Excerpt from the July issue of Heels Down Magazine.
Canadian eventing team member Selena O’Hanlon has ridden around the biggest and toughest cross-country tracks in the world, including the Olympic Games, the World Equestrian Games, and numerous CCI4*s.
Creating boldness and confidence in the horse, she explains, is a constant work in progress and requires planning and persistence. She breaks down how she has developed courage in her own horses, and how she trains her students to do the same.
Train the Voice and Whip
“I do a lot of coaching and I teach my students that if you’re nervous or your last fence rode badly, give the horse a tap behind your leg. Even if in your heart of hearts you’re thinking, “That fence didn’t feel good,” you never want the horse to know that, so you can give them a little tap behind the leg and say, ‘Get up, let’s go.’
If you have a horse that is a little shy of the water, for instance, in the gallop [up to the water] I’d probably give him a little pop behind the leg. This speeds up the horse’s legs in gallop, so when you need to collect for the jump into the water, if the legs are quick and you’re holding the front end a bit, then you’ve got options. If they’re maxed out in their gallop (coming up to a jump into the water), you’re going to be out of options.
In the warmup, I cluck to them and give them a smack, and then they shoot forward and I pat them and tell them they’re good. That way, when I can’t take my hands off the reins to pop them with the whip on course, they’re still responsive to the voice. David O’Connor caught me that. If it’s a really chicken horse, by the time I get back home, my voice is almost gone.