Free Jumping Days

Jumping at liberty is our favorite way to start horses over fences.  They learn so much and so quickly without the riders weight or unintentional interference.  Plus, it gives us a chance to evaluate their innate athleticism, form, courage and cattiness.  We can create a custom training program armed with this insight into each equine’s potential as a future hunter, jumper or event horse.  Click on each photo to see that horse’s webpage.  Watch for upcoming video uploads!

Gideon-14.2 7 year old gelding
Fire Storm: 7 year old Warmblood mare
Fire Storm: 7 year old Warmblood mare

Angus MacCloud: 6 yo ThoroShire
Angus MacCloud: 6 yo ThoroShire


Gideon’s Hunter/Jumper Clinic Prep: It All Starts Here

Bill Moroney holds an impressive list of credentials in the equestrian world.  He is currently the president of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association, sits on the U.S. Equestrian Federation Board of Directors, and is a past chairman of the USEF Pony Committee. He also has a heart for youth and for philanthropy.

An avalanche starts with a few errant flakes of snow.  This adventure begins with an email from the local 4h announcing two remaining openings in their upcoming hunter/jumper clinic with Bill Moroney. I send in my application and examine my circumstances.

It all starts here.

I’m going to take Gideon, our young Quarter Horse pony hunter in training.  He has never had any formal jumping training.  Between the weather, my farm commitments and busy teaching schedule, he has had barely any saddle time to speak of.

The clinic is in about 2 weeks.  According to the clinic guidelines, he is expected to be jumping courses with simple lead changes (changes leads in the canter through the trot, the walk or the halt.)  He needs to be fit enough to handle the two hour session.  And of course, he needs to cope with a strange venue, colorful show jumps. unknown horses, and all the challenges such adventures bring.

It’s my responsibility to plan a fitness and training program that will take my winter-soft pasture potato and make him pony hunter extraordinaire.  He needs to have enough of a jumping foundation to be confident over strange fences with all the added distractions of a public event.  I need to prepare him for the demands of the clinic without  over-stressing his body, his mind or his emotions.

I also look at what I need to do to prepare.  I think about long-standing weaknesses in my equitation, and old limiting injuries.  I’ve been so focused on training and retraining on a foundational level I haven’t jumped seriously in years.  Nothing is too trivial to account for, not even getting used to riding in my high boots again (I am the world’s biggest fan of paddock boots and half chaps!)

This will be a stretch for both of us. My goal is to prepare for and ride in the clinic as well as I possibly can, to highlight the relevance of natural horsemanship in the hunter and jumper arenas, to learn new skills… and maybe even find Gideon’s happily-ever-after person.  Above all, my commitment through the process is to maintain and even increase Gideon’s dignity, confidence, skills and soundness.

It all starts here!

New Trails, New Partnership

Suzi invited us trail riding at Stoney Creek Farm when we first met Mikey, our large, lovely TB gelding. Today needed to bring home Cricket, the 6 year old appendix Quarter Horse mare. We used the extra trailer space to transform this task into an adventure! I had the tack loaded in the horse trailer when Mark got home from work. In loaded Dolly and Gideon, and off we went.

What a ride we had! The sudden crispness in the air out Dolly on edge. Natural horse training methods put a variety of tools in our mental tack trunk to quickly engage her mind and her movement. Clicker training speeds the process and enhances results even more.

Gideon, on the other hand, sauntered off the trailer and down the trail like the pro he is rapidly becoming. Suzi was out of town, but Phyllis joined us riding Cricket.

We couldn’t have asked for a nicer ride! The beautifully mown trails meandered through thick forest. The horses wound through the trees and scaled strength-building hills.

New experiences in new places builds precious confidence in our young horses. Today’s gorgeous scenery kept us humans oohing and ahhing and thoroughly enjoying every new twist in the trail! We got to see Cricket doing what she does best: happily moving down the trail and showing the less experienced horses how it’s done. Cricket has enjoyed success in the horse show ring, but truly loves the trails. We’re excited to welcome her into the family!

We gave Phyllis a thank-you bottle of Monavie. Monavie gave Mark and I relief from the constant pain of back issues, overuse, and old injuries. We feel Monavie is the biggest gift we can share!

Tomorrow I’ll post Cricket’s pedigree and pictures. Tonight she grazes peacefully under a full autumn moon.

