For Medium level and above, the obstacle states "Create a jump that looks like a snow drift by draping white material or tarp over a jump, the horse must jump handler stands still at end of jump as horse goes over." (A top tip here is not to worry if you don't happen to have a white tarp, it's fun to get into the spirit of the season, but any jump-able object will do, it doesn't actually have to be white - and it doesn't have to be very high - but the horse must do a proper jump over.) My problem with this obstacle is that I've been busy teaching the ponies to tune into what I'm doing and to mirror me quite closely. This is fantastic for leading with a loose rope as well as for effective Liberty work. The pony goes where I go, matches my direction and also my speed. I walk, pony walks, I trot, pony trots, I halt.......
So now, pony and I approach the jump in trot. For a warm up, I jump the (very small!) jump and pony jumps with me. Fantastic :-D So next pony and I approach the jump in trot, pony is all set to jump..... and I stop dead "at end of jump". What happens? Well trained, tuned in, pony mirrors me perfectly and slams on the brakes just before take off, nearly skidding into the jump, then looks at me with a "what did you do that for?" expression!
For me, on first inspection, this poses a dilemma. It would appear that I either have to re-train pony to stop mirroring me, something I am very reluctant to do as I feel this would be a step backwards for our relationship; or I have to somehow get pony going more ahead of me approaching the jump, so that he's already taken off before I come to a standstill, possibly with "chasing" him over the jump as well, which I think would be quite hard for me to co-ordinate accurately and I also feel would not do a great deal for pony's confidence in approaching the jump (or any jump in the future!). Or I choose not to come to a standstill and jump the jump with the pony and loose marks.
So can I approach the problem from a new angle? I think I can and this is where the solution that works for me lies. The alternative solution is for me not to come to a standstill, but to be stationary throughout. As we have done some Parelli groundwork together, Fat Pony is used to both me moving with him (mirroring) and also me standing still and directing him from more of a distance. So the solution that works, without compromising our training, is for me to ask the pony to wait at a suitable distance, for me to position myself by the end of the jump, and then for me to ask the pony to trot and to come around me in a slight semi-circle, over the jump and then to slow down, stop, turn and face me and wait for me to re-join him and reward. As the jump is small (about 30cms) and we have been working on jumping confidence, this is a fairly easy task for Fat Pony to complete (famous last words!) and is in complete harmony with the training methods we have been using. Phew - dilemma over!
It will be interesting to see what techniques other competitors adopt, but this is the one that I'll be using.