Unparalleled excellence in the show ring and in life through integrity, commitment and education of horse and rider.
The most fundamental elements of riding are (1) balance; (2) track; (3) rhythm and (4) controlled forward motion. Training methods at FPF, therefore, are built around those principles. FPF students are not merely taught a series of unrelated methods of accomplishing different tasks on their horses, but, instead are immersed in a system of riding that, from start to finish, relies on the same repetitive principles for achieving success. Whether trotting circles or cantering 3’ courses, a rider must first maintain their own balance. From day one, fundamentals of riding are stressed that allow a student to find and maintain the necessary balance in the saddle so they can offer steady and consistent leg, seat and hands' aids that their horses can understand and respond to. Once they’ve established their own balance, students are taught how to use their leg and rein aids to create balance in their horse, which, like virtually all of the methods we teach, are essentially the same throughout every gait and exercise. By teaching the student how to make their horse push forward from behind, while limiting their forward motion through the use of steady contact or connection on the rein, students are introduced to the idea of rhythm and controlled forward motion, concepts which are necessary for successfully managing courses of jumps, whether in the hunter, equitation or jumper ring. Finally, once they have successfully introduced the concepts of balance, rhythm and controlled forward motion to their horses, students are taught how to use shape, including both lateral flexion (bending) and vertical flexion (rounding) to create and maintain the proper track to the jump. With the right balance, rhythm and track, jumping becomes easy, and students are pushed to work on improving their abilities to use those same concepts to perfect other, more advanced aspects of course work, including more complicated skills such as recognizing the good distance and making it work, shortening and lengthening between the jumps, lead changes in the corners, etc. Finally, as riders show an affinity for advanced skills, they are introduced to more complicated questions, advanced equitation courses, higher jump heights and more.
The most important element of a successful trainer-student relationship is successful communication. Our lessons include a lot of explanation, discussion and queries. Being an instructor is a huge part of the role of a trainer, and we believe it’s necessary to educate our clients on all of the factors that affect the goal they are trying to accomplish in the saddle, including issues like conformation, soundness and behavioral training of the horse. For these reasons, much of the time in lessons is spent talking, explaining, and educating, so that as a student learns new and more advanced skills, they also gain an understanding of how those accomplishments relate to factors at all training levels.
Training successful show riders is about more than teaching riding skills, however - success in the show ring requires an understanding of how to compete and how to win. Specific emphasis is placed on the role of preparation for horse shows and the value of planning, organization and time-management. At the shows, students are educated on how to prepare themselves as well as their horses for their classes, what issues should be given primary attention, and what factors will likely determine success or failure in competition. We are careful not to either over or under challenge our students with the level at which they compete, believing that it is not productive to either compete in classes that are substantially below or above that rider’s ability to compete. We want our students to believe that each time they walk into the ring to compete, they have the ability to win a blue ribbon with their best performance – though we see little value in their winning when their performance is sub-par. Finally, we strongly emphasize and demand good sportsmanship from our riders, and we try to create an environment where each competition is merely a step in the process of building towards bigger goals.
We also feel strongly that merely teaching and improving riding skills or teaching students how to win is not a sufficient end to our responsibilities as trainers. In our training environment, improving horsemanship skills is equally, if not more important. Students are encouraged to learn about barn management, safety and the care of their horses. They are expected to learn all of the necessary skills for tending to the horses, including body clipping, medicating and treating wounds, as well as gaining a basic understanding of both veterinary and farrier care. Additionally, a working knowledge of the tack options available to them, the benefits and drawbacks of different training tools and bits, and the ability to determine which pieces are most appropriate for their own horses are emphasized.
Our relationships with our students and customers, though respectful, is not particularly formal, and is based on the concept of trust and friendship. We are committed to honesty and openness with our customers, especially in the area of costs and expenses, and we appreciate the necessity of budgeting and keeping track of the expenditures in their horse lives. We talk openly with our students about their goals and their time commitments, in order to set reasonable and realistic expectations for participation and achievement in the sport. We try to understand and support the role that horses and riding plays in the lives of our students and their families, so that there is a mutual understanding of what can and should be expected by way of committing time, energy and money to the sport, and in appreciating how those factors relate to achieving success in the show ring. Finally, we try to create personal relationships with our customers that extend beyond the barn and the horse shows, so as to increase the level of trust between trainer and student and to create a better system of communication and understanding between us.