Jasen Shelley, a United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) hunter and jumper course designer, encourages riders at all levels to try a hunter derby, whether at a USEF-rated or local horse show.
You can introduce your horse to jumps similar to those he might see in a derby class at home so that he won’t be startled when he comes across them in the show-ring. Shelley offers these ideas:
- Use artificial Christmas trees or garlands under oxers or in front of verticals to simulate a natural brush jump.
- Use seasonal items such as pumpkins and gourds as fillers to resemble the more solid, hunt-country fences your horse might encounter.
- Place potted flowers on a raised box to look like the large flower beds your horse may be asked to jump.
- Place multiple jumps standard-to-standard, jumping some fences from one direction and others from the opposite side. This will be similar to a derby course, where once a fence is jumped from one direction, others in the same consecutive line are jumped later from the opposite direction.
- Paint solid boxes to look like stone walls to add depth.
- Place hay or straw bales under fences to add dimension and height.
- Utilize terrain changes, like banks or hills, to teach your horse to balance himself. These obstacles are sometimes seen in USEF-rated derby classes.
- Ride into and out of the woods, if available; this forces your horse to pay attention to you as the light changes.
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This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe.