A lesson with Derby winner Phillip Miller

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When we ran an exclusive Hickstead Derby Community competition to win a lesson with the 2013 Derby winner Phillip Miller, we had a great response. In the end, we selected 25-year-old Jodine Brooks from Kent and her seven-year-old Dutch gelding, Camorasun.

"I've ridden all my life and done everything from grooming, breaking and training horses," explains Jodine. "I got Camorasun - known as Henry - when he was a five-year-old and I have competed him from British Novice level up to his first 1.30m this April, and I'm very excited to bring him back to compete at Hickstead again this year. I've even delayed my honeymoon so I can make it to this year's shows!"

 

Jodine has the use of the Bunn Leisure Arena for her lesson, which is also home to the All England Polo Club during the winter months. Phillip Miller asks Jodine to start walking around to get Henry used to the surroundings, and asks what she'd like to focus on during the lesson. "I'd love to get some more experience of jumping bigger courses," says Jodine. "He can be lively, so it's hard to keep a good canter rhythm when he's getting excited. He's a confident horse but he's very sensitive and sweet, so it's mostly a case of keeping him calm. I've had a few offers from people wanting to buy him, but I want to keep him!"

 

Watching Henry walk around, Phillip can see why he's attracted attention.  "I can see why people would like him," he says. "If he jumps like he moves, I'd take him home! He has a free, loose trot and he's a lovely stamp of a horse."  On the flat Jodine moves up into canter, and Henry executes a perfect flying change when asked to change the rein. "You've done a really good job of producing him," says Phillip. He notices that Jodine is making lots of small adjustments. "As he's warming up, don't worry too much about his head carriage or way of going. Think of looking up, sitting more upright and see if he'll relax underneath you."

 

He asks them to ride into a more forward canter along the long side of the arena, then collect at the corner by sitting more upright through the body instead of using the rein aids - and then allow with the hand and to encourage Henry to go forward again. "It's good that he lengthens his stride rather than rushes," praises Phillip. Jodine explains she can lose impulsion on the turns, so Phillip asks her to ride her normal showjumping canter and then turn on to a small circle, to work on replicating the forward feeling while turning. He also gets them to ride an exercise where they turn down the three-quarter line and stay totally straight, without drifting - this is a really handy test of straightness.

 

As they start with a small cross-pole in trot, Phillip reminds Jodine to stay relaxed and not change anything now that they've begun to jump. Henry is keen to get on with his job so Phillip reminds the rider to slow the approach down fractionally, by keeping her shoulders upright. "Because he's a naturally forward horse, if you lean forward it encourages him to be quicker," he says. Phillip then changes the fence to an upright and places v-poles on the top pole, which will encourage Henry to lift up through the shoulders and be neater in front.

 

As they move on to a fillers fence, Henry puts in a very uncharacteristic stop. "If he goes spooky, don't panic. Just sit up, keep the leg on and channel him to the fence," says Phillip. Soon he's popping over various fences nicely, so Phillip asks them to do an exercise on the left rein where they do a tight turn left away from the side of the arena and come down to an upright just off the track, making sure they maintain the canter on the turn.

 

The pair moves on to a course, and work on putting into practise their earlier work of rhythm, a controlled approach and balanced turns. They finish with a lovely clear round over various uprights and spreads, including a double. "That was great," says Phillip. "He's neater in his jump when the fences are bigger. You've done an amazing job producing him, and good luck at this year's Hickstead shows."