Parker Hendriks, Teddy Davies, and Sophie O’Brien in the midst of a mock field master’s chase.

Despite dodgy footing and pending snow, on Sunday, March 3, 2019, 23 junior riders, some as young as eight years old, participated in a steeplechase clinic.

With instruction from Liz McKnight, James Wyatt takes a fence on Thumper.

Nearly half the young riders were new to jump racing. Exercises included galloping and jumping in groups and riding in a mock field master’s chase.

Henry Nylen and Sara Hess practice galloping in a group.

The clinic had three goals. The first was introducing new riders to the sport, and helping them translate the riding skills they already have from fox hunting or eventing, etc., to the race course. The second was offering a venue for juniors with some experience to improve their skills by working with professionals in the field. The third was qualifying kids interested in competing this spring. The Maryland Steeplechase Association requires that juniors qualify and are approved prior to riding in a race.

Leading the groups were a cadre of steeplechasing’s best of the best, including Darren Nagle, Willie Dowling, Forrest Kelly, and McLane Hendriks. Assisting were seasoned junior riders Tommy Fenwick, Colin Smith, and Theo Sushko. Darren Nagle commented that his group could be “a set galloping at Lambourn.”

Sophie O’Brien lands a fence on her pony.

The clinic was a great success, with several of the young riders planning to attend the MSA’s open clinic this coming weekend – and we hope for the same enthusiasm in the junior races this spring!

Many thanks to Ann Merryman for coordinating with the valets at the Maryland Jockey Club to provide goggles and helmet rubber bands as feature items for the gift bags for the clinic participants. The ground turned out to be fine and we finished before the snow!

All photos ©Carol Fenwick

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