Anyone here experienced with free jumping horses? Years ago I assisted my trainer when he did it, but I'm rusty, and would like some suggestions on building a small free jump excercise for an older (12yo) TB that I'm re-training.
The horse is a lovely honest guy who's known nothing but the racetrack until last year. He's had a year off to chill out and I started working with him in June of this year.
We have worked since then on instilling the basics of flatwork and rebalance. Occasionally I would try him over a pole or a cavaletti, but he let me know that he couldn't handle a rider and an obstacle at the same time, so I would lunge him over them until he started to understand how to use his body. He's an absolute sweetheart and a real pleaser who happily approaches everything he sees, even though he isn't sure quite what to do when he gets there.
He is now starting to understand how to engage himself a little bit, and will now look at the poles, engage his abdomen and trot over things pretty well. This has come once he started to "get" the little bits of lateral work we've been doing.
His attitude is so good and I think this would really help him to understand it on his own.
I could use suggestions on building an appropriate type of chute with a little gymnastic so he can work it out. I have a medium sized enclosed arena that would work well for it.
I'm no help, except to say that I tried free jumping my older TB gelding a few times this summer after I'd already started him over fences. With a rider, he looks great and does quite well.
By himself in the chute? Pitiful disaster. Knees down, bunny hopping, dropped shoulders, head and neck pointing straight down like it was the biggest jump of his life (it was maybe 2'6" max). I gave up on that idea.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what
lies with in us. - Emerson
This horse really doesn't know what to do with his body. When ridden, he will still go hollow and stiff when he's worried, so I can't even trot him over a pole at that time - he'll just trip on it. He has to be at least a little relaxed in his topline and focused on where his feet are.
He is getting better, but I'd really like him to try jumping on his own first. He did better that way over cavaletti anyway.
We've freejumped my 10YO TB mare twice now. She'd been working over fences before we tried it this year; the point was mainly to get her thinking and relaxing and slowing herself down, without having to compensate for me up there flailing around like a monkey She figured it out pretty quickly, and was cantering on around and through on her own after a few times through. Then earlier this fall, I just wanted to see what she'd do over something she might have to jump, rather than just canter over. Turns out she thinks that's pretty easy, too.
So what we did there, and for the other horse I helped with who hadn't really jumped much before, was set up a really simple line along the rail, so that works as half your chute. We started by leading them down the line in-hand, over poles on the ground, so they could figure it out. Then we put the fences up gradually, one at a time. Poles to an X, Pole to an X to a small vertical, etc, as we could see the horse figuring it out. Sometimes they'd go down once and then we'd put them up, sometimes it took a time or two til they figured it out. I've found it helpful to have at least two people, one to "send" the horse (mine figured this out pretty quick and didn't really need anyone, other than to discourage her from stopping to eat grass under the ring fencing ), and one along the side of the gymnastic to both give a little cluck and keep sending the horse if necessary, and to be a bit of a visual block for a runout.