Taking the leap with jumping - Ben Netterfield

If you're in the Canberra region, you have no doubt heard of Ben Netterfield - Ben is an incredible coach, and as well as coaching talented show jumpers, he has supported many a rider over their first jump, both in the arena and cross country. I was keen to chat to Ben to find out more about his approach and tips for riders just starting their jumping journeys.
Tell us a bit about your background/journey as an equestrian and coach.

    I grew up on a cattle and sheep station in north west Queensland and we used horses extensively for muster and this was my introduction to horses. I competed at pony club to state level in showjumping, eventing, dressage, campdrafting and sporting.

    After school I worked for a few different racehorse spelling, showjumping and pre-training barns plus mustering contractors before moving down to Sydney and working for Equestrian Bloodstock Agency, which is owned by Olympic riders George Sanna, Rod Brown and John Mcmillan. This gave me an amazing grounding in competition preparation to the highest level with horses regularly competing at national and international level, plus being the largest exporter of performances horses in the country at that time.

    I had a bad competition accident in 1991 which left me with nearly a year on crutches and in rehab. Lucky I got back to competing and gaining experience doing my Level 2 coaching certification and competing in world cups. I was able to do a trip to the World Championships in Roma 1998 as Rod Brown’s (Head Australian Coach at the time) assistant coach.

    Then over the following years, I was Australian coach for the youth Olympics 2005, and team manager and coach for the young rider and senior tour of New Zealand 2014. From 2009 - 2014 I was the High Performance Co-ordinator for the training squads on a state and national level funnelling horses and riders into our Olympic and World Championship international campaigns. This was an extremely intense period having both my own students on the squads and traveling extensively for national and state squad clinics and competitions.

     Having achieved my level 3 coaching certificate in 2014 and funding being cut to some of the squad budgeting, I stepped back into my self employed role.

    I suffered a very bad paragliding accident in 2015 and decided to expand out into Leadership anxiety/trauma coaching during my prolonged recovery. Something I’d been looking into for quite some time but had never had the down time to look deeply into these areas.

    Having suffered chronic pain from different injuries and anxiety-related trauma, I felt it was an area I wished to understand better. Having not gone back to competing since this accident, I was able to put more time and effort into helping a wider range of clients work towards goals and guide their efforts through the many handbrakes and blind spots we all carry.  

    What are the riding fundamentals amateur riders need before they can confidently learn how to jump?

    I always believe that riders understanding their own balance, movement and communication pathways on a horse are the important first steps towards confident riding.

    Having a generous horse in the beginning is particularly big asset where possible as it’s ok to make green mistakes but you don’t want to be overtly punished for them. Getting to know the fundamentals regarding quality of pace and straightness makes for easier steps of progression. Learn and progress to your own goals not mine or other peoples expectations. 

    Similarly, what are the fundamental qualities for a horse to become a jumper? 

      Above all else the horse is generous and willing. Things that don’t come with a gauge or digital readout unfortunately, but evenness of pace and straightness can be regularly trained for and improved.  Once jumping courses, then rideability with preferably a good, even jumping stride gives a big boost to being able to be consistent.

      Then the obvious one - that the horse actually wants to jump!

      You run clinics for all levels of riders. What are some of the techniques you use to help build confidence in an absolute beginner jumper?

      First off it’s always important to keep breathing. Sounds basic but breathing and having the ability to move your own body helps brings confidence to most situations.

      Learning what we use sight for while riding. In that way we learn how to use our other senses and this helps to calm the brain from over thinking and over analysing situations. Then I build on trust with oneself and the horse and learning to hear and trust the feedback rather then reshaping or re-writing it purely to the language of the story you believe in not the actual events that are happening.

      What are some of the common mistakes you see people make when first learning to jump?

        Not being truly present and not being able to turn down the volume of information that happens when we ride. The golden rule of what’s the simplest thing to focus on and maintain that task at hand. Thinking they need to be crazy brave to start to jump. Whereas they’ve already shown get strength to show up, then it becomes small nudge steps towards courage and until it becomes second nature to reach for the right tool at the right time.

        How can people book to attend your clinics?

          Callum Mann Brilliantly runs my Canberra Clinics - contact her on FB messenger, or keep an eye out online for when she promotes upcoming clinics on Canberra region horse groups.