Photos by Joanne Maisano
In the heart of Middleburg, Virginia horse country lies Rutledge Farm, situated on more than 120 picturesque acres making it the ideal destination for equestrians looking to further their skills and knowledge in the saddle. Owned and operated by Aleco Bravo-Greenberg, whose family has had the farm since the 1980s, Rutledge Farm specializes in hosting its unique Rutledge Farm Sessions, a first-rate clinic series for riders of all levels and disciplines taught by renowned Olympic gold medal athletes.
Will Simpson, an American show jumping icon and long-time friend of Bravo-Greenberg, kicked off the inaugural clinic series in August of 2017. Most recently, Simpson returned to the breathtaking facility from August 7-8 to instill his wisdom to the three groups of riders over the course of two days. Tuesday focused on gymnastics and flatwork, while Wednesday marked the second and final day of the clinic, which focused on jumping a course.
“The riders and horses in the clinic groups have been extraordinary,” Simpson praised. “They are top-quality horses and great riders who are really hungry to learn. It is the ideal situation for me as a clinician. Everyone comes out and they want to learn and do their best.”
To make the experience of participating in a clinic led by an Olympic gold medal athlete even better, the facilities at Rutledge Farm are nothing short of exquisite. The historic property includes six barns, more than 40 spacious stalls, a grand prix field and large indoor and outdoor arenas installed with Attwood Equestrian Surfaces footing.
Simpson continued, “The facility is top-notch. The footing is superb. The weather here has been rainy for weeks and this footing is absolutely perfect. Hats off to the way Aleco has done the footing. The jump crew here is outstanding. Everything here is just first-rate.”
All of the riders in the Rutledge Farm Sessions had similar sentiments about the impressive venue conveniently located in Virginia’s Hunt Country.
Kelly Cochran said, “It’s gorgeous – absolutely gorgeous. Even though it was hot, there was a nice breeze and there are trees and grass everywhere. You couldn’t have asked for a better location to learn so much.”
Amanda Smith Hood added, “It is beautiful. I have never been here before and it is spectacular. The footing is great, the jump crew is really efficient and it was kind of intimate. The spectators ask really great questions and it is interesting to hear questions about the course or the way one particular horse did something. You learn from all of that. It is different from a show where you are competing against each other; here there is a real camaraderie.”
Having the opportunity to learn from someone as accomplished in the sport of show jumping as Simpson is also one aspect Cochran and Hood appreciated.
“You want to make a good impression, but you also want to learn something at the same time. [Will Simpson] is lovely,” Hood said. “He is a master and is very authoritative. What is nice is that he is really encouraging and you only have two days for three and a half, four hours but someone that knowledgeable and experienced can make a few really insightful suggestions that have an impact and make you think about your ride. It was a great experience and I would definitely do it again.”
Cochran added, “I thought the clinic was amazing. I learned so much and [Will Simpson] is just a wealth of knowledge. I felt like a sponge the entire time soaking it all in.
“I feel that we got more crammed in in this clinic than you usually can get in a week,” she added. “My biggest takeaway was that when you think you don’t need leg, you do need leg. And it’s the perfect combination of knowing those times and also letting the horse do his job without interference.”
“My experience here at Rutledge Farm has been nothing but top-notch,” Simpson echoed. “Aleco is doing a great job orchestrating these Rutledge Farm Sessions and I am really honored to be a part of it.”
Bravo-Greenberg’s mission is to make the Rutledge Farm Sessions one of the foremost clinic series in the country that will attract riders from all disciplines, such as jumpers, eventing, dressage, equitation and hunters. As a rider himself, he has a passion for ensuring that all aspects of the Rutledge Farm Sessions are unparalleled for both horse and rider.
Rutledge Farm continues to break new ground in the sport at all levels and disciplines, and the team has already lined up four more Olympic gold medalists for the Rutledge Farm Sessions. The first will be Phillip Dutton in October, while Chris Kappler and Leslie Burr-Howard will be traveling to Rutledge Farm to host clinics in November of 2018. Already looking ahead to 2019, the Rutledge Farm Sessions will include a clinic with Olympian Peter Wylde next June.
For more information on Rutledge Farm and how to participate or audit one of this year’s Rutledge Farm Sessions, please visit www.rutledgefarm.com.
Rutledge Farm would also like to express a special thank you to Salamander Resort and Spa, the official resort of the Rutledge Farm Sessions. For more information or to book your visit please visit www.salamanderresort.com.
Source: Phelps Media Group