Before You Can Problem Solve You Have To PinPoint The Problem
Ruby has been a very quick study with everything that we have taught her so far. She has taken the transition to be a green western pleasure horse to an English horse fairly easily. I have been impressed with her since day 1.
She is learning to go on the bit, and in a more forward tempo then what she knew for western riding. We have even started to pop her over some small cross rails. Which is what led us to need to get a bit creative with exercises. She always overjumped, no big deal, that is pretty typical of a green horse. The thing is, as she jumps she would build more and more tension and energy. To the point, that half halting doesn’t work and she is basically running through the hand. When she is focused and not tense she listens to half halts very well.
Break It Down
The first thing I want to do is make jumping not such a big deal. Something that doesn’t cause her excitement level to build and then cause tension for her and her rider.
The second part is being able to get her attention back when we need it and getting her to be prompt to her transitions. Even when she is excited and tense.
In my opinion, the over jumping is not really an issue, it is something that will correct it’s self over time as she jumps more and the exercise I came up with encourages her to not over jump!
The Exercise I Came Up With For Ruby
I set up a cross rail on one side of the ring with two trot poles in front of it. Then on the rail on the other side of the arena, we set four trot poles, no jump on that side.
My plan was that the trot poles would help keep her from rushing, and maybe not cause as much excitement as an actual jump.
Christina would ride Ruby over the trot poles, then down to the end of the arena where I was. She would ask for a nice transition into the canter. Nice meaning quiet, prompt and on the correct lead. She would then canter her on a 20-meter circle, sometimes more than one circle if she took the wrong lead or got too excited.
Once she cantered on the 20-meter circle nicely, she would transition down to trot and continue up the long side to the two trot poles and cross rail.
It Worked Really Well!
The trot poles did their job of making Ruby slow down and listen to half halts. She realized pretty quickly she could not just launch over all four of them and land on the other side!
The 20-meter canter circle was a good opportunity to work on Ruby listening to half halts. It also got her energy level up, that way we could work on bringing it down. You got to grab the bull by the horse or however, you want to say it and work through the issue. Sometimes, we have to let them do things wrong, so they learn to understand our corrections.
After she got her nice canter circle, she would transition back to trot. The transition back to trot being super important because after cantering she tends to want to run through the hand and not listen to half-halts so transitioning to trot makes sure we are working on that aspect even more.
Once she got a nice transition back to trot ( Sometimes it took a circle or so before she could head to the next part of the exercise, which is fine! We want to set her up for success, so if we have to tweak things from time to time that’s what we do. ) she would head up the rail to the two trot poles and the cross rail.
The trot poles helped her from rushing and the cross rail was small so if she got a goofy distance or something she could just step over it nice and easy. I think small jumps repetitively is also a way to get a horse to not get so excited and overjump. Which is one of Ruby’s “things” so it is another good way to work on that.
Piece By Piece
We broke down the big problem. The big problem almost always stems from a number of small problems. Once we identified those small problems I came up with an exercise that included components to work on each individual skill that needs improvement.
It worked really well for Ruby, Christina and I were pretty excited about it! We provided opportunities to work on all of her small challenges while setting her up for success.
The using exercises to set the horse up for success thing is a big part of coming up with training exercises for horses. We want them to understand what we want them to do, so we can start “speaking the same language”, as I like to put it. You present the horse with a job to do, provide him with the opportunity to do it right, then correct him if he doesn’t.
Oh Yea, One More Thing
Before we did this exercise with Ruby, we warmed her up on the flat at the walk and trot, we did not canter until we started the exercise. Since we knew we were introducing an exercise that was bound to get her energy level up, we figured we would again, set her up for success by hopefully not providing her an opportunity to get nervous energy before we even started.
The Next Step
That being said, we will continue to work on this exercise until she is no longer running through the hand, she is responding to half halts, and is getting a nice canter with a correct lead on the 20-meter circle between the poles and the Crossrail.
To progress with this, once she is understanding and doing it well, we will canter her in the warm-up. That way she is bound to be starting out with a bit more tension and nervous energy, and then again, we can work her through the exercise and hopefully get her back to responding how we want.
Every Young Horse Is Different
Every young horse is very different. One thing that is the same when training all horses is that in order to solve a riding problem, break it down into pieces. Work on each small piece at a time, then the big picture will come together, without you or your horse getting stressed out!