By Mark Bolender
A popular item in Mountain Trail shows/challenges these days is to get off and onto a dismount obstacle in the water. Here on some tips to be successful and some tips from a judge perspective.
The first skill that you must master is to have the horse walk into the water with boldness and confidence. If they are not comfortable in the water they will want out. So make sure that the horse is water broke.
The second skill that you need to master is having the horse stand when it is asked. This sounds simple but it is the number one problem that I see.
While judging the National Mountain Trail show in Italy at the Verona horse show in November the greatest problem that getting off and on the rock was the horses would not stand where and when they were asked. You need to train the horse that when you ask it to stand that it means to stand NOW. Once that skill is established you can walk into the water and stop next to the dismount obstacle. Practice having the horse stand next to the obstacle while you are on it. If you need to get a magazine and read a page to allow the horse to relax then do it. We are always in such a rush that we never have time to teach the horse to relax. Once the horse is content to stand for a few minutes without moving then ask the horse to move forward and walk a circle around the dismount obstacle. Do not try to ride a small circle at first and do not allow the horse to touch the obstacle. Often this will hurt the horse and then it will be afraid to get close to the obstacle later on. Once the horse will walk a umber of circles around the obstacle in the water in a nice circle without stopping then end the training session. The next training session should be to walk the horse into the water without stopping and circle the rock and stop. Now begin to work on having the horse stop parallel to the dismount obstacle. Once it is content to stand parallel for a few minutes at a time then proceed to walk a nice circle around the rock. Do not try to get a small circle at this point. You only want to have nice smaller circles around the rock and a horse that is content to stand parallel to the dismount obstacle. When the horse is content to stand parallel to and walk around the obstacle then end the training session. The next session should have the horse to walk a small circle around the obstacle without a change of speed or a consistent cadence. That means the horse should not stop but move forward in a nice manner. At this point the horse should be walking into the water without stopping and stand next to the obstacle where and when asked. The horse should then be able to walk a nice tight circle around the rock and stop where it was asked when you asked. A stop means just that. No moving of the feet for as long as you ask.
So we now have a horse that will walk into the water and stop at the dismount obstacle in a relaxed manner on a loose rein. It is now time to get off onto the dismount obstacle. Here is the procedure that I want to see. Grab the rein and tip the nose slightly to the left and then grab the mane with the left hand. Grab the saddle horn or front of the English saddle with the right hand and then swing your right leg over and step onto the dismount obstacle. The last step is to then take your left foot out and place it upon the obstacle. Stand for a few minutes and pet the horse and
then remount the horse and let it stand there for a few minutes. The session should end at this point. Now we will come back and repeat what was just done but this time we will ask the horse to walk around the rock and stop parallel to the obstacle while you dismount. Now you need to teach the horse to walk around the rock without stopping or maintaining a nice cadence while you stand on the obstacle. Once they are relaxed and consistently stopping parallel and on que then mount back up. The mount up should be just in reverse of the dismount. Grab the mane with the left hand and rein while tipping the nose slightly to the left while grabbing the saddle horn or front of the saddle.
- Next put your left foot in the stirrup or iron and swing your right leg over and mount up.
- When judging by IMTCA rules (International Mountain Trail Challenge Association) the horse must walk into and up to and stand parallel to the dismount obstacle.
- The horse is not to move until the person is standing on the obstacle.
- One point is taken off if the dismount procedure is not followed. Once the horse is asked to move off it must not stop until doing a 360 and standing parallel to the obstacle. Each time it stops before completing the 360 one point is taken off for a break of gait. When mounting I take off one point for each time the horse moves before asked and one point for improper mounting.
If you take the time to do it right the first time you will have much more success impressing the judge and most importantly your horse will be relaxed along with you.
Happy Trails and Bolender Blessings.
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BUILDING CONFIDENT TRAIL HORSES – ONE OBSTACLE AT A TIME