Brilliant Blyth- A Lesson with an Olympic Champion- By Bella Harvey

Brilliant Blyth- A Lesson with an Olympic Champion- By Bella Harvey

Brilliant Blyth- A Lesson with an Olympic Champion- By Bella Harvey

Hey, I’m Bella Harvey and I am a 16 year old rider from Whangarei, Northland. I have a team of two horses and I have been riding for 4 years. My team is made up of Fred, who I own myself, and Aria, who belongs to my Aunt. Fred is a 16hh chestnut thoroughbred who raced in Hong Kong- but you wouldn’t believe it! He is a very laid back dude (almost too laid back) and has a silly personality. I have ridden him for three years and owned him for two. Together, we compete in a range of disciplines including (but not limited to) dressage, eventing and show hunter.  Aria is a 15hh dapple grey mare who I have kindly been given the opportunity to ride by my Aunt this season. I have only ridden her for a short period of time, but I think we have clicked very well and am looking forward to the season with her. Together we aim to compete in a variety of disciplines, but with a focus on showing, as she would make quite a lovely park hack. Thank you for checking out my first article for Evolution Equestrian and I hope you enjoy the read! 


I remember the first time I ever heard the name Blyth Tait. I had asked my mum about professional riders who were born and bred in Northland, and she’d mentioned his name. The height of his career was a bit before my time, but now I can really appreciate his skill and knowledge, and enjoy watching videos of his past achievements. You can imagine how excited I was to hear that he was hosting a clinic down the road from me! I jumped at the chance to learn from the best, and I was so lucky to secure a spot for the young horse clinic with Blyth Tait.


The Warm-Up

I had originally been put in the 80cm+ group with my horse Fred, but he pulled up lame with an abscess that morning so I opted to bring Aria, my schooler, to the young horse clinic instead. This meant I got the chance to watch my sister ride in the 80cm+ group. Blyth’s lessons are 1 hour and 30 minutes long, but he keeps you busy between each activity. He had both my group and my sister’s group warm-up in a similar fashion. We took turns trotting into a cross jump and cantering away. My sister says this gave her a good feel, helping her gain a sense of control and suppleness before asking anything more of her horse. The group then continued on to jump the first cross like so, and then canter on for three strides to a spread jump. This helped them develop the all important impulsion, as they needed enough energy to get cleanly over the spread in only three strides. This warm-up was very useful to both me and my sister, and I will definitely be using it in the future. 


The Importance of the Canter

For Blyth, having a good canter was the be all and end all. Because we weren’t jumping very big jumps, Blyth had us focusing on getting our canter right, and the jump should slot right in without any extra effort required. We all started off by trying to give our horses the correct stride, and he stopped us and instead played a game. He stood beside the jump and held up his hand, displaying different numbers on his fingers. We had to canter into the jump and not look, instead counting out loud the number of digits he was showing us. This was a good exercise to help us focus on the canter rather than the jump itself, as that was a part of the canter. One thing he said multiple times was “I can tell if the jump was good just by looking at the canter afterwards!” He could not stress enough how important the canter was before and after the jump, because if it was a good canter then it would almost always be a good jump. 


Get up and Go!

At the beginning of the second day Aria and I had a bit of a miscommunication and I fell off. It was a wake up call for me, because I was still on a high from the day prior, which went really well. I didn’t want to let myself down, so I got up and tried again. Blyth reminded me not to let her get away with too much, and we managed to get over the jump. Blyth told us all about the balance between kindness and firmness with young or green horses. One must be kind enough to allow the horse to make mistakes but firm enough to not let them get away with anything tricky. I think this rings true with not only young or green horses but with the schoolmaster too, though inexperienced horses are more in danger of developing bad habits that could continue for the rest of their riding career. At the same time, kindness is a very important virtue for a rider to have, as without kindness a horse can become sour or resentful. We have to allow horses to make mistakes, as without mistakes they would never learn anything. 


I always enjoy my lessons with Blyth. He is a very kind and forgiving instructor, but he certainly keeps us all on our toes! I always take away so much knowledge from his clinics, and this helps me look at our sport in a new light. I cannot wait for his next one!


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