Alexandria Quayle of Grand Champion Show Stables enjoys giving her show horses every experience possible before they enter the ring. A huge part of her cross training regimen is to allow her horses to work in the field and introduce them to natural obstacles that might mimic jumps seen in the derby ring. JN caught up with Alex to get her take on how fox hunting, field hunting, and schooling natural obstacles helps prepare her horses for bringing home the blue.
Way before the derbies were ever on Alex’s mind, she was fox hunting with the Norfolk Hunt club at the age of nine. As she grew more towards the competitive side of riding, she continued to work outside of the ring to produce top results in the arena.
“When I was younger, my trainer used to incorporate riding in the field as part of the education, so did pony club,” Alex shared with JN. “Using natural terrain to condition your horse, allowing a horse to stretch and go forward, and learning to navigate natural obstacles keeps you as a rider on your toes and strengthens your riding.”
She found that her horses were growing more well-rounded with each venture out of the comfort of the ring. “It makes the horse more attentive. If you have a horse who likes to take a peek, I find it makes them a little bolder. It opens the education the horse has.”
With that mindset, Alex decided to incorporate field work in all of her horses training programs. She constructed coops and walls that she could place in the ring and school the horses and took advantage of the terrain around her. “I am fortunate enough to live in an area where we have lots of conservation land open to riders. So within a ten to twenty minute drive I have many options to bring horses to different places to school.”
In addition to getting them out on her own, Alex also likes to haul her horses out to compete out of the arena. A local club, The Hunt Club, hosts a field hunter horse show once a year, which Alex felt was a great opportunity to practice and have fun in a relaxed environment. Brush jumps, walls, ditches, coops, they all make Alex feel as if her horses are polished and ready for whatever they may encounter in the hunter or derby rings.
Alex adds that it doesn’t have to be a challenge to get out and enjoy the open; even light hacks in the field are good for your horses and allows them to see things they may not always see in the show ring. Between trail riding, cross country schooling, and fox and field hunting, there are plenty of ways to allow your horse the opportunity to see something new and round out their education.
So get out of the ring, have a little fun, and introduce your show horses to new experiences! Every little ounce of cross training helps refine ourselves and our mounts.