Retraining A Racehorse – Moonfire – Cross Country - Part 2
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   19th May 2011   •   7,633 views   •   13 comments
Retraining A RacehorseOn 26 February 2011, there was an open day at one of the nicest show venues in the Province, and also one of the few that is never available to rent for public use – it is used for shows only, as is the rule. Thus, it was a great opportunity to go here and jump the cross country courses, especially since Moony was desperately needing more cross county practice for his up-coming debut in Welcome Eventing!

He was, of course, well prepared – but I still felt he needed more exposure to cross country, since it is so unlike anything he has done before, and he still tends to be a little uncertain of himself at times when facing a sort of jump he has never seen before. I wanted him perfectly ready for his first event, so that he could go out there and hold his own against the best of the babies! In fact, at the rate he was going, I even thought there was a strong chance he would go out and win it!

But at this stage it was too early to think about such things, since that first event of Moony’s is still to come.

When we arrived at the venue, we unloaded Moony and Bronze (Who was also coming along to prepare for his debut in Intermediate eventing, since the Open Day had both an Intermediate and a One Star course up). Moony seemed relatively calm, but Bronze was prancing and snorting like he owned the place, which was unusual for him.

Of course, this made it incredibly difficult to tack up, but we managed eventually. I started with Bronze – though since this article is about Moony rather than him, I shall only give you a brief account.

After an appropriate warm up, I warmed up over a couple of small jumps – then sent Bronze out on the Intermediate course. The rule my instructor had set was that we must take Bronze straight over the Intermediate jumps, not warm up over the Novice ones first as Bronze so likes to do. He;s the dort of horse who likes to slowly build up from low to high, and thus he gets his confidence and jumps his best – but in a competition he wouldn’t have the opportunity to do that, so we had to get him used to jumping the biggest of the jumps right off the bat.

We went over each Intermediate and One Star jump that was difficult enough to be worth our while, but not so difficult that we weren’t ready (There were only three of these – the most difficult on the One Star course.)

At first, Bronze was hesitant, and I was feeling rusty – having not jumped such a big cross country course since the previous year – and never straight over the Intermediate jumps. So between my hesitance and his, we got a funny stride here and there – and one or two refusals. After schooling over the first three jumps, however, Bronze swiftly gained confidence, as did I, and from there we were flying! We had no more problems – not even at the Intermediate combination of two skinnies, or at the massive One Star brush, which was certainly a large and imposing fence – though of course Bronze popped over with no effort whatsoever. Another very tricky jump was an Intermediate corner fence, on a corner and on a slope. It was a big one, too – narrow at the point, but widening very quickly. So to jump an appropriate width, one had to place their horse right at the point.

Bronze had other ideas, and flew comfortably over the widest part of the jump without even straining himself. I wasn’t too bothered by it, since I could feel by that stage that the horse had grown invisible wings.

The last of the challenges was a One Star boat. A boat made of plywood, of course, but a boat nonetheless – standing at least 1,15m high and over 1m wide, and incredibly solid! Bronze bounced over it twice without any hesitance, and one of our top riders (Who is now on the country’s long list for the Olympics) complimented me on how well he had jumped it – leaving me feeling very chuffed indeed.

And that concluded Bronze’s practice – so next it was Moony’s turn. I tacked him up and began riding him on a loose rein – getting him loose, supple and flexible so he could jump without straining himself. He was excited to be in a new place, and gave me a few tiny bucks, which left me laughing in delight so much that my instructor had to threaten me with the crop to keep me quiet, and to make me discipline Moony for his naughtiness. It was cute, of course, so naturally I wouldn’t want to – but I didn’t want the bucking to become a habit, so I did as I was told and gave him a little tap every time he bucked (Though I didn’t stop laughing about it.)

Soon I had him working nicely, and at that point, I popped him over some little warm up jumps – a simple tyre jump, and some blue pipes.

I let him do each of these twice, then set out to do the course. There was no Welcome at this venue, since they hadn’t had a Welcome class at their last show, so I had to jump him over the Pre-Novice jumps, which were one grade higher. Technically, he was well ready for Pre Novice from the start, though – so this wasn’t a problem. We even threw in a few of the straightforward Novice jumps toward the end of our practice.

