School Days: Icabad Crane hard at work

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 Icabad Crane has passed all the tests.  It’s no longer a question of “Can he?” or “Will he?” get the hang of his new career in combined training – he’s proven his ability and his affinity for the job.  Now back at Phillip Dutton’s farm in West Grove, Pa., Icabad Crane is considered by the trainer to be “well ahead of the curve.” 

Of the gelding’s maiden voyage victory at Full Gallop Farm in Aiken, S.C. last month, Dutton said “Really you couldn’t have asked for more.”  The baby steps are becoming a bit bolder now; the routine more concrete and challenging. 

The New York-bred stakes winner is ridden six days a week – usually with Sundays off – and in a recent conversation Dutton outlined is his training regimen.

“On Monday he’d do a 30-minute trot and then some flatwork or dressage work; what I call suppling work.  That would involve lots of walk/trot/canter transitions, backward and forward.  He’s just being introduced now to counter canter, which is a great balancing exercise for the horse.  He has to canter with the leading leg to the outside of the circle.  He was obviously taught to do flying changes at the track, now it’s teaching him not to change unless he is asked to change. He does a lot of leg yielding in the trot so that he’s moving away from the leg.  He wasn’t born with a lot of suspension in his trot, so we are trying to get him stronger and more flexible so he’ll spend more time in the air at the trot.”

Schooling over fences takes place twice per week.  “On Tuesday he would jump with the emphasis more on the gymnastic exercises just to make him think and to start to judge what to do at the jump.  In the beginning when I was first teaching him, it was more about getting from A to B; getting him to understand that he had to go and jump the jump. Now it’s about getting him to understand that he can come to the jump on a short, collected stride or go down to a jump on a big, open stride.”

Wednesdays are typically a 40-minute hack and followed by more flatwork. 

“On Thursday,” Dutton went on, “He would do a 20-minute walk, then flatwork, and he’d finish off the day probably with a 3- to 4-mile canter.”

Friday brings more hacking and flatwork.

More jumping on Saturday, “with the emphasis more on cross country. I concentrate a lot on the water with him because that’s what he’s worried about, so we’ll do a lot of trotting and cantering through it.” 

“He’s in the top echelon of being a really smart horse, a horse that is pretty attentive.  Having said that, going across the diagonal at the walk during his dressage test (at Full Gallop Farm) he started whinnying at the other horses.  He was just a little star-struck.”  

Wondering where you can watch Icabad Crane and Dutton in action? Here’s their spring/summer competition schedule:

  • May 3-4: MCTA Horse Trials, Cockeysville, Md.: Beginner Novice.
  • May 17: Fair Hill International Horse Trials, Fair Hill, Md.: Novice.
  • May 31-June 1: Waredaca Farm Horse Trials, Laytonsville, Md.: Novice.
  • June 14-15: Seneca Valley Pony Club Spring Horse Trials, MD.: Novice.
  • July 12-13: Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy Farm I, Adamstown, Md.: Novice.
  • July 18-20: Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy Farm II, Adamstown, Md.: Novice.
  • Aug 9-10: Fair Hill International Horse Trials, Fair Hill, Md.: Novice.
  • Aug 16-17: Waredaca Horse Trials, Laytonsville, Md.: Novice.