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  • Writer's pictureM4E

GHJA Educational Festival Emphasizes Principles of Riding

Updated: Oct 17, 2021

June 29 - July 1, 2021, at Wills Park Equestrian Center

The clinic at the GHJA Educational Festival held 25 sessions for riders from beginner to advanced over a span of three days.

All photos courtesy of

Alpharetta, GA – July 2, 2021 – The Georgia Hunter Jumper Association (GHJA) Educational Festival hosted top clinicians June 29 – July 1, 2021, at Wills Park in Alpharetta, Georgia. The clinic benefitted the Wills Park Equestrian Foundation and their mission to revitalize the Wills Park Equestrian Center. Twenty-five sessions included topics such as equitation, hunters, a model clinic, ponies, under saddles, and gymnastics, from beginner to advanced levels.

Clinicians Bibby Farmer Hill and Diane Carney with GHJA Vice President Megan O'Dwyer Thiel and clinician Wendy Arndt.

Clinicians Diane Carney (West Palm Beach, FL), Wendy Arndt (Ridge Spring, SC), and Bibby Farmer Hill (Lexington, KY) provided expert instruction for 80 riders over 25 sessions. All three clinicians worked on the basics of counting, inside leg to outside rein, and steering. The groups worked on longer derby-type courses as well as Table II Sec 2d jumper classes. A variety of jump selections provided for great rider experiences and quality horse training. Riders, spectators, and trainers participated in an educational question/answer period following the sessions.

Diane Carney worked on all aspects of riding including setting the course.

Carney’s clinic sessions required rider stamina and great listening skills. Each session ended with a review of what was worked on. The primary discussion centered on the five factors of jumping; pace, line, balance, impulsion, and distance while riders improved their diagonal aides both directions.

“We worked hard for three days,” said Carney. “All the riders improved and by day three they all rode around a derby or medal finals style course at their level. The riders ended their clinic with more confidence and were excited for a chance to practice at home before their next competition.”

In Farmer Hill’s group, riders worked on the importance of tracking, which applies to all levels of riders. They worked their way up to handy round courses by the last day of the clinic.

Bibby Farmer Hill worked on handy rounds and emphasized tracking.

“Everyone was so wonderful,” added Farmer Hill. “The riders all tried really hard and listened to what was being talked about. It was a great time for everyone and I think they all walked away with something to work on no matter what their level.”

Arndt also had all levels of riders and worked on exercises that were practical for .85m – 1.20m level riders. She also talked about goal setting and had her group list five goals, some immediate from the clinic and two future goals. Arndt emphasized the basics of track and aids, aiming to put it all together in a course. She ran a mini-Nations Cup format on the last day to stress the importance of teamwork.

Wendy Arndt worked on goal setting in addition to tracking and straightness with her groups.

“The passion for Wills Park and the efforts of the GHJA made me want to be a part of it,” mentioned Arndt. “I think it was really well received by riders and auditors and I hope they will do it again. Participants liked how the three clinicians were different but had a similar message. The support from the GHJA team was exceptional from the microphone guy to the jump crew and the staff to the tractor guy, it was really top-notch.”

Professionals like Lindsay Hadelsden, Megan O’Dwyer Thiel, Jamie Bice, Michael Allen, and Deborah Gannon rode in the clinic while others like Lauren Kissel, Janet Salem, Susan Kimball, Anna Tootle, and Billy Russell attended for the information.

Auditors learned from the clinicians and were inspired to go home and do the same exercises.

Many of the riders rode multiple horses with one or more clinicians and pony finals riders and all junior riders participated in a model clinic headed by Farmer Hill with Carney and Arndt officiating. Everyone had an opportunity for one on one help and great pointers from these top professionals. Auditors appreciated the training exercises and were able to take home the ideas for their own riders.

USEF R Official Dacia Johnson expressed what a great clinic it was, filled with real riding lessons to improve specific areas like rider balance, horse IQ, and timing to the jumps.

“It was an inspirational three days of great horsemanship and I appreciate the GHJA for making this opportunity available!” stated Johnson.

The clinic was organized by Megan O’Dwyer Thiel, Vice President of the GHJA, and her team along with support from Cheryl Sims of the Wills Park Foundation. Dedicated auditors like Sunny Stevens and support staff Will Haselden helped to make the clinic a success. Special thanks to the following group for making the event possible:

Anna Bomar- Sponsorships

Karen Hood - Secretary

Kathy Fishman- Secretary

Cheryl and Jay Sims of Cheryl & Co. Horse Shows- Managers

Matt Casey- City of Alpharetta Parks and Recreation

Clinic participants worked on the proper way to model a horse.

Thank you to Lauren Kamber and her riders who helped as jump crew and thanks to Heather Tinney, Karen Boysen, Sunny Stevens, Dacia Johnson, and Woody Dykers for supporting the clinic. Jonna Wilks and Alison Sims were some of the many trainers who brought students to the clinic as well.

For more information on future events, visit the websites at:

Wills Park Equestrian Foundation

Georgia Hunter Jumper Association

Diane Carney

Photos can be purchased at

Photos may only be used in relation to this release


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