Inspiration Series - Jock Paget

Inspiration Series - Jock Paget

If you are a New Zealand event rider of any level, chances are you will know who Jock Paget is! 

A friend who had taken some coaching with Jock had passed on his number to me with lots of encouragement to make the call and try a lesson.  I thought about a lesson, then I thought...why not go a step further and see if Jock is interested in doing some Auckland clinics? Springbush would be the perfect place to arrange some Auckland eventing clinics I thought, and given Tich has been a long time friend since my early ‘pony clubbing’ days -  I figured it couldn't hurt to ask.

I made the call to Jock and when he picked up the phone I learnt that he was in America.  He was open to the clinic idea and told me to give him a call back in about a week's time once he was back on home turf. So I jumped on the blower to Tich to sound out my idea for Jock Paget clinics at Springbush Equestrian. Unbeknown to me, Tich was also in America, and happened to be sitting in the same bar with Jock.

So I set about organizing things in the coming weeks and we had our first Jock Paget Eventing clinic at Springbush Equestrian, in Hunua, in November 2018. The clinics have been running for 3 years now, albeit with a few covid interruptions, but nonetheless plenty of interest and hours upon hours of fabulous learning.

As a coach Jock has a remarkable ability to extend your learning at pace, but also balances this with a constant inflow of confidence boosting commentary.

In true teacher-geek style, I have been known to journal some of the learning I have gained at these clinics with Jock, so there is plenty of material to draw on for this blog! I spent a bit of time reading through some of the notes I had made from clinics as I put pen to paper for this piece and it reiterated to me again, the multitude of fantastic training tips, techniques and wonderful knowledge that Jock generously imparts to us during our lessons. 

For me, it is the training that really gets me excited about my journey with my horses.

I always enjoy the debrief at the end of a lesson with Jock - he really lets you chew over the nuts and bolts of the lesson so you can be sure to take away a clear picture of what you need to do at home, or in the ring, which is a part of his generosity as a coach.

I am a classic overthinker, and I think I am not alone in this mentality as a rider. This may not be the case for all, but I know that I am not the only one out there who can get a little stuck in my head, striving for that great ride maybe a little too hard at times and getting in my own way in the process. A great conversation I had with Jock at the end of a show jumping clinic one morning touched on this. Jock was helping me to process what we had been doing with striding - knowing where and when to balance, when to ‘ride up’ and how to manage the ride when a distance might not be so great. He was aware I had a friend videoing the lesson for me and he made a great point of saying “ watch the video where the ride wasn't so perfect once - then ditch it! Then, go ahead and watch the video where the striding and the ride was great as many times as you like. Affirm that - that's great learning”


Cross Country clinic with Jock - riding young horses over ditches

I think that the learning and coping mechanisms offered by Jock around the mental aspect of this sport have been so valuable to me, and no doubt to others! I might have gone away after that lesson and really meditated on the ‘not so great ride’ in an effort to learn from a mistake, but instead I took his advice and watched that ride once, then allowed myself to watch the good ride numerous times and feel good about it! 

So often I think we beat ourselves up when things aren’t perfect and it is nothing but detrimental to us as riders. 

In the winter of 2020 we ran a Jock Paget show jumping clinic and Horse & Pony magazine ran a masterclass article which Willow and I rode in. In the article written by Helen Firth, Jock's systematic approach to riding and training is really highlighted in his discussion of how to ensure you have the ‘right canter’ and also in the “warming up for a course” excerpt. 

Willow absolutely loves to jump. Our challenge tends to be whether we can maintain in the ring, what we have had in training as a partnership amidst Willow’s desire to jump - which can sometimes take us a little onward bound, coupled with my tendency to become more emotive in my ride when in a competition environment. 

“When she gets a little energetic, we don't want to grab and hold that - we want to trust that nice soft feeling. It's when she goes to run away and change the gear that you need to make the correction.” Instead of halting after the fence Jock would rather Ashra simply shorten the canter before softening and cantering away again. She should only come to a complete stop if Willow isn't responding to her request to slow down. 

“You'll get there quicker if you don't break the connection” he explains. “On a scale of 1-10, halting on landing is like a correction of 8 or 9. Yes, you will make a point, but the thing we're trying to train is the compression. When you land and stop, you're sharpening a tool. If you can move on from that to the next level of compressing and really collecting the horse, you're addressing what we really want. If you keep stopping when they are responding to the tool already, then you're just overtraining.”

With this in mind, Ashra is able to sit up and collect the canter on landing before riding away again. She also practises this over a single oxer and Willow responds beautifully. “That was really good” praises Jock. “ I’d do this with every horse as a warm-up. The jump is only completed when you land, sit into the horse, slow down and rebalance, soften and ride away.” Horses love to anticipate what's coming next and it's a good idea to use this to your advantage, says Jock. “If you train a horse to land, stay straight and come back every time, they will start to anticipate it.” If you have a high level of attention to detail at home, things won't change too much at a competition, says Jock. “You may have to remind the horse in the warm up, but it shouldn't take long, because it's not foreign to them.” ( Excerpt from Horse & Pony magazine, October 2020 edition, article by Helen Firth )   

Jock’s capacity as a coach to instill confidence and competence in riders is second to none. At every clinic I have come away buzzing with numerous training techniques, but also with another layer of empowerment where I feel safe in the knowledge that I can, and want to do this. 

I really think eventing is not for the faint hearted - we are a little mad trying to perfect 3 disciplines in a weekend, and keeping things ticking along nicely in all 3 phases is no easy feat. 

At any point where I have faltered along this road in my confidence as a rider or in my training, Jock has swiftly steered the ship back on course and the journey I have been on since the inception of these clinics has truly been an enriching one.

Thank you Jock.