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Jonathan Holling Goes Back to Basics for Red Hills Win

Wellington, FL – March, 23, 2007 – In winning the first qualifier of the World Cup season at Red Hills, Jonathan Holling and his long time ride, Lion King, cemented their position as one of the nation’s most exciting combinations. En route to their win, Holling and Lion King showed a marked improvement in all three phases. However, considering their show jumping disappointment at Fair Hill last fall, their clean show jumping round at Red Hills was particularly impressive. After the event, Holling revealed that a new approach both at home and at the shows led to their win.

“At the start of the season, I sat down and decided to go back to basics,” explains Holling. “Instead of doing anything fancy, I focused on simplifying the riding, my mental approach, and the organization at the barn,” says Holling. Holling, who trains with David O’Connor in addition to US training sessions, said that he really wanted to establish his half-halts in all three paces over the winter. Holling says, “I wanted to create the best broke horses that they could possibly be, so that I could go forward and collect at any time.”

“In addition, I began using a technique that David showed me, where I treat the corners in my dressage test as a place where the horses can relax and rebalance, instead of overriding and revving them up,” explains Holling. “David also encouraged me to focus on training the ‘whole of the horse’ instead of focusing on competitions,” says Holling. “By refocusing my approach, I have begun to expect at the competitions, not in a cocky way; but still expect that if my horse and I do what we need to do, then we will do well,” explains Jon.

Holling’s efforts yielded two good dressage tests, which left Lion King in second place, while his young horse, Direct Merger, owned by Janet Olsen, sat just outside the top 10. “The organizers at Red Hills do a great job creating a lot of atmosphere for the dressage. It’s great practice for later in the year, and I was especially pleased with Direct Merger’s maturity in the first phase,” explains Holling.

For Saturday’s cross country, Holling got to tackle the course on Direct Merger first. “Monty [Direct Merger] is an exceptional jumper, the type that turns heads. However, in the past he has past he has been difficult to focus, so I was very concerned about the BMW corner line,” explains Jon. Holling continues, “With my return to the basics, I took him out of the leverage bits that I had been using and put him in a full cheek snaffle. As a result, he was more rideable and focused.”

Direct Merger’s clean, fast round served as a perfect warm-up for Lion King, who came later in the division. “When I got on Lion King, he felt workmanlike and rideable, but no where near as explosive as Monty,” says Holling. “However, after the first four fences, I knew that Lion King was in top form, and it was great fun to pick off the fences together as we came up to them,” explains Jon. Holling’s round was the third fastest of the division, and left him within a rail of Darren Chiacchia and Phillip Dutton, who occupied the top two spots.

Heading into the show jumping, Holling says that he did not feel tons of pressure. “As opposed to Fair Hill last year, where I felt like I had to go clean, here I really expected Phillip and Darren to jump clean, so I just went in the ring to practice what I had been doing at home,” explains Jon. “I have been working on keeping Lion King’s shape in between the fences in the team training sessions with Mark Phillips and Laura Kraut,” says Holling.

After jumping one of only two clean rounds in the division, Holling went back up to the ring to watch his good friend Darren. “I was painfully aware that if Phillip or Darren had a rail, everyone would be looking for my reaction. Therefore they were probably confused when I looked disappointed after Darren had his rail,” laughs Jon.

Red Hills offers one of the best prizes of the year to event riders, a free lease on a BMW car. However, don’t expect to see Jon driving the new car around. “I already told my wife, Jen, that the car is hers as thanks for all her support,” says Jon. Jon was quick to compliment the organization and effort of the Red Hills officials, and is especially impressed by the efforts that the event takes to promote the horses and riders as athletes.

Holling also has nothing but praise for his barn staff, and says that they greatly contribute to his success. “This year we have a very stable group, headed by my head groom and assistant trainer Ryan Gross,” says Jon. “Ryan is steady and always dependable, and gets on extremely well with Jen and myself,” explains Jon. “In addition, we have a great home staff, which we can always count on,” says Holling.

While Holling’s staff keeps things running smoothly in the barn, products from his sponsors keep Holling and his horses outfitted and ready for the competitions. “I had always dreamed about having Prestige saddles, so when they came on board, it was literally a dream come true,” laughs Jon. In addition to Prestige, Heritage Gloves, Ogilvy Horse and Fiebing Leather Products keep the barn outfitted.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Holling and Lion King. Photo by: Anthony Trollope/ StockImageServices.com


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