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!

Natural Horsemanship Training with Cavaletti

Natural horse trainers look for creative ways to use their environment to help train their horses. Cavaletti, also called ground poles, are unsung heroes in creating a bridge between horse training equipment and the horse’s environment.

Cavaletti, the Italian word meaning “little horses,” are traditionally poles stabilized by X-shaped supports at each end. The word has come to refer to any raised or unsupported ground poles used in horse training.Cavaletti are placed a particular distance apart to regulate and shape the horse’s stride. For the average horse, standard distances are:

* Trotting: 4-5 feet apart

* Walking or cantering: 9-10 feet apart

Adjust the standard distances for your horse’s individual stride. Begin with just one pole when training the horse. Gradually add additional rails, consistently and correctly placed. Eventually your horse will be comfortable maintaining his rhythm and impulsion through a series of 6-8 rails.

Training your horse over cavaletti brings a barnfull of benefits. Correct use of Cavaletti will:

* Strengthen the horse’s topline

* Build agility, strength and endurance

* Increase regularity of rhythm

* Develop suspension in the gaits

* Prepare a horse for jumping

* Add refreshing variety to a training session

Once your horse is confident through a series of poles comfortably placed, you can enhance his natural gaits by modifying the excercise. Shorten the distance between the rails to collect the horses stride. Increase the distance to lengthen the horse’s stride. To train a horse to increase the suspension and elevate his steps in all his gaits, raise the ground poles on safe, secure supports.

Each time a horse steps correctly over cavaletti, he steps closer to acheiving his full athletic potential.  Move to the next step in your cavaletti training GRADUALLY and backtrack a step if the horse gets confused or frightened.

Safety Tip: Because Cavaletti influence the horse’s strides, they increase the chance of the horse interfering with himself. Considering outfitting your horse with sturdy, well-fitting leg protection to minimize the chance of injury.