During the warm-up, Matthew Mettell's horse landed in the middle of the oxer and broke a rail. Laura explained that Matthew, who was on a borrowed horse, had picked the correct, deep distance. The horse had just pulled past the distance, got a little too close to the fence and scared himself. "So we'll narrow it," she said, moving the oxer in.
"If your horse wants to drag you past the distance, you can't say 'Go deep.' You need to hold his hand and tell him everything is OK," Laura explained. "Be sure to ride with a strong seat, a strong leg and keep him packaged."
As Matthew circled back to the fence, Laura reminded him, "You want to be strong, but not fast. To run a horse to a jump because he stopped will make him fear it. You need to have the confidence to know you can make it."
The horse stopped and Laura told Matthew to smack him hard three times with the stick. They came back and the horse jumped it. Laura had them jump it again, so they both were more confident.
Laura then shared a similar experience she had with her horse, Cedric, during the 2008 Olympics. They had started to warm up while chef d'?quipe George Morris was at the ring watching a teammate. She thought Cedric was leaving the ground, but he put in one more stride. They landed in the middle of the oxer and broke the rails. "I thought to myself, 'This is excellent. I'm so excited about this. I'm off to a good start,'" Laura said, recalling the sarcasm she felt at the time.
"But you have to learn to put it out of your mind and say, 'Everything is OK,' and ride a little stronger."
To read more about Laura Kraut's system for riding courses, see "Course-Savvy Strategies" in the June 2009 issue of Practical Horseman.