Simplicity is Mandy Porter’s modus operandi for all of her horses and especially so for Milano, her partner in Saturday’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Las Vegas. “It’s all about getting them to be confident and quiet in their brain,” says the California-based rider who sits fourth among Americans in the West League. “He’s quiet on the flat and can be quite lazy, but when it comes to jumping he gets a little excited—enthusiastic!”
Having finished second in the Sunshine Circuit’s $200,000 Grand Prix at Thermal this past Sunday, Milano is so on form that Mandy expects to barely jump school him before Saturday’s marquee event. Coming from the big outdoor arena at Thermal, he’ll need to rate himself in a tad but Mandy expects the indoor environment and arena walls in Vegas will do most of that job.
If the indoor venue was not next up, Mandy might have turned to a simple gymnastic exercise that has helped her horses back off the fences a little, think and jump up and be “quicker with their footwork.”
The exercise uses three verticals, for a grand prix horse like Milano, at between 1.3M to 1.35M, and about 21 to 22 feet apart (move the distances in for smaller fences). A landing rail between elements A-B and B-C is set approximately in the middle, but a little closer to the next jump. Ground lines for each vertical are pulled out slightly from the base of the jump, not more than 1 foot. The exact dimensions vary according to each horse’s experience, scope and needs. “It’s really horse-dependent,” Mandy emphasizes. “It’s best to have someone experienced on the ground to watch and make adjustments if needed.”
The canter exercise is a great tune-up without adding the wear and tear of lots of jumping. “It helps the horse to close his jump, slow his jumping arc and shorten the entire arc,” Mandy explains. “It gets him jumping up and using its wither, rather than launching himself at the jump.”
After winning the Sacramento competition in October, Mandy said they were taking it qualifier by qualifier with Milano, aka “Cookie Monster.” Owned by her former student Abby Archer, the 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood has been on a hot streak since winning the Million Class at HITS Thermal in March. A good finish Saturday could solidify their shot at a spot in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Paris this spring. But that’s a long ways off.
The immediate goal is a calm approach these next few days. “This horse is pretty straight forward,” Mandy reports. “He is performing so well, he doesn’t really need to practice a lot. It’s about just making sure he is quiet and relaxed.” Under the bright lights and packed house in Las Vegas, that won’t be so easy. The three-time World Cup Finalist, however, is well known for having the horsemanship to handle it.
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