Ben Hobday brought along two horses for the demo. The first was Shadow Man, a super smart 4yo who was a BYEH finalist. He is a Belgian bred with showjumping breeding and was bought as an unbroken 3yo by Ben. The second horse was the unique Mulry’s Error. Mulry is a Clydesdale x TB horse with ‘the biggest feet in eventing.’ What Mulry has in abundance is jump and ‘heart’. It was this which saw him jump double clear round Burghley this year. The Clydesdale x TB is old fashioned show jumping breeding with Ryans Son and Beluga Bill being two showjumpers I can think of with this breeding but it is incredibly rare to see it in eventers.
Ben came in to some tumultuous music with his groom riding Shadow Man while Ben bought along a Shetland he had rescued and was now the yard’s mascot. After the opening entrance Ben swapped onto Shadow Man.
Ben began by saying its important to go at the pace of the horse and make the right decisions between consolidating and moving on. Shadow Man was sensible to break in and picked up the basics quickly. Ben uses poles all around the arena to help keep the horse straight as straightness is so important. The horse must be forward off the leg as this is vital. The rider should be in control of each stride. Correct repetition is the key to everything with horses ‘if you do it wrong, horses will learn from that.’
‘A horse must stay in front of the leg. It is a big mistake on a young horse to kill the canter.’ Ben explained that 9/10 times if you have a good canter you will have the right stride into a fence. Ben wants horses to take him into a fence. You ride them leg into hand. A horse should do the work for the rider. Even when the fences get bigger the horse should remain straight and in front of the leg.
Ben reiterated that it was important to like your horse as no point otherwise. A bad one costs the same as a good one.
A secure contact is important – ‘the rein should be like an elastic band with a bit of tension. You hold the horse’s hand through rein contact.’
‘Any horse can become brave with the right vibes from the rider and properly trained’. This is why Ben thinks it’s vital to get horses from a young age.
Moving onto jumping, Ben said it was important not to change position with a young horse. ‘Your position needs to remain consistent with you rarely changing anything because if they get too close to a fence they need to learn the consequences. If you are back one minute and forwards the next in your position they cannot learn the consistency required’.
Ben personally chooses not to do the BE young horse classes with a 4yo because he feels they produce too much wear and tear. Ben prefers to produce 4yos for BYEH which he feels is much better for their education without the wear and tear on them. Ben thinks Shadow Man could be a really good horse at 7/8 years old.
Ben commented on one of his jumps with Shadow Man who began by jumping a bit spooky in such a small arena with a large crowd watching ‘ he wanted to take me to a deep spot so I sat quiet, kept my shoulders back and let him learn.’
Ben then swapped onto Mulry’s Error. Ben said that Mulry loves the job and is a very confident horse. Ben believes that a horse with the right brain and training can go far. In describing Mulry, Ben said that he finds the dressage hard because of his conformation but he tries. Mulry was described as being ‘very sharp in the brain’.
Ben described how he ended up with the ride on Mulry at Tattersalls 1* and many wondered what Ben was doing riding Mulry. Mulry promptly went round the cross country easily 35 seconds inside the time, and finished jumping a double clear. Apparently William Fox Pitt said to Mulry’s owner that ‘he was a fantastic horse’.
Mulry used to change behind a lot but he would rarely have a fence down. Yet at three days he would often have poles. Ben learnt that at a three day he needed more room in front of a fence, so to compensate for this Ben needs to make sure he has a lot of canter coming to a fence. Now he makes sure he has a strong canter then sits quietly for the last few strides.
Ben said that another horse he did 4* on was not a very reliable showjumper yet at Burghley he managed to pull it out of the bag and jump double clear. Ultimately Ben said you have to enjoy it and have fun.
In talking about moving a horse up a level, Ben said that it was important to ride the horse and not the time. Confidence was described as a bank account where you needed to keep adding rather than withdrawing too much and making your account overdrawn.
‘Try and be quiet through your upper body.’
Ben is always looking for straightness even if it results in making a mistake and having a pole. Ben said that at 3* he made a mistake and had a fall this season. That fall taught him a lot and he is always looking to understand why mistakes happened. Through that mistake Ben said that you must know the horse and you know what they like best so don’t turn away from this instinct. In talking about this further Ben used Mulry as an example of a horse who has his own rulebook. Ben chooses to run him quite close to a big three day as it suits him better than going in fresh. Some horses need jumping often and some need to be fresh but you can only work out this knowledge after years.
‘Taking your time to prepare balance and keep the revs high can pay off especially if jumping spreads if you have a tired horse on the cross country and the horse is getting flatter.’
In talking about his own nerves, Ben said that everyone gets nervous, he was sick before Burghley but even with nerves you have to control them and think straight, ‘You need to tell yourself what you have been doing in training’.
This was the end of Ben’s demo. It reiterated many of the points picked up also by Paul Tapner and Carl Hester. Key basics which we should not forget in producing horses.