The SSCF, in conjunction with the organizers of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds Point to Point in Unionville, PA, held a combination racing clinic and assessment ride at the Plantation Field race course on Sunday, April 26th, 2017. Dressed warmly against the brisk wind and chilly temperatures, ten riders and an equal number of auditors participated, and it was a lovely mix of new and experienced riders & horses, including 2016 SSCF Horse of the Year Fort Henry with first-time SSCF jockey Stephanie Dowling; 2016 OVS cup winner Mary Musheno on Julie Nafe's 2016 Cheshire ride Madame Belvedere; and first-time pair Sarah Hansard on the Irish Draught gelding Jake.
SSCF Race Committee Chair, Kirstie Grabosky, welcomed all of the riders and auditors, and then introduced the clinicians: champion jockey Paddy Young of Young Racing, and trainer Ivan Dowling of Grey Lake Stables, LLC. Both of the PA-based Irishmen voiced their support for the SSCF, and were encouraging to all participating in the clinic. Everyone started off at the training area where, following a flat warm-up, the riders were paired up and then sent off to work over a course of 4 rail fences, allowing both riders and clinicians to get a sense of how the horses were going and to give everyone a chance to settle in. After two go 'rounds on the left rein, with comments and suggestions from Paddy and Ivan, the improvement of all was noticeable when the pairs reversed direction to do the course on the right rein.
The group then headed of the start of the Cheshire race course, where they were instructed on how to properly perform a moving start, keeping the horses tight head-to-tail, and watching for the starter to drop his flag; on what the ideal pace was for the 2-mile long race; and the necessity of communicating to the other riders while on course and being aware of not only what one's own horse was doing but also what was going on with other horses. The group was split into two section of five horses, and each worked on performing a good start and pace, before being instructed to jump the first 3 fences on the course. After each section went, Paddy and Ivan offered both praise and advice, and then did it again to incorporate their comments. Finally, the entire group was put together to perform the start and three fences, and the riders experienced what the race itself would be like.
Following the clinic, the participants were treated to a lovely tailgate, and had an opportunity to thank Kirstie, Paddy, Ivan, and the Cheshire race supporters for their time and knowledge. Everyone, whether first-time or experienced race participants, enthusiastically agreed that they had learned a lot from the clinic, and felt more prepared for the upcoming SSCF race season.
Daniela Anderson took pictures of the day, which can be found here.
Riders will be informed this week if they have been selected to be invited to enter the SSCF race at Cheshire. The race itself will be held on Sunday, March 26, 2017. More info can be found at www.cheshirepointtopoint.com