With a new young horse, I had free jumping on my mind for a winter activity. I was surprised how much attention it got at my barn. Many people from all different riding backgrounds wanted a chance to try running their horses through the chute. It got me thinking about the many varied types of horses that could benefit from such training. Not only young or green horses like mine, who need to build confidence, but also horses owned and ridden by green riders, who want to see the horse is quite capable of jumping 3'6", so there's no need to worry about 18" cross rails. Other horses that can benefit are more experienced ones that are having a specific problem, like not covering the distances in combinations, or taking down poles. The horse can work through the problem without the 'x' factor that is the rider! Other times, with an issue like rushing or raising the head, it can give the rider the chance to see how the horse goes without the rider. Does the horse stop rushing? There's a lesson there! (Hint: YOU are causing the horse to rush!!) Does the horse continue to carry his head high? Well, you better stop fighting to get that head down before the fence! Seeing the way a horse wants to jump "naturally" is very educational for how you should approach planning your courses.
Then there are the NON jumping horses who can benefit. Yes, it's true! Having played the breeding game once, I can tell you that one of the criteria for some sporthorse testing is free jumping. So whether you think you've got the next great stallion, or you want to do breed shows to show off your wonderful offspring, or, like me, you have a mare with somewhat questionable confirmation but a fabulous jump (and you want the judges to SEE that before they decide whether or not to take her into the registry!!), getting the horse used to the chute, and the method in which sporthorses are presented through the chute is absolutely imperative. Full time, big shot dressage horses can also benefit from free jumping. Tight back through your flying lead changes got you down? Run him through the shoot to loosen that back up! Not only does it loosen the back, but it makes for a fun and interesting diversion from the day-to-day arena work. Which brings us to the last reason to do run your horse through a chute....
It's FUN!! For you and the horse. The horse gets to figure out something new, and you get to watch how majestic your horse looks jumping completely free! Its definitely a beautiful sight to see.
To see Zahra running through the chute, check out our YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/osheaeventing