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Betsy Carter’s Horse Scene: Jumping-chute work gives horse courage

Last month, I read an article in “Practical Horseman” magazine on working your horse through a jumping chute.

I’d never done this, although I’d longed horses over jumps and put my current horse, Blue, over tiny jumps in a large round pen when he was about 2.

So I decided to give it a try.

Blue is not the most confident, courageous horse over fences, so I thought it might help him. It did.

I built a chute down the long side of our ring with places for jumps at each end, three strides apart (since our ring is not very large). At first the “jumps” were just poles on the ground, and I hand-walked him through it in both directions.

Then I turned him loose and asked him to go through it without me. He tried to jump out of the chute, so I had to increase the height of the chute “walls.”

Then I asked him to go through it again. He decided he had to gallop wildly through it and continue his wild, excited gallop, interspersed with bucking and kicking, around the entire ring. I was surprised at this overreaction, but I caught him, led him to the other end and asked him to go through the chute again.

We repeated this exercise three time in each direction with the same reaction. Next, I gave him a 10-minute break while he grazed calmly in the ring.

When I returned, I asked him to go through the chute again. This time he walked calmly through it, so I raised the poles to one X, and he went through it at the trot.

Eventually I raised both ends to X’s through which he trotted nicely without dramatics. I then raised one jump to a 2-foot vertical. When he went through it, he quit at the vertical, so I made him do it from the middle of the line. He jumped it without dramatics. Then I asked him to do the whole line, X to vertical again, and he did.

After another break, when I asked him to go through the chute he’d wised up, and his decision was to try a little trick. When I’d pointed him toward the chute and let him go, he spun around and cantered away in the opposite direction.

He won twice before I outsmarted him with arm flapping to convince him to go down the chute. Then we repeated the X to vertical successfully. I made the X into another 2-foot vertical through which he trotted in and cantered out.

His departure from the second jump in the line around the corner was calm, confident and lovely, and he came softly back to a trot, walk, halt and waited for me to come for him. I then asked him to canter in and canter out, which he did by voice command and a little arm flapping.

After that I let him decide on his gait, and most of the time he cantered in and out in both directions. I eventually raised the out end of the line to 2–6, through which he jumped calmly and cantered away softly. After a few times we stopped for the day. Throughout the exercises,

I rewarded him periodically with treats of mints.

A few days later, I jumped him under saddle and felt he was much more confident and without tension.

    CALENDAR

    Feb. 10–12: The Barracks

    Feb. 11: Polar Bear Series, VHC

    Feb. 12: Hazelwild Farm Hunters; South Run, Nokesville

    Feb. 16–19: Raleigh Indoors Winter II

    Feb. 18: The Barracks, Association show; SCF at Foxcroft

    Feb. 19: SCF Pony show, Foxcroft

    Feb. 25: Polar Bear, VHC; Fun Show at Kelly’s Ford

    Feb. 26: EKG Hunters, Spotsylvania

Betsy Carter can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401; or by fax at 540/373-8455.

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