Something that I like to do with young horses is just walk them over fences both in hand and when I am on them. Especially spooky fences that are set at low heights. It teaches them to just be relaxed and happy about the jumps so they don’t feel the need to overjump or be worried about new things.
London popped over a little x-rail a few weeks ago on his first or 2nd ride but since then we have just been trotting some poles and then I would casually walk him over the little gates, brush boxes and flower boxes in hand. At first he was not quite sure how to do this and wouldn’t go but now he just walks up and pops over. I’m sure a lot of people don’t teach young horses to jump this way but I’ve had a lot of success with it. It allows you to control their shoulders so you don’t teach them that stopping is allowed. I will also do a bit of lunging over jumps when I can. It allows the horse to really think about what they are doing without a rider being involved.
Yesterday, we trotted a little baby course for the first time and it was his first attempt at trotting the gates and flower box jump. He’s a bit green but very game. At this stage, I don’t worry about how they jump. I just want them to be relaxed and quiet. I try to go in there on a soft rein and stay out of their way. I could have sent him a bit more forward after the jump but we will get there.
I had my absolute best ride on Letterman in terms of flatwork. I’m hoping to get some video of him today to show him off. He feels amazing! He’s a very good reminder that it all comes together in time. You have to take them out of the ring to build up their muscle and allow them to get strong first. Once they develop the muscles then boom the flatwork is suddenly easy for them. He is just so damn fun to work with and he really tries hard. One thing that I have done is to add a standing martingale. I was watching some of the coverage on the USEA annual meeting where Phillip Dutton said he uses standing martingales on his young horses. He said something about it reminding the young horse of where they need to be without the rider bugging them. Letterman always has had this annoying habit of flipping his head all around for the first 15 minutes of the ride. The standing martingale doesn’t bug him at all when he’s just going around normal but when he wants to do all his head flipping it reminds him that perhaps he will get a couple of jerks in the nose if he keeps it up 🙂 I should have put it on months ago but it’s always about learning something new so I will be using my standing martingale a bit more often for those who need it. Setting boundaries is a very important tool in schooling green horses.
Out to get everybody ridden on a beautiful morning.