Ep. 2: Office Hours

Q&A with Holly Hepp Hudspeth
Recap from 09.01.21

Victoria Clayton holding two horses

By Victoria Clayton

Q: What do I do if my horse takes off or gets super excited after I jump off after a bank?

Some horses that are a bit greener tend to launch off the bank and land a bit hard causing them to sting their feet so they will buck, crow hop, or even scare themselves. When they start doing that, it won’t fix itself—they will start to panic and jump harder and faster off the bank.

One thing that I always do to fix that is come at a slow sitting trot or maybe even a little bit of a walk. I would recommend starting with the smallest bank that you can find and teach the horse to “plop” off the bank. 

Lots of repetition is going to be key here to teach them to quietly jump off. Riders also need to watch their position and be light in the saddle rather than sitting back and hitting the horses back when landing.

Recommended Ride iQ Lesson: [Visuals, Full Video Lesson – Jumping] Jumping off a Bank with Holly Hepp Hudspeth 

Q: What are some tips for shoulder-in at the walk for a green OTTB?

I would first start out with trot work and make sure you get the horse going forward and thinking in a forward frame. The key in the beginning is to make sure the horse is moving off your aids.

“If you start at a walk and you start doing too much at the walk before the horse is moving forward, then the horse will end up bottled up and tight, especially OTTBs.” – Holly Hepp Hudspeth

To do the shoulder-in, start on a turn and pretend you’re going on a 10-meter circle out of the turn. Instead of going on the circle, you’ll look down the long side and take your inside aids and push the shoulder toward the outside and keep their hind legs on the track. One thing to focus on during the walk work is to let your hips go side to side in the saddle.

The OTTBs tend to get tight and agitated with a lot of walking, so go off into a working trot until your horse is soft again. Then you can come back and practice the shoulder-in at the walk again.

Q: What do you recommend doing for an anxious OTTB at a show before a dressage test?

Choose to do something you do at home that is familiar for you and the horse. I used to do a lot of work in a low frame with a wide hand, and I would spiral in to 10m circle, leg yield out, and repeat. 

When they get worked up at the show, try to find a quiet corner and do that. It seems to really be helpful for the OTTBs. 

It is important for the rider’s body language to be quiet and calm, too.

Q: I’d love to get an OTTB, but I don’t have a good eye for talent. What do you look for in an OTTB that might make a talented eventer?

Always watch the walk! Are they swinging? Are they stepping up under themselves? If you can, have a groom jog them up on the pavement and if they are an above average mover, then they are going to move pretty well in the ring.

“If I could go out and wave my magic wand, I would want the horse to have a beautiful walk, a nice sloping shoulder, a good hind end, and probably one of the biggest things is their head and neck come out of the shoulder.” – Holly Hepp Hudspeth

Q: Do you have any experience with young OTTBs who have minor kissing spine and are very tight because of it? If so, can they go on to be upper-level event horses?

We see a lot more people getting back x-rays done nowadays. I have never had one with kissing spine, but I have known some to have it and go on to compete up the levels.

My best advice is to work with the vet closely. Do a lot of long and low work—stretching the back is good in terms of competing upper levels.

Every horse handles their ailments differently. There have been many to go on and compete with different ailments, so don’t be discouraged!

Recommended Ride iQ Lesson: [Visuals, Full Video Lesson – Jumping] Jumping off a Bank with Holly Hepp Hudspeth 

Q: Is there any piece of equipment you’d love to see all your students in?

I like to see people in breast plates, that’s just kind of how I was trained. I like the breast plate that comes with the “V” and the strap that goes over the horse’s withers. I don’t care if I am on advanced horses or green horses, I use it ALL the time!
Q: How do you know when a horse is ready to move up a level? My horse and I have been jumping clear for several shows, but we are still having issues in the dressage.
I moved my horses up when I would be able to come across the finish line and think ‘WOO that was SO easy!’ The horse is confident and jumping well. If I waited for my OTTBs to master the flat, I would have never left the novice level.

Q: Do you have tips for helping a horse that has trouble loading into the trailer?

I have had two clients with horses that have been tough with that. You must be patient and calm. 

I had a horse that was 17.2 and I finally got smart one day and had someone come hold him in the wash rack because he would just drag me around. 

“I backed the trailer up to the wash rack and dropped the ramp. He had nowhere to go besides on the trailer.” – Holly Hepp Hudspeth

I did that for two years until he would finally just get on the trailer for me.

Q: Do you have any tricks for a horse that is over exuberant over ditches? I am working on moving up the levels and need to prepare for a coffin.

It’s great to have some options of different size ditches. You need to practice ditches every single week. Go back and forth over the ditches.

Walk around the ditch a few times. Don’t ever stop and let them look at It, because they will look at it and shoot backwards. I like to do a little shoulder in away from the ditch while walking around the ditch and then a 10 Meter circle back to the ditch and ask them to walk over it and 90% of the time that is successful and works well.

Lucinda Green used to say, “It’s not hard, it’s just an obedience question.”

Walk around the ditch a few times. Don’t ever stop and let them look at it because they will look at it and shoot backwards.

I like to do a little shoulder-in away from the ditch while walking around the ditch. Then I do a 10m circle back to the ditch and ask them to walk over it. 90% of the time that is successful and works well.

Q: What’s something the best young riders have in common? When you’re at clinics, what indicates someone has a promising future?

I coached Young Riders for 8 years, and I would say the ones that have tenacity and grit. It’s the ones who are watching people warm up, it’s not just about the riding. 

“The ones that really stand out for me are the ones who work hard and ride the good, the bad, and the ugly. The ones that go watch and learn.” – Holly Hepp Hudspeth

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