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DULUTH - The art of horseback riding has been around for thousands of
years and over those years has developed from herding animals on a ranch to the
Olympic sport you see today.
"Many people don't understand that equestrian sports
are part of the Olympic process and is a real sport. It's the only sport where
two mammals are working together," said Jim Graham, a world renowned rider
Graham has represented the United States in numerous
international competitions, including the World Equestrian Games in 1994.
Now he focuses on teaching the sport of Eventing to aspiring
Eventing includes three phases, the first being dressage,
which he says is similar to ice skating on a horse.
"That’s where you do your circles and your side steps
and you're judged on accuracy," said Graham.
That's followed by cross country.
He said, "That’s when you gallop over large fences that
do not fall down, jump into water, over ditches and stone walls."
Finally, there's show jumping.
"That’s where you have the striped rails and the
bull's–eyes and if you knock a rail down there you're penalized," he said.
Eventing isn't something that can be mastered overnight.
it requires an incredibly strong bond between horse and rider.
Graham said, "To get on a horse and gallop over a ditch
that's wider than your car and for the horse to take us with them it takes
years of trust, training and a lot of skills."
For some riders, the bond between the two may be as close as
one comes to an out of body experience.
"It feels comfortable and it feels sometimes like I’m
one with the horse," said Abigail Blair, a youth rider attending the Jim
It's that feeling that Graham hopes will help groom even the
greenest horses and riders into the most advanced competitors.
"I hope to leave feeling that every horse and rider
will be more educated and lift their expertise a higher level than when I
Jim Graham's clinic was held at Aspen Ridge Stables just
north of Duluth.
The stable started in 1980 and provides one–on–one and group