We-show Horse Show

We woke before the sun to groom and load the horses. Ours was the first trailer to roll into the horse show grounds. I hopped on Gideon first, determined to give him the slow warm-up he responds so well to– and to avoid my mistakes from the county fair horse show. Lucy and Angus practiced waiting patiently at the trailer for their turns.
Gideon schooled beautifully. Natural horse training methods let us lay a solid foundation at home and speed up success in the horse show ring. A game of “touch it with your nose” chased away Gideon’s initial apprehension at the gaily painted barrels around the grounds and in the arena.

The groundskeeper appeared and started shaking new garbage cans into the metal barrels around the ring. Gideon ignored the commotion and gave his most balanced canter yet.

By this time I was getting a little concerned. We still had the showgrounds to ourselves! I introduced myself to the groundskeeper and asked if we had the right weekend. He replied, just as puzzled, “yep, today’s the day of the horse show. They’ve usually started by now!”

There’s no such thing as a no-show. Clearly it was a We-Show! We were there…with a trailer full of promising young horses to school! And school we did, making full use of every opportunity we could create. Angus and then Lucy had their training sessions in the arena. Monavie kept my blood sugar level and my energy up as the heat and humidity skyrocketed.

Eventually another couple arrived with a lovely, half-Connemara yearling out for her first show exposure. We watched from a distance as the power of natural horsemanship –or lack thereof– became clearer and clearer. The filly’s handler held her tightly on a chain shank and walked her in small circles. The filly just got more and more wound up.

Natural horsemanship offers a toolbox to access when trouble kicks up. With a few basic communications in place, that filly could be handled in a way that would help her find harmony with her handlers and her surroundings. Her nervous energy could be channeled in a positive direction.  Instead, her frustration level mounted, along with her misbehavior.

A few more trailers pulled in with well-dressed riders. Cell phones hummed, new shows were found and the tiny crowd dispersed. We finally learned that the horse show had been cancelled earlier that week due to hurricane warnings, but no one bothered to tell the public!

No worries! Our horses were unloaded, hosed off and grazing in their pastures before worst of the day’s heat, after a thoroughly successful we-show horse show!

Gideon and Angus chillin' at the horse show

Natural Horsemanship at the MPHSC Horse Show

Despite visiting family, we managed to work in a quick trip to the Maryland/Pennsylvania Horse Show Circuit show. We brought along Angus, Lucy and Gideon. The show grounds offered an indoor and outdoor arena, and a large field to play in. We left Angus and Lucy contentedly munching hay at the trailer. We set off with Gideon in search of adventure and horse training success. Mark generously joined us with the camera.

Natural Horsemanship challenges us to work with our surroundings to create original and effective ways to train our horses. Yesterday’s heavy rains left a long 4 foot wide pool of water that called to my imagination. While other riders avoided the “icky field” and crowded into the outdoor ring to warm up, Gideon and I took the trail less traveled by. What a perfect opportunity to focus Gideon’s mind away from the nervous chaos of the horse show and towards deeper partnership and communication with his person!

At first Gideon was nervous, but obedient. He responded to my request to cross the water with a willing and careful jump:

Natural Horsemanship Jumping Water

 

Despite his overzealous effort, I rewarded his try with a click and a treat. Success builds confidence and soon Gideon was splashing calmly through the water:

 

Natural Horsemanship Crossing Water

The water crossing exercise engaged Gideon’s mind and brought about obedience and relaxation far more effectively than endless circles around the warm up ring. I mounted up and together Gideon and I wound through the hustle and bustle of the in-gate and along the road. My goal was to seek out every “challenge” the show grounds offered and turn them into games to increase Gideon’s brains and bravery.

 

Horse in Traffic

 

We made our way to the gaming arena. The speed events were over, so Gideon had to be comfortable by himself in this unknown arena. Opportunities like this leave no excuse for buddy sour or barn sour horses! We played around with the barrels and the poles, then did a typical “hunter show warm up” just to prove there were no holes left in his foundation.

Natural Horsemanship Bravery with Barrels

Natural Horsemanship Pole Bending

 

The horse show folks were wonderful but the class schedule was chaotic. We were looking to show in the hunter classes or the pleasure classes. I even packed along western tack just in case that was our only option!

Our possible classes were pushed far later than we intended to stay. As it was we decided leave without schooling Angus and Lucy. They have both become so calm and consistent at horse shows and other field trips, and we had family to visit with!