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BLOG: A masterclass at Willinga Park

The masterclass was a great learning experience for all. © Dana Krause

The masterclass was a great learning experience for all.

© Dana Krause

BLOG: A masterclass at Willinga Park

By Dana Krause

With over 30 horses descending on Willinga Park for a total of 89 lessons, a protocol day and a masterclass, there was much happening in my second week at Willinga.

This four-day extravaganza was organised by Nina Boyd, who formulated this idea to create an umbrella of support for both herself and her students. With Jenny Gehrke, Jayden Brown and Nina herself coaching, and Roger Fitzhardinge judging the test training day, it certainly is an incredible umbrella! The program consisted of the masterclass on day one, then lessons for the following three days with a protocol test also part of day four. Such clinics like this are rarely ever seen, except at a high-performance level, and to have access to the incredible Willinga Park cemented the quality of the clinic.


All riders settled in at the beautiful Willinga Park. © Dana Krause

All riders settled in at the beautiful Willinga Park.

© Dana Krause

Day one was better framed as an invitation to watch Jayden train under Jenny’s eye. Unlike a normal masterclass, the program began with WillingaPark Fusion, a stunning Prix St Georges horse who just may happen to be my favourite of the Willinga Park team. Fusion is the love project of Jenny and Jayden as he is hot, but when he keeps it together it is breathtaking to watch. Whilst watching as Jayden warmed him up, Jenny began explaining that the ultimate goal of their training is to make them adjustable:

“We want them to be as adjustable as possible so we can put them where the judges tell us to.”

Easier said then done, however we all watched as Jayden could move through the gears of walk, trot and canter, in and out of working paces, to collected, to extended, to pirouette canter, without Fusion skipping a beat!


Jenny in action. © Dana Krause

Jenny in action.

© Dana Krause


Next up was WillingaPark Fangio, their super six-year-old stallion. Jenny explained how when they first started working with Fangio he had a big expressive front end and a back that swayed side to side, so they pulled it back and taught him to trot like a normal horse and then added the expression in through harmony. Jayden showed us Fangio’s old trot and though the front end moved, the ears flew back, the hinds went anywhere but straight and you could see the discomfort. A quick “that’s enough shit trot Jayden” from Jenny, and then they transitioned into his new flowing trot, highlighting the difference as his hinds stepped under and the ears pricked forward. This change has definitely been for the best, as Fangio currently has an 80% average at Elementary level.

WillingaPark Jethro Royal followed as the last horse before a quick break. The four-year-old warmblood cross stockhorse was there to demonstrate how Jayden can really make anything special. Jenny started with explaining it all comes down to the three non-negotiables; at any age from the start they must always be able to, go, stop and turn. This of course further develops into half halts, flexion, bend through the body etc. but the foundation lies in go, stop and turn. Furthermore, Jenny got Jayden to demonstrate the twirls which helps form the basis of submission and the preparation for start of leg yield (an exercise on a 2m circle in walk, where it looks like the horse is twirling around, hence the name!). Jenny noted that horses should not begin heavy laterals until they are five as their sacroiliac joints have not fused properly yet and can be damaged.


Danielle Ffrench enjoying her protocol test with Roger. © Dana Krause

Danielle Ffrench enjoying her protocol test with Roger.

© Dana Krause

WillingaPark Sky Diamond (known as Beanz) was the first back from the break and is an upcoming Grand Prix horse. Jayden began by illuminating the power of riding a good corner and not going too deep into them, and how the horse can so easily lose balance. After someone pointed out that all Jayden’s lines were perfect, Jayden responded, “I ride my preparation and my lines right so I know when he doesn’t get it, I’ve done everything to make sure he could get there and I can correct him knowing that.”

Jenny used Jayden to show how they train the ones, and my gosh, do you need to be able to count! Although Jayden rode the exercise seamlessly the start off with 2x 1’s at H, E and K, then it is 2x 1’s every four strides, then it is 3x1’s every four strides, then 3x 1’s every three strides, 4x 1’s every two strides, 5x1’s then one stride then 5x 1’s and all of a sudden you’re doing 15. I think I may need to improve my math skills before I start training the ones on Taitti.

Finishing the masterclass was WillingaPark Quincy B who needs no introduction. I was lucky enough to be there when Jayden had his first attempt at running through the Prix St Georges test, which they quite literally just cruised around without a single flaw, to which Jenny noted the key was (other than being able to be a fantastic rider like Jayden and riding a horse like Quincy), the horse is physically prepared to do what we expect and that they accept the movement preparation. If you come into the canter pirouette line of the PSG and they don’t listen to your half halt then you have no chance of getting a pirouette. The preparation is just as important — if not more important — to your success of achieving the movement to the best of your ability, which is why the session focused more on training the preparation then the movements themselves.


Bec Sellick riding her beautiful Fiderhall in her lesson with Jenny. © Dana Krause

Bec Sellick riding her beautiful Fiderhall in her lesson with Jenny.

© Dana Krause

Jayden’s final remark, “If you are not changing, you are not getting better” truly resonated with me and clearly the 40+ other people who had all been scribbling away in their notepads as well.

Unfortunately, I did not get to watch many of the lessons that took place over the course of the next three days as Taitti managed to get himself cast in the 5mx5m stable (after the initial freak out of my horse’s elephant leg, I can laugh at the disgrace he is). I spent those days icing him for half an hour pretty much every hour. Thankfully it was superficial, and we are back in the saddle now! On a personal note, it was great to meet Bec Sellick for the first time who had made the trip from Western Australia and is a sponsor of mine through LaNoir Saddleworld.

The photos from the clinic show the quality of the lessons that I missed and the smiles on people’s faces highlighted that everyone had a good time and was super thankful to Jenny, Jayden, Nina, Roger, Terry, Ginette and all the Willinga Park team for making this possible! I am sure they are all looking forward to the next one!

Catch up on part one of Dana's blog here.

Stay tuned for Dana's next installment as she reports on her time training at Wilinga Park.





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