This article is published in partnership with Athletux Equine.
When introducing a horse to a new concept, it is important to make the entire learning process enjoyable. Make sure to always praise your horse so they continuously understand that they are supposed to be enjoying this time. In eventing, the skinnies have gotten so small that the sooner the horses begin to lock on and enjoy it, the better.
Introducing Skinnies to Your Horse
For young or inexperienced horses learning to navigate skinnies for the first time, it is helpful to allow them to come over and meet the fence first. When allowing them to visit the fence first, they are less likely to make a mistake purely because of misunderstanding and greenness, and it helps them to enjoy the experience.
With a young horse that hasn’t jumped a skinny before, consider starting at the trot. Ensure that they are straight when they jump the skinny and continue in a straight line after they land. Sometimes we allow horses to drift off to the sides but we must teach them to remain straight, honest, and wanting to learn from us.
Strategies to Help Familiarize Your Horse
Utilizing poles in a “V” shape funneling the horse towards the fence gives them clear direction when they are inexperienced. As your horse grows more comfortable, you can then lay the guide poles on the ground before removing them entirely. Another addition that can be made is small shrubbery on the outsides of the flags - this makes the skinny appear more open and inviting to the horse, helping them to really enjoy the experience. We are not trying to punish the horse; we want them to learn and have fun and be comfortable while learning.
While the horse is still learning and interpreting the skinnies, jump each jump one at a time at first so you have an opportunity to praise the horse after each jump and they have a moment to process it before going to the next jump.
It is helpful for all horses, regardless of level, to jump really small skinnies while practicing. This assures that when they get to a show it’s not a big deal for them to fit through the flags. Introducing them to a variety of skinnies, such corners or arrowheads, is great for encouraging them to be more confident and comfortable when approaching a new jump.
Overall, the goal is to ensure that the horse is enjoying the learning process and is trained correctly and with confidence. Utilizing these basics will help to create a solid foundation for you and your horse.
Originally from California, Liz Halliday-Sharp is now based primarily in Ocala, Florida, and Lexington, Kentucky, and has dedicated her life to the pursuit of two international sporting careers. On the one hand, she is an international three-day eventer who has competed at CCI5*-L level, while on the other she’s a professional racing driver in sportscar and GT endurance disciplines. With bases in both the U.S. and the UK, Chailey Stud Equestrian Centre in East Sussex and Horsepower Equestrian in Ocala, Florida, Halliday-Sharp has created a successful business producing and selling horses and has had the opportunity to compete and train in both Europe and America. Over the last few years, Halliday-Sharp has enjoyed wins and top results in upper level competitions across both continents, helping her to become an established member of the USEF High Performance Training List.
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This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).