Yesterday was a big day for my 7 year old hanoverian gelding Aramis When I got him a year ago I was told that he was evented at 4 but that it didn't last long because he "didn't have the heart." And after that he could jump 2'6 just fine but anything higher than that he would bolt on the other side of the jump. When I started working with him after I got him home, I realized how much damage they had done to his confidence. He COULDN'T look at a ground pole....he would stop 6 feet away and not go any closer. I read this as unconfidence so over time I worked with him using approach and retreat and eventually he was walking over 3 poles in a row confidently. Then we worked to trotting over the poles, then going over a raised pole, etc. etc. Now he can jump two and a half feet online no problem....he's completely confident and he clears it beautifully.
So yesterday I decided that I would try to ride him over a raised ground pole. I've only ever walked him across poles laying on the ground, just because I've been focusing on other things while riding, but I felt like yesterday was the time to test my prep. Work with him. I warmed him up on the ground, doing some patterns and refining our transitions and then I worked on our ground driving. He did so well with that, the best he's ever done. I was thrilled! I then wanted to make sure that he would walk and trot over the raised pole the way I wanted so that while riding we would be set up for success. At first he wanted to jump the pole at the trot but not out of unconfidence, so I just had him go across it until he fell into the stride and trotted across it. I tacked up and warmed him up with some "motivation" exercises and some patterns Parelli outlines, then worked on transitions which really help him lengthen his stride (transitions are our friend!!). He felt great and was walking across the raised pole fine, so I decided to trot. As soon as we were lined up with the pole I felt his head go up, his ears went forward and his stride got tense and a little fast (which I read as unconfidence) so I put him on a nice circle and asked him to relax, which he did quickly. I reapproached the pole and when he got a little tense I half-halted softly and decided to come down to a walk, go across the pole, disengage his hind end, turn and face the pole and relax. It didn't take long before he realized there was no need to be tense and soon he was trotting across the raised pole like a champ!! I was so happy. He did jump it once, not a huge jump though, but it felt more like a "Wath this!" kinda thing That felt fantastic! But I did insist he just trot across it and he did.
I know this doesn't sound like much, but for this horse it's a HUGE success because in the beginning he was so unconfident. I feel like now our transition to actual jumps will be so easy. I'm so proud of my boy!