The Show Must Go On!

May 26, 2020 3:24 pm by
Posted in Jayne Ross, News

Covid19 has affected all our lives, in some ways yard life has changed considerably and in others not so much. I am lucky enough to have grooms who live onsite and with their help we are keeping things running on a “winter” regime.

Some of the established horses have been turned away for a proper holiday, and the others are out during the day as we are still doing a bit of light work with them, so they are ready if, and when we get the go ahead to compete again.  The younger horses and the novices that had been broken and were ready for their novice season are still in work, being ridden twice a week so they don’t forget anything and to keep them ticking over

We are making the best of this situation and doing all those jobs that we haven’t had time to do, or perhaps had been putting off! Things like re-arrange rug rooms, tidying up and reorganising the barns.  Luckily because the weather has been great and having had that wet patch for so long where we couldn’t do anything, it has meant that we have been able to knuckle down and get on with these jobs.

I often get asked questions about how I do things, and with a bit of time on our hands now is a good time to address some of these challenges.

Perfecting your show routine:

Now might be a good time to think about your show routine and they do say practice makes perfect but be careful not to repeat movements too many times in the same place or your horse will start to anticipate.

The aim is to show off your horse to it’s very best, and I will ride a different show for a Champion Hack to that for a Champion Hunter, so remember to ride according your horse.  You must be balanced and rhythmic and you should look like you have all the time in the world and are not rushing.

Never ride one handed unless you know you are capable and certain that your horse will not come above the bit or throw its head about.  You can practice this at home, and work out which hand you would rather use, bear in mind when riding at home in a snaffle bridle with one rein, whereas you are going to have 4 reins at a show plus your cane so practice this too.

Also consider that arenas change all the time. They may have built a show jumping course in a different place and you might not be able to get close enough to gallop up the side of the arena – you don’t want to take a chance with a narrow gap flat out! You may have a have a long side or a short side to use and decide if you are going around the back or the front of the line-up.

Think ahead, practice all sorts of moves and then string them together accordingly when you get to your competition having seen what space you have got.

How to get a horse to accept a double bridle?

Although a double bridle is a lot stronger than anything else you may have been using at home if your horses is settled and accepting in their mouth, they should be pretty good in anything as long as you have a nice forgiving hand. Before you introduce a horse to a double bridle they need to be going forward properly, engaged from behind and accepting a snaffle bridle.

I don’t use a basic, single link snaffle; I like a French Link or a Lozenge as I feel another joint in their mouth is much softer. We then go from one of those to a Jointed Pelham with a French Link in the mouth. The Jointed Pelham with 2 reins gives the look of a double bridle and is a nice step up from your ordinary snaffle bridle.  If your horse is settled in the mouth you can then gently introduce a double bridle, and use it for plenty of work in the school as well as for hacking out to make sure your horse is completely happy in it before trying it out at a show. 

How to teach rein back

Having someone on the ground to help is easier but not always possible.  If you are on your own stand in front of your horse and, with your hands on its chest say back, back. As it moves back give it lots of praise, then walk forward and repeat the exercise in a different place.

Another good way is when opening gates. As the gate touches the horse’s chest and it is stepping away from it, say back, back, then lots of praise when it does so.

The key to rein back is a gentle restriction of the horse moving forward rather than pulling backwards on the reins, whilst applying gentle leg pressure.

If you are on board and have help, the person on the ground should tap the horse’s chest as you say back, back – only ask for 2 or 3 steps at a time. As soon as you have moved back go forward around the school. Don’t repeat the exercise too often and not in the same place otherwise when you ask for halt they will automatically start to go backwards.

Rein back is classed as an advanced movement so shouldn’t be attempted until your horse is accepting everything you are asking of it. When you’re showing don’t attempt rein back unless you know it’s going to be done well.  Less is more.  You are better off doing something simple, beautifully than doing something more advanced and making a mess of it.