by Emily Baker
Steve Johnson is an assistant trainer at Savoy Stables, and one of the headliners for our Trainers' Corner Features. Steve has been a professional in Colorado since 2005 and has worked with many trainers in our community including Tracye Ferguson, Keri Kaneps, Karen Stone, Laurie Jeuneman, John McConnell, and Michael Dennehy. Steve channels each of these riders in his training, tailoring each lesson to fit the rider, the horse, and the situation.
He grew up working for the sport he loves, riding all the horses that nobody wanted to ride. He says of his career, "I love doing what I do. I love that I have the privilege to do this." This passion is evident in his method of training, and Steve enjoys concocting different exercises and lessons every day for those at Savoy. He has agreed to share many of his ideas with us at Equestrienne, starting with his personal current favorite: The Wheel.
Above is a diagram of The Wheel. It consists of four jumps set in a circle on the quarters, each space 58' apart center to center. Two jumps are set leading in and out of The Wheel also at a distance of 58'. This length is intentionally two feet short of a regular four stride line. This allows riders the option to do four or a very collected five strides in to The Wheel.
The jumps in The Wheel are set so that riders can adjust their track to do three, four, or five strides in between each fence. Johnson recommends that if you do collected five strides into The Wheel, you should do four strides in between each fence on the circle. Whereas if a rider comes in at a more forward four strides, it would be three strides in between the other fences. After one or more full spins on The Wheel, you can exit over the other outer fence.
Steve loves this particular exercise because it requires riders to practice "the big four" as he says: pace, balance, track, and impulsion. If a rider has a consistent pace, stays on the track, keeps their horse balanced with outside aids, and has enough impulsion they will smoothly navigate The Wheel. "Do your job, and the distance just appears," Steve says of the exercise. However, lacking one of these elements it could make for a topsy-turvy spin on The Wheel, so to say.
Give it a try at home with your riders and horses, and let us know in the comments section how it goes! Then keep an eye out for more lesson tips and tricks from Steve Johnson.