Retraining a Racehorse – Moonfire – The Jumping Clinic
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   20th Feb 2011   •   6,611 views   •   20 comments
On 28 January 2011, Moony and I attended a clinic by Andreas Hollmann – An international rider and course designer, and a professional coach.

Retraining a RacehorseWe were supposed to take part in a group lesson, but there was only one other rider in our 80cm group, and she never arrived – so by a stroke of luck, Moony and I got the lesson all to ourselves.

The week before the clinic I spent working on getting Moony responsive and supple on the flat, so that he would be well ready to work on his jumping when it counted. I found that when I rode him, to get the best results, the majority of my time had to spent riding him around on a loose rein so that he could stretch and loosen his muscles, then flexing his neck in walk and trot to get him supple and bending beautifully. After this, I could start more intense work with him –

but as a young horse, Moony’s attention span is short.

I often found him losing concentration when we worked on the same thing for a while, so I began introducing more variety into his shcooling – trying some slightly more advanced things, such as leg yielding, rein backs and shoulder ins. Although he is not quite ready to perform such movements flawlessly at this point in his schooling, I did find that mildly attempting them from time to time kept Moony interested, and made him perform more basic movements far more willingly, and in better style.

To teach Moony to leg yield, I rode him straight down the center line, then applied pressure with my leg slightly behind the girth. With a young horse, sliding the leg back helps them to understand the concept of leading with their quarters, which is often one of the most challenging aspects of the leg yield. I also found that Moony had a tendency to want to bend his neck too far to the inside, so I kept my hands perfectly steady and held him straight, whilst pushing him sideways.

What seemed to work especially well with increasing Moony’s understanding of the leg yield was to ride him straight down the center line, led yield for 3 strides – asking him to perform as best he could – then let him rest by going straight again for a few strides, and repeating this until he reached the edge of the track. In this way, Moony was able to leg yield without having him resist due to feeling tired from using his body in new ways – thus causing less resistance. In this way, it became a positive learning experience.

I began running through some basic dressage tests on Moony toward the end of the week to keep him interested, and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy it – thus leaving him eager and fresh when the day of the clinic came.

Andreas started by asking me to warm Moony up as I usually do, so I gave him a loose rein and let him trot around the arena. He spooked at a worker mending a fence – so I let him watch for a while, then trotted him on again. He spooked at the water jump, too – so I let him examine that until he was perfectly comfortable walking around it.

Once Moony seemed more comfortable in his new surroundings, I continued loosening him in trot and canter, then gathered up my reins and worked on his neck-flexes.

Once he felt supple and ready to work, I pushed him forward into a frame and got him working properly. At this point, Andreas began putting forward advice. He explained that, although Moony was already working well, I should always be asking him to work better, and that I had to try to get him working more from behind. So I put my legs on, and squeezed Moony forward into the contact until he was really using himself. The next thing Andreas felt we needed to improve was straightness – so he had me trot Moony from one end of the arena to the other, with the faint focus being straightness. I found I could achieve this by looking straight ahead to my destination, and keeping Moony in a metaphorical ‘tunnel’ between my hands and legs – exerting equal pressure on both sides. Moony was perfectly content to move straight with these aids, and continued to work beautifully.

After that, Andreas had us work on our canter. He explained that Moony needed more power and rhythm in his canter – so I redoubled my leg pressure, and sent Moony forward into my hands. This got him working even better from behind, and he soon had sufficient power in his canter – but Andreas still was not satisfied with his rhythm.

At that point, he gave me a tip which I found extremely useful: He explained that I should think of each canter stride as a jump, with three phases: Take off, flying, and landing. On take off, I should keep his head, soften for the flying period, then hold again on landing. So with each canter stride, I concentrated on just squeezing and releasing my fingers at the appropriate times, giving Moony very subtle half-halts to keep him moving in my chosen rhythm. Moony responded magnificently to this, along with the extra use of my leg, and settled into a lovely jumping canter – the best I have ever felt from him.

