Rainier has done so much since the last post! A week ago we were working on getting in front of the leg, and today we were cantering a series of cross country fences. Rides like today remind me why I love working with green horses. If you are skillful at prioritizing and teaching a specific lesson before moving on to the next one, they can learn so much so quickly. My goal this week was to begin to teach him to jump. To jump, horses must understand to come forward and turn. It took a few rides to establish Rainier must go forward when my leg pressure increased. We also worked on following an opening rein and moving away from leg pressure- in other words, Turning!
Taking Rainier out on a trail ride was a great way to put the forward aid to the test. He was easy to load and stood quietly by the trailer while getting tacked up (I LOVE easy travelers). Once on the trail he took about ten minutes to settle down and relax while following Beemer, ridden by my student Carolyn. Then the big river crossing! Rainier was SO afraid to go in the water, he was shaking…and yet he never refused, even for a moment. Understanding that he must go forward when my leg was on, and having a buddy lead him into the water meant he could go in, get rewarded for being so brave, and then realize there was nothing to worry about.
The trail ride was a huge success, with him learning to go over small logs, cross bridges (they make so much noise!), and even lead the way on a loose rein cantering through the fields. Walking and trotting natural fences on the trail is a great way to introduce jumps since horses have a friend showing them it’s easy, and there isn’t anywhere to go but straight ahead. And on the way back, he confidently stepped into the river with no fear! (Thanks Carolyn for the photos!)
The next day, we tried a few cross rails in the ring. Now that Rainier understood I wanted him to go OVER the obstacles, he was easily trotting and even cantering the small fences including a little cross rail oxer. After each one, he received a ton of praise, and every fence was an opportunity for him to reaffirm he was answering the question correctly.
Cross Country day! Feeling good about his learning curve, I decided to have my working student Emily, and her fabulous young horse Foose, give us a lead around my back woods that contain a dozen small cross country fences. I wasn’t sure if we’d be trotting a log, or just getting used to being out in the open field and woods.
Let me just tell you how nice this horse is to ride! His trot is lovely, but his canter is so rhythmic, and soft, and he has the lightest mouth. I cantered around the field with almost nothing in my hand, and he kept his balance and pace perfectly. Now for the jumping! We started by following Emily over some small stuff at the trot, then on our own, and then finished by cantering a few fences. Alise was there to take some wonderful photos for you to enjoy.
He jumped well, and quietly, and when a few early fences resulted in a little over excitement, he was wonderfully responsive, and it took only a light squeeze to bring him back to the walk. He still needs to work on straightness to the fence and turning…
(seriously Rainier, if you don’t turn, we will run into that tree!) but he is very adept at collecting his canter to put one more small stride in front of a little fence, making him very easy to jump and find a good distance. I think he will excel as an event horse, or in the hunter ring. Oh, and there’s that lovely dressage movement too. I love my job.-Devin