Thinking back – looking forward!

July 8, 2020 2:22 pm by
Posted in General, Jayne Ross, News

Who could have imagined at the start of this year that we would be finding ourselves in this quite bizarre situation and that our industry would be at a near standstill in June?  I thank my lucky stars that my family, friends, and colleagues are safe, and I am in awe of the front-line staff and key workers who have done so much for us all.

I think with this extra time on our hands we have all been doing some reminiscing and I was recently asked to get involved in a social media posts about the horses of my life.  Well I can tell you the horse that shaped my life and that was a big bay gelding with a long stride, called Jolly Dee, who I called Winston.  I adored him, but my goodness was I over horsed and by no stretch of the imagination was Winston straightforward. He had every trick in the book in his repertoire, but he taught me everything.  If you took hold of him, he would take you on, so I learnt to soften my hand, be patient, sit quietly and allow everything to happen underneath me.  We evented to advanced level and he was the most gorgeous horse on the ground, but boy did he try my patience!

Anyway, back to the here and now; as well as completing the long overdue tidying up jobs around the yard we have been doing some pole work in the school with the youngsters because, not only does it improve their suppleness and balance but it makes them focus on where they are going and what they are doing next. We are keeping the youngsters and novices in light work to keep them ticking over and so they don’t forget what we have already taught them if and when things are ready to pick up again.

A good school exercise is to put 4 wings down the long side of the school about 10 to 12 foot in from the track, with approximately 10 or 12 strides between each one.  Try this exercise in walk first and then move up in to trot.  Come out of the corner of the school and then weave through the wings as if you are manoeuvring around bending poles, asking your horse to flex around each one.  Not only does this teach your horse to bend but it gives them something to look at and concentrate on rather than just riding a shallow loop.  You can add to this by hanging a coat or rug on the wings, giving them something else to look at, without panicking, while they are moving around.   

A word of caution; if you are going to use jump stands, make sure you take the cups off.  If your stirrups were to knock the cups off or your horse were to spook and get caught up on them this could cause a nasty accident, and you don’t want to scare the horse or end up spending an age trying to persuade the horse to go anywhere near them again!

We also use poles to help teach the younger horses to use their corners properly by placing poles at right angles, 4 to 6 feet in from the corner of the school.  This helps them to bend, maintain momentum and gives them focus to really use the corners.

If you want to teach a young horse to stand straight when they halt and walk off again place 4 parallel poles 4 foot apart.  Youngsters can sometimes swing their hind quarters when coming down from trot to halt – if they have a parallel pole to work through it keeps them straighter.

Poles, jump wings, jump stands or even a chair in a school are always useful to work around or as a viewpoint to aim for and adds interest to your training.  Working like this teaches the horses to listen to you when you are trying to get them to keep focus.  We use poles and jump wings for ridden work as well as long reining because it is good to long rein them around and through things so, not only does the horse concentrate, but they become more aware of their environment.

These are all exercises that can benefit our older horses too.  They sometimes become a bit complacent and start to think they know what you want before you have even asked them! By using different things like the poles and jump wings the horse is never quite sure what you are going to ask next. It takes their mind off rushing forward and they wait for your instructions, so you can dictate the pace rather than them.

Jayne Ross

Seven times HOYS Supreme Winner and Producer of Top Show Horses