In the first of a new series for The Gaitpost as the winter jump racing season steps up a gear, Rachael Green describes how she introduces young horses to jumping.
Rachael Green assists her husband Anthony Honeyball in training a string of 35 racehorses near Beaminster in Dorset. Rachael started out in the eventing word, working for international riders and competing up to intermediate level. Her initial point-to-point victory, aged 19, was while working for Robert Alner in 2002.
Rachael later joined Richard Barber’s stable where she became the National point-to-point champion in 2006. She has ridden over 100 winners on the point-to-point circuit and more than 75 under rules riding out her claim in October last year. Here she describes how she introduces young horses to jumping.
Introducing young racehorses to jumping
When I was younger, my parents would take me to the New Forest pony sale and we’d buy wild two-year-olds to bring on. I sold the first one to Emma Nuttall and it was passed down to her sister Harriet. They were brilliant and I’m lucky that I am only 5’3” so I was never too tall for them. I think it taught me an awful lot about buying and bringing on the younger animal. Growing up, I hunted, hunter trialled, evented and showjumped, although I have to admit dressage was always my week phase. It never seemed quite as important as jumping! Both myself and Anthony have been jockeys and through this experience it became apparent to us that the racehorse needs confidence and a good understanding of how to alter its stride in order to jump successfully.
Most horses are natural jumpers but it is vital to start their education in the correct manner, so they enjoy the task ahead and gain that all important confidence with the required skills.
As with anything practice makes permanent so all our horses, whether they are youngsters or more experienced, jump on a regular basis but we are careful not to overdue each individual session. We teach them to jump in the correct way before learning to jump quickly and efficiently like a racehorse.
I tend to ride the horses very much as an event rider and our staff encouraged to do so too. We employ the services of a lady who in the past has spent time training in Holland in one of the top dressage yards. We utilize her experience to spend time teaching both our horses and staff. All this flat work is key to the horse’s outline, muscle development and balance which are essential for its jumping.
We’re lucky as we have a large indoor school where we begin our horses’ early education. A 45- minute session of flat work once a week is tremendously beneficial to any horse, whether it be a youngster learning the ropes or an older horse in between its usual day to day galloping.
A lot of our team have come from racing schools and they are all exceptional riders. However, I think it would be really great if more dressage coaching were given to lads and lasses while they are at racing school, as there is so much more to riding a horse than just going up the gallops. They need to learn to ride from the leg into the hand, which is the basis of good riding. We do use training aids, such as bungees, or standing martingales, to compensate for those riders who may not have this understanding.
Before we start schooling, the horses are at a stage where they are cantering up the gallops so they are forward going and strong enough physically so they are able to cope with the demands of jumping. We will bring them into the school after they have had a canter up the gallops which helps them to settle. They are in the correct mind set to listen and learn. We begin with three poles on the ground in between a set of wings and they will walk and trot over those. It’s never a big issue as they walk round the school every morning before pulling out on exercise so they are used to its surroundings and seeing the poles and wings on a daily basis.
They will quickly adapt and will happily walk and trot over the poles in a confident and forward going manner. Then we start to introduce different elements to teach them how to jump.