Try as I might, I can't find any threads here about preparing for the MPT (maybe I'm not doing the right searches, but all I'm finding are results). I know that myself and a few friends are in the process of preparing mares for the AHS MPT. I was hoping this might be a good place to share ideas, thoughts, and tips as well as the journey. Of course, there are the articles available on the AHS website (http://hanoverian.org/the-mare-performance-test/) and I have the jump chute video w/ Scott Hassler.
So, let's start a conversation. What are you doing to prepare your mare? What do you think is most important about the test? What do you recommend for preparation?
I've prepared a bunch of mares for MPT over the years and there are a few things that I do that are different from everyday training. Practice riding them in their medium gaits. I take them out in the fields and do big trots and big canters. This helps them to really learn to move through their bodies and power through. Lots of transitions within the gait. Lots of power walking as well.
As far as the jump chute goes - the most important thing is that they are confident through it. A horse that isn't confident isn't going to show itself well regardless of how talented they are. I do not push them at home. If they are confident with the process, they will be willing to tackle the larger jumps, but I wait to do it at the inspection. I will put the jumps up to a reasonable height at home but not as high as they would be at the inspection. I don't want them to lose confidence at home and then not want to jump even the easy jumps. I figure they never have to do a jump chute again after the inspection, so if they lose confidence as the jumps get higher, at least they will have shown themselves well up until that point. This has worked well for me and I have had a number of dressage bred mares score 8's and 9's in the jump chute.
In my experience, the prep for the jump chute is THE most important thing you can do and still where we consistently see problems. At most sites, the jumping chute is done before the undersaddle test. A mare that is well prepared for the jump chute can go in, get it done, get her scores and still have gas in the tank for the undersaddle test. A mare that is not well prepared (or completely unprepared) for the jump chute may become overwhelmed and ultimately, physically exhausted, which will not make for a good undersaddle test no matter how much ridden prep work is done.
Prep for the jump chute really doesn't take much work -- 3-4 sessions before a MPT is often enough. Mine see the jump chute 2-3 weekends/year as yearlings/two year olds and then maybe 2-3 times the summer before their MPT. I set up the jump chute on the long weekends and each horse gets schooled 4-5 passes on each of 2 or 3 days over that weekend. At some point early in the year before the MPT, I do bump up the fences just to see what I have as far as scope.
Only thing I can think to add is to practice riding her in an arena with other horses being ridden with her. You'll be doing the under saddle part in the arena with others in most cases.
This is absolutely true as well. Many young horses are only ever trained/ridden alone in the arena. So not only should they get used to being ridden with other horses in the arena, they should also get used to "follow the leader" with one or two other horses with 2-3 strides separating them at all three gaits.