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Determine what task is being asked of you and your horse and then make a plan about exactly how you are going to prepare yourself and your horse to perform successfully. A task can be as simple as turning a corner or as difficult as jumping a course. Each situation requires that you plan and direct the performance of your horse.

Answer the following question before you start:

“Where am I?” (in relation to the task)
“Where am I going?” (to perform the task)
“What am I going to do?” (when I get there)
“What kind of horse do I need?” (energy forward, length of stride, rhythm, balance)
“How am I going to get there?” (what direction and track is best?)
“What should I do when I get away?” (after the test)
“Where am I going next?”... and then repeat from the top.

Example: A Hunter Course
The course designer sets out 8 or 9 obstacles which are related by track direction, distance, time and height. The rider must get through all selected elements in order, to finish and be judged for ribbon placement.

Although the course seems to be one large task, each part must be ridden separately. This includes proper corners, straight lines to the jumps and the jumps themselves. During the ride, the rider must continually make adjustments while maintaining balance, length of stride, rhythm, and correct order of jumps.


  1. Fix your plan firmly in your mind. This way you have answered and solved 80% of the ride in advance and can concentrate on the final adjustment(s), necessary while on course.
  2. Once you have set up your horse for the task ahead... be pro-active!
    This means you must maintain your horse’s way of going and correct problems as they begin… any changes to your plan must be corrected before they become a problem. The instant you feel change in the horse or if it does not respond to your commands, you must act quickly to regain your desired performance. Remember... the problems intensify dramatically as you get closer to your task. The smart rider can make problems seem as if they don’t exist by working quickly and efficiently without losing the rhythm and balance while on course. The judges will award higher standing in the ribbons for good horsemanship.

Good Luck!

I look forward to your comments and suggestions about this or any item on our site. “Ask the Pro” is an easy way to get important information about your ride or any aspect of the horse world.

Best regards,
Phil Hay
Haycroft Stables

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