Micromanage or stay out of the way? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 04-12-2009, 04:13 PM Thread Starter
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Micromanage or stay out of the way?

This question pertains to green horses. My 6 year old TB and I have started to work on our jumping skills. (his...I've been jumping for a long time) All my previous horses were point and shoot school masters. This is the first horse I've ridden who hasn't yet grasped the concept of distances. We've done a ton of work trotting and cantering over poles, set up gymnastic grids, whatever you can do to put them in the best spot possible. However, without such guides he can only find the distance about 50% of the time cantering over both poles and jumps. We're only doing crossrails for jumps, so there's plenty of room for error without having a really bad result.

So far I have been staying out of his way and letting him try to figure out himself. By that I mean, I stay in a light seat, get him to the fence, balance him with a half halt a few steps out, stay off his shoulders for the jump, and leave it up to him. I'm not a trainer, so I am a bit lost on how much micromanaging I should be doing with him. I don't want a horse who can't think for himself since I want to event with him and we also trail ride alot where he needs to be thinking about where to put his feet rather than wait for me to tell him. Any advice would be appreciated.
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post #2 of 4 Old 04-13-2009, 09:47 AM
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Oh boy do I know about micromanaging. lol
It sounds to me like you are doing the right thing. To get a horse to have a mind for himself and make decisions on his own is wonderful. You are right to be supportive and available when he needs it, and to allow him his job when you can. That will make a relaxed, confident horse in my opinion.
Once he has gotten good enough where you can start adding in some stuff, that is where you can start to manage a bit more. For instance, instead of allowing him to keep taking them long or short, ask for it. Intentionally ask for a long distance, intentionally ask for a shorter distance. Ask for a trot in the middle of a line. Train him to be ridable, & adjustable. If everything is left up to him, when the time comes that you need to whoa a bit he might not hear you or know how. With green horses you leave some of it up to them to figure out, and some of it is your job to show him the way. Its your judgement call.
As far as the distances go, set up a pace and stick to it, all the way through. Pick up a nice steady canter, canter to the fence and leave him alone. See what kind of fence he takes. If he takes it long and awkward, next time lengthen his stride a little and see what you get. Try not to pickup a canter and change its pace and rhythm as you are approaching the jump, because he will have a harder time finding his rhythm and balance. Teaching him to remain steady from the get-go is very beneficial. The more times you repeat a single cross rail at a steady canter he will learn to figure it out himself. Just explore and see what type canter he does best with. Little by little you can start to help him out if you see the distance and he doesn't.
A good thought on distances is, when approaching a jump the horse sees his distance (if keyed in on the jump, some horses are oblivious) way back, sooner than you. If you change the distance right before the base of the jump you will most likely off-set your horse's balance and timing, so it is best to allow him his job, as you are doing, and remain steady and rythmical and the rest will follow.

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post #3 of 4 Old 04-13-2009, 09:52 AM
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Honestly it depends on what you want to use him for. My show jumper looks for my cues a lot more as there's a lot more technicality to SJ fences on course. My eventer jumps frequently w/o help from me in the form of reins or seat to help him learn to take care of himself. On course I don't want a horse that needs to be micromanaged XC - if we're approaching a solid obstacle I want my horse confident that HE knows how to jump it safely and not solely rely on me - which is honestly safer (there was a great article in Practical Horsemen by Jim Wofford about this - look it up on Equisearch).

Show jumpers have a lot more technicality but regardless, even as a young/green horse I want my horses to have a sense of balance and self and work to make sure that they are able to get everything on their own so that they have confidence and aren't just looking to me to tell them everything. As we get more technical, then I'll teach them more specific cues - like spurs mean take off HERE or jump long, or half halt + spur = jump round, etc. But that comes after they already have a basic sense of distances.

Sounds like you're doing everything right, keep the gymnastics going with low fences and varying distances - when your horse gets them set at "easy" distances, make one of the fences at a more awkward distance to make your horse really think about it. And definitely let them have the reins to figure it out :) Good luck and keep us posted!

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post #4 of 4 Old 04-13-2009, 10:15 AM
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You'll get a lot of different answers to your question. I personally like the approach you're doing right now, setting your horse up as much as you can and then letting him do the rest (which, in my opinion, is the best way to jump a course). Your horse has to chip in and leave long to realize it's much more comfortable to find the correct distance himself. I've ridden horses that have been micromanaged and they don't learn to think for themselves. And, the only way they can get to a distance is if the rider has a 100% accurate eye, which is not a lot of people. If I can tell that my horse is about to completely blow the distance though, I do periodically try and help out a little. One of the best pieces of advice I heard someone say is "get your work done in the corner". That is where you find your correct pace, make your straight line, get your balance, make sure your horse is in front of your leg, etc. If you maintain all of these correctly and hold your body still, your horse will start getting the correct distance. You could also try putting a canter pole out in front of the jump (about 9 feet if you're cantering in). that often helps them find the distance a little easier.

Sounds like you're putting a great beginning foundation on your horse's jumping career. Gymnastics are my personal favorite in teaching a horse how to use his body, how to take off for the fence, increases confidence, etc. They're also great for teaching him where to put his feet, as you mentioned is a concern of yours. I would continue to use them with as many different combinations as you can. Let me know if you want some ideas, I have a lot of combos I like! Also, trot rails and cavelettis are fantastic at teaching them where to put their legs! I'd change it up frequently and keep them interesting. The other day i put a line of about 9 or 10 trot rails (space them about 4 ft apart for the average 12 foot strided horse) across the middle of the ring and figure 8'd through them so we could approach it from both sides. Wow, that kept the horses thinking! I think it's great that you're keeping the jumps little. It drives me crazy when people start jumping their horses big right off the bat without them knowing how to even jump a line! Your horse has to be able to learn where to put his legs and how to jump without it being terrifiying for him. I find that once your horse knows jump a cross bar course comfortably raising the fences is absolutely nothing for them. Sounds like you're doing a great job. Keep up the good work and keep us updated on his progress!
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