What do you consider when suggesting that clients move up a division?
When determining the right time to move up divisions, I like to make sure that both the horse and rider are confident. I want them to have had some consistent success in their current division: consistent being the key word here. I’d rather take slow, small steps forward than one hasty big one and have to go back again. And when I say success, I don’t mean they have to win every time out, but that the mistakes are fewer and there’s nothing to set them back should those same mistakes appear at the bigger fences.
First, I like to make sure that they’re ready at home. I gradually incorporate the elements they’ll face in their new division — height, width, tighter turns, etc. — into their lessons to make sure both of them handle the new challenges well. Then, I set a true show course and have them jump around at home, as if it was the show. As long as both horse and rider feel good and seem on track, we give it a go!
When training a young horse for a client, how do you know the horse is ready for the client to ride?
I work with many young horses because I enjoy figuring out how they learn and experiencing them putting the pieces together. It’s fun to have a project with a client. It’s definitely a process, and I do like the client to be directly involved as well. When I’m bringing a young horse along, I like to make sure they have a basic handle on the main skills of steering and gas pedal/brakes.
Then, I consider letting the client hop on based on his/her skill level. I also supervise this during a lesson, tailoring the work to what’s comfortable for both horse and rider. Usually I get to a certain place with a horse, then try to teach the rider how to achieve that same feeling. I don’t have a set place where I turn the horse over to the client; I believe it’s feeling out the steps and seeing how well the horse is learning, then gradually introducing the rider. It’s important that both horse and rider stay confident with each other, but also the bond that they form during the learning process is invaluable.