Achieving the Well Schooled Horse

Amanda Brewer

Amanda Brewer

In last month's article Michael and Spotty were starting their training with Amanda Brewer. Spotty, a 16.1hh 6 year old Hanovarian mare, really likes to 'get on with life' to the degree that she was bordering on being uncontrollable. Added to this she was very 'heady' and unsettled. The first part of the training concentrated on giving Spotty a very positive experience in her lessons and on Michael improving his basic position. Amanda had given them both homework to go away and practixe.

Spotty is starting to work in a rhythm, nicely round she is stepping into the very light contact

Overcoming Excitement

Spotty is a very 'full on' horse, but her keenness was resulting in her becoming unrideable, what was required was for the keenness to be more actively channelled into her work allowing her to relax and develop her natural abilities.

During the month Michael had been practising his homework to re-inforce the work in their lessons. He reported that every time he rode out, she was becoming quieter with her head, although she still felt tense. Lessons continued to be very calm and quiet, concentrating on encouraging Spotty to work within the arena, gain confidence in Michael's hands and to relax at the slower paces. The first couple of lessons were ridden in walk and then using the same basic exercise of working on the circle trot work was introduced.

Useful exercise to help balance Spotty and to make her listen:

As her work and Michael's riding improved, Spotty was gradually asked to go more forward into a contact, and after about 6 lessons she had sufficiently progressed for canter work to be introduced. The first attempt was 'pretty wild' circle work was then used to balance and steady the canter.

Spotty was asked to work on the circle with Michael concentrating on his position and sitting very quietly until Spotty began to relax and realise that actually canter wasn't that thrilling!

Introducing Jumping

Once the walk, trot and canter were established it was then possible to introduce jumping. With Spotty and Michael there were 2 issues to be taken into account:

Aims

Many riders forget that when jump schooling it is not vital to actually have a fence, much can be learned by both horse and rider from using a pole on the ground. The benefit of using poles for practice is that the horse can go over the pole repeatedly without the concussive effects of jumping and the rider can work on the approach, position and get away.

The rider needs to imagine the pole as a jump and ride it accordingly. Consider the 6 different stages of riding a fence:

  1. First turn, the rider needs to be looking at the fence so that he does not over shoot the approach line. The turn should be smooth with the horse working in a forward, balanced rhythm.
  2. The rider should be riding in a forward position and approach the fence at a right angle concentrating on keeping the horse between hand and leg.
  3. At the point of take-off the rider should allow the horse to come up to him, folding from the hips to stay with the movement.
  4. As the horse clears the jump his back rounds and his head and neck extend the rider should follow forward with his hands to allow for this stretch and not to impede the horse.
  5. Landing - as the hind legs land the rider should come more upright, checking his contact and ride away from the fence in a straight line. If he is in canter he needs to check that he has the correct lead, or change legs prior to the next turn.
  6. Turn the horse should again be balanced and listening to the rider in preparation for the next fence.

Useful Jump Exercises

It quickly became apparent that Spotty's attitude to jumping was 'yee hah let's get on with this' and that a pole on the ground was the most exciting thing ever.

To overcome this another useful exercise for preventing anticipation was used. Starting with a single pole on the ground first ride to the inside of the pole. Then on the second approach ride to the outside. On the 3rd approach, if she was settled, Michael would then continue over the pole. This exercise prevents anticipation whilst giving both horse and rider the opportunity to practice turns, approaches, and straightness. Gradually the exercise is progressed from a single pole to 3 and then 5.

Useful Tips

Homework

To keep hacking quietly but during the ride to practise correct transitions, and varying pace. For Michael to work on his jumping positions practising riding in a forward seat.

Here Spotty is demonstrating a lack of confidence in the rider with a hollow back, head in the air. If she had jumped in this position she would have knocked the fence down.

As a result of the exercises Spotty is gaining in confidence she is no longer running or anticipating and is taking the rein down and forward.