The show jumping world is often divided in its opinions. But one thing all equestrians agree upon is that 2020 was a difficult time.

Actually, I’m being too nice—2020 sucked.

For the past year and more, I have been encouraging people to stay strong and be innovative in their approach to the circumstances created by the pandemic. From difficult times often come forward-thinking solutions to adapt and move ahead in a new fashion. This has happened in the show jumping world via greatly improved access to top-quality education for all.

With restrictions on travel and large groups stretching over a year now in Canada, the clinic business came to a halt. I typically coach 25 to 30 clinics per year and that business has literally disappeared. Clinicians were struggling and riders everywhere were missing opportunities for learning. So it was time to get creative—with technology.

Enter Kevin Babington and an iPhone.

In 2019, the Irish Olympian suffered a devastating fall at the Hampton Classic that left him paralyzed from the chest down. It was a moment that changed his family forever and sent shockwaves through the equestrian world. Though presently confined to a wheelchair, the indomitable Babington runs an active training business, both in person and remotely.

My daughter and a client had the chance to train with him recently. Babington was located in Florida at the time; those girls are in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Turns out, the solution was straightforward and easy to execute.

The virtual lesson required:

  • Two Smartphones
  • Bluetooth earbuds
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • 1 person to film through the phone
  • 1–4 jump crew

One phone is connected to the speaker and the other phone is connected to the earbuds. Then we set up a three-way Facetime call with Babington. This setup allowed the rider to clearly hear and speak to him, and the other people in the arena observing could hear through the speaker.

The camera followed the horse/rider for the entirety of the hour. (There are robotic cameras, like Pixio and Pivo, that do this automatically.) Babington could clearly see all that was happening through his iPad and teach the lesson as if he was there in person. The layout of the arena was pre-set with a plan he sent.

Both students loved their lessons and received top-level education. The coaching is world-class, and his level of knowledge was very impressive. Babington emphasized light aids and creating the proper balance for the horses. Everything was positive, the lesson had a nice flow to it, and he communicated to the riders beautifully.

“Kevin was kind, insightful, and understandable. His insights into riders and horses are exceedingly helpful,” said Amber Keen.

“Kevin’s extensive knowledge and passion for the sport shone through with his teaching of proper horsemanship. Not only was it technical, he really focused on rewarding the horse when the horse had done what you had asked. It was an incredible experience to have a virtual lesson and be able to grow and learn from someone as knowledgeable as Kevin,” shared Halle Duke

I see this as the future of equestrian clinics. While in-person clinics are starting up again, this virtual system has many benefits. Primarily, it greatly reduces the out of pocket expense to the organizers, including the cost of the flight, hotel, meals, and rental car. And it also increases accessibility—anyone can have a virtual clinic and anywhere.

Hopefully, more people will seek out great coaches in the future to enhance their education of the wonderful sport of show jumping. Kevin Babington isn’t a bad place to start!