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Training essentials: Practising your first (spooky) jump

September 19, 2016

Practising your first jump can be scary! Your horse might be green and inexperienced or a bit older but sensitive to new environments or changes in his usual surroundings. There really is no benefit in losing your temper with your spooky or green horse. More likely, when you get angry you will take two steps back for every step forward you make.

It’s not a matter of whether your horse spooks or not, it’s how well you can train him to control him better when he spooks. It is important to stay calm and be patient, no matter how difficult this may be!

So here are a few tips to conquer your first jump with your green or spooky horse:

  1. Allow your horse to walk up to the jump and have a look. Walk past it plenty of times until he feels comfortable. If you’re not feeling super-confident on your horse, you can also start by leading your horse up to the jump a few times before you get on.
  1. To start with you should approach the jump from a short distance away so that you don’t give your horse too much time to think about the spooky fence. Despite only being in trot, make sure you are always thinking forwards. Make sure you maintain a secure lower leg, keeping your body upright so that you are ready for a spooky reaction from your horse.
  1. The fence doesn’t need to be big. Keep things small and straightforward to start with. Take the time for both yourself and your horse to get used to a new exercise and gain confidence.
  1. Repetition is key. You want to desensitise your horse to these spooky situations so do plenty of small jumps until your horse is going over them quietly and confidently over the centre of the jump. Of course you don’t have to learn it all in one training session, just practise a few jumps each training session.
  1. If your horse jumps to the left or right or jumps too high over the fence, just keep repeating the exercise until you get the reaction you want. Only then should you move up into canter.
  1. Are you are preparing your horse to go into the ring and jump a clear round on competitions? Then don’t be afraid to show your horse as much as possible both at home and at a competition. Training shows are a very useful tool for practicing in a show environment without any pressure.
  1. Ensure you release the pressure on your horse when he does what you ask of him, without losing your balance. Make sure you reward him when he does as you ask. By rewarding his good behaviour, he will gain more confidence.

Whether you’re training for a competition or just want to mix up your flatwork training with a few small jumps, this guide should help you along the way. Above all, learning a new skill should be fun, for both yourself and your horse. So have fun, any comments are welcome!

 Source: Bit magazine

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