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First jumping competition - how to break a horse in

Published: 2016-04-29 16:09:47 Categories: Guides Rss feed

Pierwsze zawody skokowe - jak wprowadzić młodego bądź niedoświadczonego konia Background photo's author: Simon Barrett | CC BY

First competition can be really stressful both for the young and inexperienced rider and for the horse. We are speaking about starting in a completely different, new and unknown place, where even before entering the parkour, countless stimuli and surprises will wait for our horse. Transport, many strange horses, loud music, crowd of people, colourful banners... It is hard to imagine how shocking and terrifying that all might be for your horse - not necessarily young, just a horse who is not cosmopolitan and everything seems new to him.

Very often you can meet horses who have been practicing only in their own stables. Their only transport was from the "family stable" to the new owner, a journey which most horses prefer not to remember, because nobody prepared them for such a "trip" properly. The horse was shoved by force, being terrified and shocked - so he has no positive experiences concerning transport.

Thus you have to remember that our article and our advice will not refer to only young horses, but also those slightly older ones, who happen not to have any positive experience. Which ones would be easier to adjust to new environment? It all depends on their character, temperament, built trust for us, and his experiences up to this moment.

One: transport

bukmanka transport konia source: boeckmann.com

As we mentioned - solution: shoving a stressed and terrified horse to a trailer by force will never be a good idea. You cannot lead to a situation where your horse is not prepared for transport. This is the first step of being well prepared for competition. How is your horse supposed to be relaxed and calm before the start, if you will stress him before the competition even begins? The whole period of preparation, exercises and trainings could go to waste due to such lack of preparing your horse for transport. Remember that it is worth giving your horse a lot of time, allowing him to get to know the vehicle (e.g. horsebox) and everything you put on him (travelling boots, tail protector etc.), and only then mere transport. How to conduct such taming and preparing your horse for transport is described in another article: HORSE TRANSPORTATION - HOW TO PREPARE THE HORSE TO AVOID STRESS.

Two: warm-up arena

flickr Photo's author: Simon Barrett | CC BY

If you think that you are properly prepared for your first start in a competition, you have remember that warm-up arena is crucial. You should know how to warm up your horse before competition. Start from a solid warm-up, make your horse concentrate on the performed exercises (circles, figures of eight, shifts etc.), at the same time distracting him from the presence of unknown stimuli (music, flags, banners, people) and new "horse" friends. Many horses fear another steeds, who come forward on them, they are terrified by crowd on the warm-up arenas (as are we :)). If you will firmly lead your horse from the beginning, he will stop looking around and wonder, and will start to trustfully cross the warm-up arena. You horse should move energetically at all three gaits - it will help him overcome his fears and he will get rid of his lack of trust towards all that is new and unknown. Energetically, but not speeding! A rushing horse shifts all his body weight forward, which will hinder his croup's actions, and his croup is the driving force while jumping.

The first mistake you should avoid is excessive will to shorten your horse during his first jumps on the parkour. Remember that at first you need relaxation and stretching - shortening is the next stage.

After warm-up, it is worth performing a lot of jumps over a low obstacle (40-50 cm). Your horse will feel more secure and it will help him find rhythm while jumping. "A lot" is a relative term - remember that your horse has to have enough strength to ride a parkour :)

It is always worth jumping lower obstacles so you can perform more jumps. Preferably they should be lower that those arranged on the parkour.

Only the last two jumps can be performed over an obstacle of the same height as those on the parkour  - one over a vertical obstacle (straight rails), the other over a horizontal one (oxer). It is important that the last jumped obstacle on the warm-up arena is a model of the obstacle number 1 on the parkour.

Three: parkour

skoki na parkurze Photo's author: ksten | CC BY

In order to encourage your horse to new environment, enter the parkour at a trot or even at a canter. Remember that the pace you keep while entering the parkour should be determined earlier - on the warm-up arena. It is good to canter around the arena with obstacles, so your horse could take a look at new place. Since the moment of first bell you still have some time to your start, which you can use on performing additional volte, if you feel that your horse loses the pace and tries to rush at a canter.

Approach the first obstacle firmly, maintaining energetic canter, so your horse can perform a good and full jump. The first jump is crucial, because it can add or derogate self-consciousness - both the horse's and yours :) Remember to keep even pace after each jump!

In the first year of starts, especially when it comes to horses that are 4- or 5-year-old, you should take part only in "accuracy without contest" or "style" competitions. Why? Because starting in them, you will not feel pressure to ride the parkour as fast as possible. At the same time, you will allow your horse to develop and preserve canter's and jumps' rhythm. You will also find it beneficial, while burnishing your ability to lead the horse from obstacle to obstacle. 

You will be ready for competitions where your speed counts with your young or slightly older but still "unfledged" horse, when he gains proper experience. Speed with lack of experience (yours also), will disturb the correctness of your ride, but also your jumping technique. What is more, it would be neither a pleasant view, not a positive "adventure" for your horse.

Four: without a coach = without a limb

oglądanie parkuru z trenerem Photo's author: Robert Dennison | CC BY

We are not aware of how important and useful is a trainer specifically during jumping competitions. It is very often that the coach's role ends in stable, alternatively she or he might be a mental support on the warm-up arena - then his or her influence ends - this happens for example in dressage. In jumping the situation looks slightly different.

We would like to remind about a stage, which does not concern the horse directly, but does concern us - watching the parkour. Walking the parkour requires reflection and focus but most of all an expert eye and experience, so the things we usually lack, and our coach has (at least in theory). These gaps in our abilities will be filled by our coach's knowledge, who should pay attention to our canter's tempo, proper length and amount of foules between the obstacles. Along with our mentor we should also analyse which obstacles and approaches might cause us trouble and how we should solve it. It is known that the horse will be more keen to move and jump towards the warm-up arena than being back to it. It is also worth checking what is the background to the obstacles, id there is anything moving there or anything that makes strange sounds? Any unusual visual stimuli? A simple example: if light is reflected by a roof that is directly behind the obstacle, it might be the most difficult obstacle on the whole parkour.

Of course, there are riders who can come all the "way" on the parkour on their own. However, most of us need somebody's support - both during trainings and competitions. Thus, we would love to encourage everybody not to work on their own. Advice of somebody from the ground will definitely make you feel more sure in action :)