When our warm-up was complete, Andreas had me begin jumping Moony over a low cross. He reminded me to keep Moony straight, and to ride him actively into the jump, and away from the jump – but to leave him alone in the air. I soon found that I had been approaching jumps on Moony too tentatively in the past, and that he gave me a better jump when I really rode him into it – working hard right until take-off, instead of giving him the last three strides as I had learned to do with my flightier mounts.

Next, Andreas had me ride Moony at a jump with spooky yellow fillers, of which Moony did not approve. He spooked at the jump and skidded to a stop, so Andreas told me to bring him round again, and focus only on getting him to the other side – riding as positively and forcefully as possible. Moony spooked again and tried to stop, but I was firm with him, so he leaped over from a standstill, and was then perfectly willing to jump it properly on his next approach – having already done it once.

Andreas then explained that, with a young horse, the most important thing when jumping is to get to the other side. Once the horse is willing to jump the obstacle – then you focus on getting a lovely jump and a perfect ride in.

Throughout the rest of the lesson we worked through sections of the course – then the course as a whole. The main points that Andreas had me improve were my approach – riding Moony with more force, and really helping him – and my get-away, keeping Moony working properly even after the jump instead of relaxing right away as I hand a tendency to do. I also focused on introducing what I’d learned on the flat over the jumps: Keeping Moony straight, and his canter powerful and balanced.

Overall, it was a wonderful lesson, and a great help for both Moony and myself. Andreas said that Moony was a lovely horse with great natural balance, and that he seemed very well trained for a 4-year-old – which left me utterly elated, knowing that an international rider sees the same talent in Moony that I do.
Wanderin Boy Memorial  
Great article !
I'm glad that you had a great lesson =)
Can't wait to read more
  Feb 20, 2011  •  4,865 views
Moony is gorgeous in those photos, and it sounds like he's really improving! :D
  Feb 20, 2011  •  4,861 views
Aw!! That sounds like fun!! I am happy you guys did well and that you learned new things!!
  Feb 20, 2011  •  4,862 views
Painted Destiny  
Another Great Article!! Glad it was fun! I bet you learned a lot! You and Moony look Ah-Mazing!
  Feb 20, 2011  •  4,858 views
That's cool that you got the lesson all to yourself! Sounds like Moony is doing good. Keep up the good work.
  Feb 20, 2011  •  4,889 views
No Walkin Farms9  
Sounds like you two learned a lot. Thanks for letting us all know what you and the Moon horse have been up to. And the photos of you two are lovely as always. I'm tempted again to steal him away from you. lol.
  Feb 20, 2011  •  4,877 views
Polo the Weirdo  MOD 
Thanks guys! :D He's really coming on. Going to start dressage and eventing very soon, and maybe even start trying some 90cm classes! ^_^ He's really starting to find his jump now, and he works beautifully on the flat. I'm very pleased with him!
  Feb 21, 2011  •  4,860 views
Soul Horse  
That's an awesome horse! Looks like he's doing alot better since you last updated!
  Feb 21, 2011  •  4,872 views
Moody Farms  MOD 
Great article, I always enjoy them!
  Feb 21, 2011  •  5,166 views
Love the pics Polo! :)
  Feb 21, 2011  •  4,884 views
MS Horses  
I love all your articles about you and Moony!!
  Feb 21, 2011  •  4,874 views
Great article!
  Feb 21, 2011  •  4,956 views
Inactive Member  
Moony is looking great!
  Feb 22, 2011  •  4,889 views
great article
  Feb 22, 2011  •  4,858 views
Can't wait for more either, lol, just like everyone else :)
  Feb 24, 2011  •  4,878 views
MS Horses  
Awesome article!
  Feb 24, 2011  •  4,877 views
Emma Watson  
I can't wait until the next story Good Luck
  Feb 25, 2011  •  4,865 views
Great article
  Mar 19, 2011  •  4,881 views
What an awesome opportunity, thanks for the read!
  Mar 21, 2011  •  4,877 views
Carpe Diem  
Great article :) I love your articles!
  35 days ago  •  4,860 views
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