but Joe stresses patience. And when they nail the exercise- relief and pride. The most daunting of all was the serpentine jump course created in the center of the ring.


Halfway through the ground crew rearranged the numbered standards to aid the riders in remembering the course. But Joe has a method to his madness, encouraging a serpentine pattern at the trot or canter over ground poles, small verticals, and then increasing in size throughout the exercise. The goal is balance.

“Staying balanced in a big old serpentine with some jumps in it.”

— Joe Fargis

Riders jumped the course in singles and groups. Frankly remembering the course is daunting. Some riders worked more on remembering the course while other riders had to concentrate on pace and balance. With the constant turning it became easy for these riders to forget their diagonals from time to time. There was a lot to think about, but Joe stressed patience with the distance, with their horses, and with themselves.

Joe Fargis has impressive statistics as a show jumper, and yet he acknowledges that each rider knows their horse better than he does. He stresses patience but then also performs it when a horse shies from sun glare or another horse bucks after a jump. All in all, it was a successful day for all. We learned a lot and had an amazing opportunity. Thank you Knightsbridge Farm for a wonderful weekend.

Do you like attending riding clinics?

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