ECP YEH Workshop and Assessment Advice

1. Safety Considerations

  • Ask about horse’s ridden history, including competitive experience, soundness, disposition, and reactions to environmental stimuli, including other horses and dogs. Structure your instruction or riding plan accordingly. Determine whether it would be advisable to lunge a horse before riding, and request that that be done or do so yourself, safely and correctly, if owner permits.
  • Always wear a properly fitted ASTM/SEI helmet with the strap adjusted tightly enough. Carry a USEA medical card. Have available an adult’s written phone number, in case needed.
  • Do not wear spurs. Do carry a crop. Add spurs only if they appear to be needed after warm-up or later in a riding session.
  • Have with you a neck strap and use with every horse ridden. Close door(s) of indoor arena and gate(s) of outdoor arena. For safety, consider mounting from a mounting block with horse facing into a corner of the arena.
  • For cross-country riding, wear a vest. Wear vest also during either or both of the other two phases, if you choose.
  • Upon meeting the horse, determine from the horse’s attitudes and actions how to approach, manage, and ride the horse/instruct the rider, with rider and horse safety and horse’s positive development as chief goals.

2. Flatwork

  • Consult your knowledge of basic dressage test contents to envision movements to ride. Select movements and implement them according to what you are discovering about the horse’s disposition and current stage and quality of development.
  • Consider riding at first with long arms and short reins until you learn enough about the horse. Experiment with using your voice, especially with tense horses.
  • Consider walking initially in a small space, using, say, a figure-8 to get a first read of the horse’s responses to the go, stop, and turning and bending aids.
  • During your riding of the three gaits, with your seat and aids ask the horse to focus, ideally with the horse coming through from behind to an acceptance of the bit, head in front of the vertical with throat open. Allow the horse to “come to your hands and trust them.”
  • Ride equal time in each direction and note any differences in the horse's way of going, straightness, and/or quality of connection while being ridden right or being ridden left. Note also any difference in horse relaxation/comfort while trotting or cantering. When appropriate, choose the more relaxed gait for first attempts at additional movements.
  • Include movements like turns, bending lines, circles large and/or small, transitions, and lengthenings. Add lateral work like spiraling out on a circle to develop the horse’s connection to the outside rein and leg from the inside leg, as well as balance and some lightness in front.
  • As the connection improves in working gaits, begin to ask for more expression and some cadence.

3. Show Jumping

  • Select a safe (ideally fenced and gated) jumping space with good footing. Set out ground poles, jumps with ground lines, and combinations at correct distances for the horse you are riding. Ride grids, yes – but not exclusively. Grid example: cross-rail 18’ to a 10’ bounce 30’ to a low oxer.
  • Ride with reins short enough and carry a crop. Have spurs available if needed.
  • Unless for a good reason, spend equal time riding/jumping left and right.
  • Seek relaxation and regularity in your flatwork prior to and during show jump riding.
  • Ride individual poles on the ground at the walk, trot, and canter. Ride over them on straight, angled, and bending lines.
  • At both trot and canter, teach the horse to carry you to, over, and after the fences. In other words, focus as much upon the quality of the horse’s balance, rhythm, and regularity during your approach and ride-away as you do upon the quality of his jumping effort.
  • Do not jump without an adult present. Ask that individual to be your ground person.
  • With very green horses, jump single fences. Jump several in succession once you’ve jumped each one separately in a relaxed and balanced gait.
  • Jump a single low fence on a 20-meter or larger circle. As the horse develops an understanding of the exercise, add one or two or even three other low fences on that circle while maintaining the horse’s balance, consistency of stride length, adherence to the circle track, willingness, and impulsion.
  • To develop the horse’s athleticism and jumping knowledge/skill, add a placing rail before or after a jump to influence and improve the horse’s approach/take-off or his lightness upon landing, respectively.
  • To improve a rider’s feel for the horse’s take-off at the trot, add a placing rail before and after a low jump to make the horse’s likely take-off spot more predictable for both horse and rider. Trot through in both directions.
  • If a horse stops at a fence, consider lowering it if it appears that that is needed as a next step. And/or, close to the fence, tap the horse on his shoulder with the crop during the second approach. If he refuses there a second time, consider tapping the horse behind the girth a couple of times with the crop. Then, approach again. The first could be considered using the crop as an aid, the second as a mild punishment.

4. Cross-Country Riding and Jumping

  • Always inquire about a horse’s cross-country experience with types and sizes of cross-country obstacles and about the quality of his canter and gallop. Has the horse competed at all? If yes, at what kinds of competition and at what level?
  • After warming up with and away from other horses and over all available ground, achieve and maintain a good jumping canter and gallop – balanced, on the aids, and through.
  • Start jumping over low, common obstacles like logs. Read whether or not the horse is on the aids, honest, and generally willing. Select each kind of obstacle/jump using a developmental progression that makes sense generally and for that particular horse.
  • Generally speaking, jump new kinds of fences toward the barn.
  • Some jump types:

Banks. First, walk up and down land slopes next to a bank, if those are available. Jump the bank up before jumping it down. Select a bank that can be negotiated from the walk. Allow the horse a long enough neck to look at the question, especially when jumping down.

Ditches. Always start with a shallow ditch, narrow from front to back. Negotiate it first toward the barn, other horses, or the horse’s trailer. Select your approach gait after jumping other obstacles to give you some basis for predicting what the horse will prefer in his approach to a ditch. If the horse is likely to be ditch-y, ask for another horse to accompany you and to offer a lead, if needed. If the horse is very green, present him first with the idea of a ditch by utilizing two parallel logs or rails and the ground, set at first close together; widen that distance after the horse gets the idea of stepping/ jumping over them in one effort. Start at the walk or the trot and be sure to include the trot and even the canter. If a narrow ditch is available, place those poles so that one end of each pole touches the end of each side of that ditch; gradually ask the horse to jump over those poles from an approach line that is closer to the ditch itself. Finally, shift the poles so that half of each overlaps with that side of the ditch and ask the horse to jump the poles where they overlap with the ditch.

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