By Marti GatlinJanuary 29, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. - Area Pony Club members consider Phillip Dutton to be their hero.
Saturday, they met the man, who is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist for Australia's Three-Day Eventing Team and International Eventer. He's also won U.S. Eventing Association's Leading Rider of the Year title for 11 years.
Dutton taught about 15 area Pony Club members, ages 8-18, proper flatwork and jumping basics at the Riding Stables here.
"It's a good opportunity for me to broaden my horizons and help servicemen and women's kids," Dutton said, noting he provided some guidelines and goals of where they should be in their careers. "They are great students. I think they're all eager to learn. I think they understood what I was trying to get through and the last couple of rounds they looked good."
Taylor Halsey, 17, trained with Dutton after he rode her horse, Rerun, a 9-year-old Paint Thoroughbred cross, to test the horse's abilities. Halsey is a member of the Wings Pony Club here.
To help Halsey for the upcoming Spring Horse Trials in late February at the Riding Stables, Dutton schooled her and Rerun in proper dressage and jumping techniques.
"I learned (I need to) slow him down so he doesn't rush the fence for jumping," she said. "I need to push him forward more. (For dressage I'm) trying to get him over his resistance at the canter."
Halsey called Dutton one of her idols.
"I am going to test for my B rating this summer, and this (was) an invaluable opportunity for an Olympic rider to analyze my riding skills," she said.
Taylor's parents, Pam, a Lyster Army Health Clinic nurse who works as the chief of performance improvement, and Michael, who retired from the Army and is now a contractor flying in Afghanistan, watched her half-hour lesson.
Pam helped organize Saturday's clinic and invited area Pony Club members to share in the experience.
"He's a former Pony Clubber. The idea of the Pony Club is to give back, and that's what he's doing. Phillip grew up doing Pony Club in Australia and he agreed to give Pony Clubbers a lesson," she said.
Pam said she thought Taylor "did a really good job. The horse was being a little difficult but she maintained. Sometimes it's a good thing if a horse has an issue. What he did with her helped because he rode the horse first, which gave him an idea of the horse's issues and helped Taylor go through them and fix them."
Mike happened to be on leave from his deployment to watch his daughter.
"(Dutton) is very patient," he said. "She has a pretty fair foundation, and he added to her foundation."
Dutton began Saturday's training with the most advanced riders and worked his way down to the beginners, according to Laura Sebren, whose daughter, Alex, 11, and 10-year-old Quarter Horse Appaloosa Paint cross, Savannah, participated. Husband and dad, Bobby Sebren, a Soldier with the Directorate of Training and Doctrine also watched Alex perform.
"He taught me to keep my balance on the horse, mostly in jumping. Doing flexing and forward and collection helps me with my transitions and strides in between the jumps," Alex said.
Alex plans on participating in the upcoming Spring Horse Trials and said Saturday's practice will help her trials "because we worked on lengthening and collections which helps with dressage and show jumping. He was really nice and fun to work with."
"She's doing well. Her horse is excited because Alex is excited," Laura said.
Bobby said he hoped Alex learned how to better collect the horse between jumps.
Cassidy Clark, 12, and Lilly, a 12-year-old Quarter Horse, joined Sebren and other area Pony Club members for Dutton's lessons. Clark is a member of the Wings Pony Club, and Sebren belongs to the Pinchona Pony Club of Montgomery.
"I learned you should balance your horse before the jump so (it) won't run flat over the jump," Cassidy said, noting Dutton's guidance will help her with her future jumping and eventing and training for the Olympics. "It inspired me. If you practice your jumping and dressage moves you can succeed in your career."
Jonathan Clark, a member of B Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, observed his daughter's training from the sidelines.
"I think she's catching on to his instruction. Hopefully it will greatly improve her knowledge as it is. She'll do the upcoming horse trials. (This will) give her some pointers, critique her on what can corrected."