But now, to go back to the start:

Moony started out with a bit of hesitance. Any jump that seemed unfamiliar to him, he would spook at the first time – and sometimes refuse. He never needed to take more than two attempts, however. We went over the jumps one at a time to start off, getting him comfortable over them, then we’d ride the section we’d just done as a whole before moving on to the next section. A few of the jumps that gave Moony problems at first were the following:

A simple log jump at the bottom of a dip. Moony had to canter downhill – out of the sun and into the shade – jump the log, then canter uphill back out of the dip, and jump another little house jump at the top of the hill. This took us a couple of attempts, because changing ground and light conditions are always spooky, especially for a young horse. Once he was used to it, however, it was no issue.

The water – not a jump, but simply a big splashy puddle at the base of a hill – Moony did not see the logic in stepping calmly through. Every time, without fail, he jumped over it. The sweet little horse was just too keen to get airborne!

The only other jump he struggled with was a very tricky, yet low Intermediate jump (Used in Intermediate as part of a combination – hence the low height). A straightforward step up, yet with a ditch full of water and reeds in front of it. This is a very spooky thing for a horse, since they have to jump over the ditch and up the step in one movement, which means keeping lots of forward momentum – and they often tend to lose impulsion spooking at the ditch, which means they can’t make the jump up.

Moony was very scared of this at first. Our first time approaching, I took him at a good gallop so he’d have momentum – but he saw the ditch at the last moment, and swerved violently out to the side.

This caught me by surprise, since I was riding firmly forward, and I ended up losing my balance. It was the first time Moony almost managed to get me off. I lost both my stirrups and ended up in front of the saddle from the suddenness with which he stopped, swerved and bolted.

Retraining A Racehorse

Thankfully though, he’s a sensible horse, so I managed to stop him and get back into the saddle – though I was laughing so hard that it was difficult to keep my balance, and it was difficult to stop laughing, since my instructor was laughing harder than I was.

After that, I walked Moony up to the jump and let him look at it, then took him around to try again. It took a couple of attempts, but when I rode forward very positively – keeping a tight left rein and hard right leg to hold him straight when he tried to veer to the right – he finally went over.

And then, of course, he was addicted. He flew over the jump three more times, thoroughly enjoying himself, and darting off so quickly and eagerly afterwards that he was very nearly fly leaping.

From there, we had no more problems. We even tried one of the smaller Intermediate skinnies, and he jumped it beautifully.

I finished by taking him around the official Pre Novice course (After walking him and letting him catch his breath) and then finished off and untacked him.

He was a very good horse, and the practice left me feeling very positive about his future as an event horse!
Soul Horse  
I laugh so hard when I fall sure I'm alittle shaken but not afraid! I noticed that they don't have any real logs in the photos. Were there any logs or was it just that section of the coarse?
  May 19, 2011  •  5,809 views
I can't wait to hear how he does at the show, Be sure to tell us!! I love hearing about Moony.
  May 19, 2011  •  5,776 views
No Walkin Farms9  
hahahaha. That photo of you on Moony's neck is hilarious.
  May 19, 2011  •  5,814 views
Clair L  
wow lol hope the show goes well:)
  May 20, 2011  •  5,972 views
Aslans Roar  
i hAVvn't ever fell, i don't even have a horse. :(
  May 20, 2011  •  5,772 views
Polo is sooo pretty *steals* hehe
Can't wait to hear how it goes
  May 20, 2011  •  5,771 views
T E M P E S T  
Can't wait to hear more about Moony!
  May 20, 2011  •  5,820 views
I can't wait to hear if he does well!
  May 21, 2011  •  5,770 views
All That Jazz  
Wow, nice pictures :)
  May 21, 2011  •  5,786 views
Well, you sure look good, even when you are about to fall off. You are such a good rider and Moony really is progressing very well!
  May 22, 2011  •  5,801 views
Good luck in your show :)
  May 26, 2011  •  5,952 views
Deleted Accounts  
  Jun 13, 2011  •  5,781 views
Mooney is a brave boy!! :) Great pic of you on his neck! That's happened to me too many times to count. :P
  Jun 17, 2011  •  5,809 views
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