Olympic triple gold medallist Matt Ryan hopes some of his methods, which saw him conquer the sport at the highest level, can help NEGS students reach their riding goals after the champion eventer conducted a two-day clinic in Armidale on the weekend.
Ryan spent Saturday and Sunday going through drills and techniques with members of the school’s equestrian team to polish their skills in the showjumping and cross country phases of eventing.
“Basically I have some ideas and philosophies that I have picked up along the way from my competing and getting instruction off other people so I will always have my competition hat on,” he said.
“It is not just for pleasure riding, I always think ‘how can I make these kids, these pupils I am teaching, better competitors?’
“I would love to think that some of these kids, hearing what I have to say and the fact that these are techniques that I used to win gold medals, that hopefully that inspires them to go ‘okay if these ideas and philosophies worked for Matt and if I adapt them, maybe tweak them a little bit for individuality’ and then they could be stepping stones for their success as well.”
Ryan honed in on the students’ technique over jumps with the belief that perfecting the finer elements of the sport is what brings success.
“I work a lot on position of the riders, keeping their lower leg forward, keeping their upper body out of the danger zone, stopping them leaning forward, being kind and gentle with their hands so the horses have lots of freedom to stretch and bascule over the jumps – they are the three basic things I look for in the rider position,” he said.
“It is mainly the upper body I have to work on, most kids are a bit over-enthusiastic with throwing their bodies forward.”
Ryan’s enthusiasm was not lost on the students with the clinic’s participants, even the ones who have experienced success at state and national level, picking up bits and pieces to improve their riding.
While he retired from competition in 2013, Ryan said it is great to see people learning from him.
“I enjoy feedback from the kids, enthusiasm,” he said.
“I like seeing someone at the beginning [who is] scratching their head about what I am talking about, thinking ‘really? You want me to do that?’ and then by the end of it thinking ‘God this feels so much better. This is great!’– that sort of feedback is brilliant.”
Ryan is based in the United Kingdom and, despite his busy teaching schedule, won’t rule out returning to Armidale again.
He said if he returns, he will add more to the clinic and develop the exercises he conducted this time round.
“[There is] plenty of scope if they want me back to do a lot more,” he said.