A few of you gave the suggestion that I start halting after fences to get Eeyore to stop being all “Talley Ho!” after jumps. I always love comments and suggestions so thank you for taking the time to read and type out a response!!! I feel a little bad when someone makes a suggestion and I’m all like “thanks…but no thanks” plus this is a topic I’ve been meaning to write about anyway, so here you go…my explanation for why I do not use this technique with the Orange Butthead.
Stupid, why is this even necessary, disclaimer: I’m not a trainer. This is not an expose on how to train your horse nor is it commentary on your own/your trainer’s methods. You do you. This is how my trainer is training me on this horse in this moment of our education.
Way back when I showed up to my first ever lesson with Trainer AB, visibly shaking in fear and doubt, she had me start my typical warm up routine so she could watch the dynamic. All of 30 seconds later she called me out on the root of my woes with Eeyore: he doesn’t go forward and my tactics of halting, backing, and making a million changes in direction were only adding to this issue.
Yes, his feet were moving but not in a valuable way. Mostly his energy was going vertical and when I did finally ask for a trot he would explode into it, shaking his head in frustration only to then be asked to change direction or walk again or even halt. After he did that, I would ask for forward again and he would go sideways or backwards or up mostly because when I did ask for forward he wouldn’t actually be let to go forward, or at least not for very long.
Trainer AB explained to me that her theory of training a future event horse is to focus on the skills needed to be safe in the most dangerous phase: cross country. While most people spend the least amount of time practicing the skill on a cross country course, you can instill the basic tenants of that phase into the horse from the get go even when riding in the arena most of the time. In her opinion, the safest thing to teach a young event horse is to go FORWARD always, forever, no exceptions, no questions.
By doing this, you teach the horse that when faced with a new question or experience, the go to response will be to go forward. Never seen a ditch? No problem, go forward. Never tackled a down bank? No problem, go forward. Never cantered through water? No problem, go forward.
As such, my first task with Eeyore was to get him moving forward. She told me to stay along the rail and use the entire arena, no more circles, no more serpentines. Certainly no more halting. If he was feeling particularly fresh, get him in a canter, get up in 2 point and coast around. My job was to keep him going forward along the path I chose which sometimes resulted in cantering with his nose nearly touching his flank as he tried to cut across the arena instead of staying on the rail. She didn’t care. As long as he was moving forward and his feet didn’t wander off the chosen path, he could go around like he belonged on the short bus for all she cared. That was his problem, not mine.
Of course, as time has gone on we have been asking more of him. He is no longer allowed to canter when not asked to and we are working on slowing him down and getting his balance better, but she never wants me to sacrifice the forward for this.
The same concept has been true in our approach to jumping. She has explained, probably more times than she should have to, that as long as I keep him straight after a jump I am to encourage him to move away from the jump on the back side. We approach, I let him get his eyes on it and stay out of his way, we go over, and then my job is to get my legs on, steer and keep him moving. She wants him to learn to look for what is next on the horizon, again with cross country in mind since that phase encourages a forward ride.
Even when he feels like he is running off, her solution to me is not to halt or circle, but instead to put my leg on and focus on getting a quality canter out of him as we ride away from the jump. This works for him because he is inherently lazy and once he realizes that he is being put to work, he will stop.
Last but certainly not least in this equation is me. Most of his back side issues are me issues. I tend to black out over jumps then sit on him like a monkey once we land. When I focus, sit up and you know ride the back side he does too. Circling would help me for the fact that it gives me something to do but so does combinations and gymnastics which is why most of our lessons start with a small gymnastic before moving to a mini course. I ride way better when I have a second fence to aim for.
So that’s the long of it. The reason we don’t halt after each fence. Or circle. Trainer AB has a method and I’m not going to buck that with the results we are getting.