Monday, April 27, 2015

And we started jumping....

And.... we started jumping....

There is an in-house jump trainer at my facility (check out for more info), and since I do not have a trailer, it is nice to have access to jumps at home.  

I've finally gotten Scottie to the point that I feel like she is communicating and listening on a regular basis (equi-trek and hacking out has been a big contributor to this).  She has also been sound for a long time (knock on wood), so I decided it was time to take the plunge into jumping.

I am working on flat-work with Sue Bruns, so I explained to the jump trainer that I strictly wanted to work on jumping exercises/techniques (poles, etc) in his lessons, which he was cool with.  

The good news:
- Scottie can trot (literally trot without jumping) approximately 2 feet (very high knee action haha)
- She hasn't stopped yet - goes straight through the grid
- She doesn't get all worked up/hyper/super excited
- She calmly stops at the end 
- She hasn't started anticipating
- Cross rails vs. verticals do not seem to phase her

The bad news:
- At a certain height (the height she can no longer simply trot like a cavaletti), she still continues forward, but crashes through the jump with whatever foot did not make it at a trot.
- She does not seem alarmed when she knocks the poles and doesn't really make an effort to NOT knock the poles
- When she does manage a small jump, her form is sh*t haha

We have only had two lessons.  So while she doesn't seem super excited or exceptionally naturally talented at jumping, she is more than willing and is remaining calm.  I am glad to see that she did not get super revved up once we started jumping and become unmanageable or stop listening.  She seems not to know exactly what to do with her feet.  Hopefully a few more lessons will help her figure it out.  I also think that I probably need to start incorporating jumping either on the lunge or free-lunging so that she can figure it out without a rider.

As far as talent and form.... I would much rather have a safe, dependable horse that can hopefully eventually truck me around a 2'6 to 3' course at a local show than a "talented" horse that is nuts.  As I've mentioned before, I really need an all-around horse, so as long as she keeps trying for me, I'll give her a bit of a break.

And at least she's not a dirty stopper!

Benefits of hacking out

So, although my final goal with Scottie, provided she stays sound enough, is to attend baby events or local jumping shows.  However, at this stage in her training, it is as important, if not more important to me that I can use her as a recreational/pleasure/trail horse.  I really enjoy trail riding and think it is important for all horses to be able to be able to hack out.

Hacking out and trail riding is great for young and old horses.

- Great for building up endurance, top-line, and muscling in general.  Horses are generally more forward hacking out, so the horse is naturally using its hind end.  Hacking out is essentially cross-training and potentially builds up different muscles than he would be using in arena work.

- Prevents arena sourness - you can still get a great workout, it just occurs in a different environment.  I've been working on lateral work down the cow road.

- Boosts horse's confidence and dependability as a overall mount.

- Provides a mental break for both horse and rider.

- Develops communication and trust between horse and rider.  Unexpected things happen on the trail.  The horse needs to be able to listen to the rider's aids (open gate, go around rock, etc).  In addition, it places trust in the horse... As a rider, you cannot make a horse pick the path down a steep incline... you have to sit back and trust the horse will make smart decisions.

- Adds value to the horse in the long-term.  If a show horse sustains an injury, his worth will diminish.  However, if you have a horse that is trail-safe, he has another low-impact career option with you or with another owner.

I am lucky to board at a place that has a nice grass path and some cow pastures to hack out of the arena.  The footing is decent, so you can walk, trot, and canter on the path.  I try to hack Scottie out at least once a week, especially the day after a taxing lesson.  I think it allows her brain to decompress and she looks forward to going "out".  That way, she is still getting a work out, but it is a different type of mental environment.
I also use it as a workout for my older gelding.  It is great for him because he does have some arthritis, but walking out a steady march gets him moving and gives him a good workout as well.

So, take your horse out of the ring and onto the trails!

The devil is in the lateral work

Yes, it has been too long since I've done a Scottie update!  It is so much easier just to upload pictures on facebook, but I do want to try and keep this going.

Scottie and I have have continued to take dressage lessons with Sue Bruns.  The biggest challenge for me at this point is lateral work.  I never mastered lateral work, although my trainer in high school (Laura Windmiller, Diamond W Ranch, Dodge, Wisconsin did incorporate a lot of dressage work into hunter-jumper training.  I have been introduced to the concepts, and have a basic understanding of the techniques, but have never had to teach a young horse how to do it.  Previous horses always, at some point or another, had someone else teach them the commands, and then they just kind of figured out what I wanted based on my crappy aids.

With a totally green horse, it is different though, because they tell on you.  If you do not ask correctly, they simply do not do it.  If you ask to aggressively, they overreact.  If you don't ask enough, nothing happens!  

My biggest challenge right now is re-learning how to be soft - the whole concept behind "asking" the horse first, and then getting after them with progressively stronger aids until you get a response.  This has been difficult for me because my first thought is if the horse doesn't move off my leg, I want to give a kick as a "punishment", but with a green horse, they haven't gotten the understanding of an older, more trained horse, so all you are doing by asking "harder" is making the horse more dull to your aids.

Lately, I have been playing a game with myself in my head... how little can I do to get a response out of the horse, especially with transitions and turning.  Turns out, Scottie is actually very, very responsive and reactive...  I just have to give her the time to react to my aid, instead of forcing it on her.

Sue worked with Scottie a bit on the ground, and then I got on.  I now carry a dressage whip ONLY for lateral work, and I can get her to leg yield  both directions by myself.  Lots of work for one simply movement, but it makes for a much softer, responsive horse!

A website that I have found particularly useful is

The language used is similar to the philosophy Sue Bruns has, and it is worded in a way that makes sense to me.  I suggest everyone check it out.  I also ordered the books, which can be found on amazon.  However, several of the articles in the first book are included in the second, so I suggest buying one or the other.