This horse loves to jump!

Once Bizzy had gotten used to going over crossrails while she was on the lunge line, Lauren and crew took her to the indoor to do something called “free lunge.” The person still stands in the middle with a whip (used to guide the horse to stay out on the perimeter) but the horse is not wearing tack or attached by a line.

They set up a line of crossrails, and you’ll see in this first video that Bizzy took to it.

Eventually, they added a couple of low verticals.

Lunging with a vertical.

For the non-horsey people out there, I’ll just say that that jump that’s made by crossing the poles into an “X” is a crossrail. Once you put the poles straight across, in a horizontal way, the jump is called a “vertical.”

Once Bizzy was feeling confident about the crossrail, Lauren raised one of the poles to make a vertical. Now the horse needs to really think about picking up her feet so she can go over it and not crash into it. (Note: When she does crash into it, it’s not a big deal – the poles are made of a plastic composite and so they’re lightweight.)

In the second video, Lauren laid another pole on the ground ahead of the vertical. This is to help the horse “find her distance” – the distance from the jump where she should leave the ground. When a rider is on her back the rider partners with the horse to find the right distance before each jump. Watch in each video how she raises her head to get a look at it as she approaches.






Lunging with a crossrail.

As soon as Lauren showed Bizzy the crossrail, she incorporated it into the routine of lunging on a circle. It’s all just incremental, step-by-step like that. First, you learn to walk/trot/canter on a circle, and then you have get yourself over a little crossrail. I think before this point she had already been given some flat poles to walk and trot over.

What we discovered here, and what we’ve seen ever since, is that Bizzy likes to learn new things.  She doesn’t shy away, or run out, or balk in any way. When you’re there with her, you can see that she’s thinking, and each time she tries again it’s with a new effort. It’s been a pleasure to see her take an interest in learning and perfecting whatever we introduce.

In this case, watch how she goes over for the very first time (not bad!), and then the second, the third, the fourth. She learns to pick her feet up, and she starts to figure out when to leave the ground.


And in this next, short video, she’s thrilled because she’s really got it down, so she’s approaching with excitement and confidence. And you’ll see she attempts an actual little jump!


This is a mounting block. This is a crossrail.

I read somewhere that racehorses never encounter a mounting block because the jockey is always just given a leg up. When I first brought Bizzy up into the ring, she was cool as a cucumber until, sure enough, she gave a comically startled and shocked reaction to the mounting block. She ducked down, front legs splayed forward, and did a double take. We stood there for a minute and let her blow on it and sniff it until she could place the thing in her consciousness and decide that it wasn’t going to bother her again.

Early on, when we mounted her from it she didn’t know how to stand still. She moved forward and back and sometimes sideways, which doesn’t work. You don’t want a moving target when you’re mounting a horse. But pretty soon she learned, and then it was time to introduce the next big thing: The crossrail.

See below.


Learning to lunge.

Lauren started her on the lunge line, and started me lunging her, too. The first part was getting her to go out on the circle, and respond to voice commands to walk, trot, canter, whoa. She wasn’t strong yet, obviously, and her go-to was to do a downward transition as soon as she was tired. Not a bad trait for when we’re starting out – she didn’t, or couldn’t, just gallop and gallop.

She also needed to get the strength back to balance herself at the canter on a circle — this was easier going to the left, as it is for most racehorses. They race to the left, and there’s not necessarily a lot of training to get them to do much of anything else. What we want as Hunter/Jumper riders is a more refined set of capabilities – we want brakes but we also want balance and grace at the walk, trot, and canter. By the time of this video – taken about two weeks after we got her – she was just starting to get the hang of things.

(For some reason this video looks upside down, but it plays right side up.)