In­tro­duc­ing the Up Bank

Practical Horseman - - Inside Your Ride -

Start by fol­low­ing the lead horse in a medium walk, al­ter­nat­ing your leg aids in rhythm with your horse’s steps to re­mind him to march for­ward with pur­pose. Fol­low about two horse lengths be­hind the lead horse on a straight path that will ar­rive ex­actly per­pen­dic­u­lar to the base of the bank. Es­pe­cially at the lower lev­els, it is very im­por­tant to present your horse squarely to both up and down banks. If he’s crooked, there’s a dan­ger of him hang­ing or leav­ing a leg over the bank and tip­ping off bal­ance.

To help en­sure this straight­ness, main­tain steady con­tact on both reins. Check that there is a straight line from your el­bow to your hands to your horse’s bit with no loop creep­ing into ei­ther rein. At the same time, keep the feel­ing in your hands for­ward­think­ing, never pulling back­ward and caus­ing him to shorten the length of his neck.

Mean­while, fo­cus your eyes on the hel­met of the rider on

the lead horse. Af­ter she steps up the bank, keep your eyes on her while also watch­ing the top edge of the bank in your pe­riph­eral vi­sion. Con­tinue ap­ply­ing your al­ter­nat­ing leg aids un­til your horse’s chest is as close as pos­si­ble to the bank (about 4 feet away).

Then close both legs on his sides to en­cour­age him to step up it. Be care­ful not to do this too soon. If you close your legs when his nose nears the bank, his front legs will still be too far away to step eas­ily up it. Ask­ing him to jump too soon will risk tip­ping him onto his fore­hand. Don’t worry, he won’t let him­self get too close to the bank to step up safely. His nat­u­ral in­stinct will tell him when to snap up his legs.

Avoid the temp­ta­tion to lean for­ward. If you get ahead of the mo­tion, your horse will be less in­clined to jump. If you’re like me and have a habit of dart­ing your shoul­ders for­ward, imag­ine that you’re rid­ing through wa­ter that slows down the move­ment of your head and shoul­ders.

Since this bank is small, most horses will sim­ply step up, rather than jump. This smooth, slow mo­tion will give you time to think.

As your horse steps up, think of your legs re­ly­ing on two dif­fer­ent forces: 60 per­cent grav­ity and 40 per­cent grip. Use grav­ity by drop­ping weight into your heels and keep­ing them aligned un­derneath your hips and hel­met. This helps you main­tain your bal­ance. Pro­duce the grip fac­tor by squeez­ing your calves against your horse’s sides so he can’t slip be­tween your legs like a bar of soap. This will en­sure that your body stays with his cen­ter of grav­ity.

At the same time, imag­ine hold­ing a tray of food in both hands and lift­ing it up to some­one on top of the bank. This way your hands will fol­low your horse’s mouth. If you feel a lit­tle loose in the tack or worry that your horse might take a big­ger hop than ex­pected, grab mane. The last thing you want to do is pun­ish

Good to the Core, nick­named Sim­coe, is a 5-year-old, off-thetrack Thor­ough­bred who is very green and has only schooled banks once in the past. So I ask Anne-Marie Duarte to give us a lead on Kelly Damp’s more ex­pe­ri­enced one-star even­ter, Ze­phyr. Us­ing...

With green horses, it’s al­ways good to be pre­pared for the un­ex­pected. Sim­coe gives a lit­tle cel­e­bra­tory buck on top of the bank, so I’m glad I kept my legs snug on his sides with the weight in my heels and my cen­ter of grav­ity close to the sad­dle....

This time, the young­ster works up the nerve to make a brave jump up the bank. I fol­low his mouth with both hands to be sure I don’t in­ter­fere with his ef­fort in any way. 3

Even with this good role model, Sim­coe balks at the bank and tries to run out to the left. So Anne-Marie cir­cles around to give us an­other lead. 2

Af­ter jump­ing the up bank a few times from the walk without a lead, I ap­proach it in sit­ting trot. He still over­jumps it a bit, but his con­fi­dence is clearly grow­ing. 5

No­tice how much he’s us­ing his head and neck here for bal­ance. He’s al­ready learn­ing that he can trust me to give him as much rein freedom as he needs. 6

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