The choice of fences when out cross-country schooling can feel overwhelming. With so many options, how can you make best use of your horse’s energy and time to develop his – and your – skills?
Take a dip
Water obstacles ought to be a fun, relaxing break from the nitty gritty of your cross-country schooling session, but it isn’t always that simple.
At lower levels, you’ll only need to splash through but, as you progress, so will the technicality, often incorporating steps and jumps before, during and after the water as part of a combination. This makes it essential to get the basics right before moving on.
The challenge Due to the position of your horse’s eyes, he has very poor depth perception. This can make him suspicious of water, so it’s important to introduce it carefully and gradually.
Tackle it confidently Rather like riding a ditch, it’s essential you give your horse plenty of time and space to think.
Ensure the water you choose is large and inviting. It’s important that he understands he has to go through the water rather than dodge around it, or attempting to jump over it like he might a puddle. Open plan water complexes are more inviting than ones that are enclosed, for example by being in a dip or surrounded by trees.
Approach in walk to start with, giving your horse lots of time to drop his nose and have a good look at the water. Ensure your position is secure in case he jumps in, and work on a longer rein so you don’t catch his mouth. Keep your leg on and your eyes up. There’s no rush, so let him take his time but don’t allow him to step back. Give him some time in the water to splash about and get comfortable, before slowly building up to trot and canter as his confidence grows.
Your horse needs time to settle and chill out while you’re schooling. Give him plenty of time to relax and think about what you’ve asked him.
Pick up a copy of March Horse&Rider, on sale 9 January, for great advice on cross-country schooling to create a confident and happy horse.