My horse Z has been jumping for years. He’s got a wonderful flatwork foundation that makes him very rideable and confident. Z is a true skeptic about everything. He’s open to reason but he begins with being skeptical of the latest human plans for him. Probably a good way for a horse to survive in this world.
I chose Loch Moy Farm for our first cross country outing for several reasons. I know of no other venue better for introducing new horses to cross country jumps. Loch Moy Farm is a first class facility. They have each question (jump type) beginning with almost miniature size and offer the same jump all the way up through advanced. Once a greenie is introduced to the shape and structure of the jump, he can figure out out were to look at it to make make the jump. After that the height doesn’t matter as much until you reach that particular horse’s limit. Loch Moy also has so many jumps to choose from which allows you to introduce your baby to the logs, while exposing them to almost every shape and size of jump imaginable. It’s an easy transition to all that cross country jumping has to offer.
My goal is that each experience I plan for the horse end with success. I knew Z would be “up” since this would be a completely new experience. The other horse accompanying us had been xc schooling before but he was excitable about it. Loch Moy has another unique design that we would take advantage of to address this unwanted energy. The competition course is high on a hill and the schooling course is high on another hill. You can park on the schooling course, but we continued on down the steep hill and parked at the bottom. The long walk up the hill allowed us to shave off some of that nervous energy.
Once on the schooling course, we took a lot of time walking the course to show the horses where they would work on this day. We then did a pass around the perimeter at the trot and finally at a slow, relaxing gallop. This gave them time to relax and find comfort. Achieveing relaxation must be the goal before beginning jump schooling. To begin jumping when the horse has anxiety or is excited, means coupling that emotion with the activity. Waiting until the horse can relax, no matter how long this takes, ensures the horse learns to jump while relaxed. If I can’t get the horse to relax, I don’t jump. If all he does is stand around or walk around on the course that day, I’m okay with it because I’m training for the future. A positive experience is paramount and something I can build on. This can be time consuming and even frustrating initially, but it’s worth the investment. The next time we come the horse will be more settled because nothing bad or exciting happened the last time. Eventually, in each horse’s own time, we will arrive at a place in his training where he can perform while relaxing and enjoying his work.