Jane Savoie’s “A Happy Horse” Training Guide

Jane Savoie Happy Horse

B-Man is a very "Happy Horse"

You know, it’s funny how things happen sometimes.  My super good friend Rhonda, (who by the way, is pictured on the Equine One Stop home page with her gorgeous Connemara), and I both purchased this course independently about two years ago.  Prior to this, we spent several years at the same stable. Then I moved to Texas and shortly after, she moved to Florida.  Before I get into writing about the course, I must say, it’s been a terrible loss not having Rhonda (and her horses) living practically next door.  Gone are the days of pouring over dream horse ads for hours (with wine), going to the feed store, and talking endlessly about every tiny specific detail of our horse’s daily lives…you know how it is!  Someone to talk you down from the hard times and disappointments, and someone to celebrate the good times, someone to help you with those awful 911 horse vet situations.  But, yeah for cell phones with lots of minutes!!!

Okay, so there we were each in a new location with our horses.  I was on a pretty tight budget and needed to get my horse jumping again, so the search for a dressage coach was on the back burner. One night I was reading a post on the COTH forum (instead of unpacking boxes and setting up the kitchen) about the Happy Horse and looked it up on Jane’s website.   It seemed like a very comprehensive course and something that could perhaps keep B-Man and I on the “straight and narrow”or at least out of the “hand basket straight to dressage hell”.   Plus, Jane is so wonderful about taking the mystery out of dressage.  She breaks things into steps and explains every little thing you must do and what you must feel.  I had seen her “Half Halt De-mystified” video several years ago, so knew it was going to be something even I could understand.  Plus, Jane likes us eventers!  She coached several 3-Day Olympic riders on their dressage!

Thinking it could be ages until I could afford and actually find a good dressage tutor, I bit the bullet and clicked “buy” before I could think too much….and the Happy Horse was on its way to me!  It was a chunk of money, but I figured it was worth it.  I could now have Jane in my living room telling me how to train my horse anytime I wanted!  And it was a lot of stuff:  20 DVD lessons, 20 CD lessons, and a 135 page manual.  The audio lessons are cool as you can listen to them in your car.  All for the price I would have paid for a quality multi-day clinic.  But this I get to wrap my grubby hands around and have forever!  Jane presents the information in basically three different ways; for the visual, audio, reading learner.  The lessons are short and concise, so you can really “get” the concept and the steps and then go straight out to work your horse.  While nothing replaces eyes-on professional coaching, having this program for guidance has been invaluable.  I love being able to refresh my memory on the aids for a lengthening, or a leg yield or whatever. When I have an issue that is not right in our daily work, I can look at the manuel and see how to make it right!

So, then Rhonda and I were talking on the phone after I had been in Texas a month or so.  Unbeknownst to each other we had both been watching our “Happy Horse” DVDs.  We of course were discussing our horses and what we were doing with them blah, blah, blah ect., ect.  Then we started recognizing “Happy Horse” vocabulary in our conversations and realized we were both following the same program!   How ironic!  And, Happy Horse has withstood the test of time, as Rhonda and I have used it endlessly during the past two years.

I can tell you, my horse B-Man and I are NOT at Third Level…as would be possible if one accomplished from beginning to end all that is in the Happy Horse Guide for Training, but I can say B-Man is Happy!  and our scores have improved, so I am Happy!

Jane Savoie Happy Horse

Holly is Happy!

If you are interested in looking into Happy Horse course you can click on the image below it has our affiliate link to Jane’s site, or just click here!

Jane Savoie Happy Horse Course

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Building Horse Jumps, Part II

Okay, now for part two of “at home” jump building.  Now that we have some nice sturdy standards and poles with cool color schemes, it’s time to find things to make the jumps more exciting. Adding fillers will help get your horse schooled to jump creative looking things as well as stretch the amount of poles and jump cups you need to make a solid looking set of jumps.  Plus, limiting yourself to jumping airy poles and plain cross rails gets really boring after a while…might as well drag out some stuff to the field to make it exciting!

A plain blue tarp can be transformed into a beautiful Liverpool! Just fold it into a rectangle and build your jump over the top. Make sure something is anchoring the tarp, like the standard bases or a ground pole.  You don’t want the tarp dancing away in the wind as you are cantering toward it.

horse jumps

Liverpool Oxer Jump

You can also make an “A” frame coop type jump, by draping the tarp over a vertical and anchoring the edges of the tarp with poles.  If you roll excess tarp up around the pole on the inside, it will be smooth all the way to the ground, and look more “coop” like.  With this in mind, you could also use horse blankets, regular blankets, bed spreads..(well, if you husband or significant other isn’t around) really anything to add color/design to change things up.  Just be aware of the wind and that all the flappy pieces are secured before riding near your new creations.

Shavings bags make great filler as well.   Just for starters, they can be stacked up under a vertical or an oxer in various designs, laid out on the sides of the standards as mini wings, or used to make a “corner” type jump.  Here are some pictures of one I built recently:

making horse jumps

Corner Jump

You could easily make a related distance with two corners a bit offset, to practice those tricky Cross County questions that are coming up on today’s courses.  My horse, B-Man needs lots of practice with unusual jumps, so changing things often is key for our schooling.  And hopefully more clean XC rounds!

horse jumps

Corner Jump

He’s a bit spooky with strange looking things, so I’m always trying find stuff to practice getting him over it the “FIRST” time!  Second chances are quite expensive in penalty points..

Below is another good purchase from Home Depot.  With the addition of some wood for the ground line, I have a nice Skinney to practice.  When first schooling this, I put poles on each side to sort of funnel the horse in.  At times, I add standards on both sides to ensure we are very straight.  I’ve also put a brown blanket over this, to make it more solid looking.

horse jumps

Skinney Bench Jump

horse jumps

Lattice jump

This was a very easy jump to make.  The lattice is attached to a PVC pipe frame with zip ties and I made two, then attached them together so it could stand on its own as an A frame.  There is a string attached to both sides, to prevent it from going flat.  I can add standards and poles to build it up higher.  It’s fairly light weight and easy to carry around the field.   Have I mentioned that zip ties are wonderful???

horse jumps

Flowers and Greenery

Some other great things to add are fake flowers and vine wraps!  I really like my (Walmart) sunflowers. They are really bright and big.  I stuck them right into the ground next to the ground pole.  Don’t need a flower box this way!  The vines I just loop around the poles in a fashionly manner.  You can also stick the flower bunches into the above lattice jump and make a nice design. That was a wicked surprise for B-Man after jumping it plain white!

horse jumps

Scarecrow Decoration

Last, but not least…., the SCARECROW! I only have one of these at the moment, but, I am going to get another so there is a matched pair.  In this picture, I have him stuck in a cone to hold him up in the breeze.  A nice scary addition to the side of any jump.

A side note concerning the scarecrow; When I was taking these pictures, B-Man was following me and generally getting underfoot.  I shooed him away, so he promptly went over to the scarecrow sniffed it, then grabbed hold of the stringy straw parts!  He of course spooked himself silly and then proceeded to gallop really, really fast with it in his mouth! He did one gut wrenching lap around the field before the piece broke (thank GOD!), and he was released from his tormenter.  Wow, that could have ended very badly.  Visions of splintered white fencing and horse disappearing over the horizon with scarecrow dangling….                                   So, friends, it might be a good idea not to leave the lovely flowers and other terrifying objects out where they could “kill” your lovely equine partner.  Phew, I now have more grey hairs and a few less years!

Oh, I forgot to mention orange cones.  Three to four of the large cones lined up make great filler for a vertical.  Just use your imagination!  There’s loads of stuff just sitting around our barns, garages and even living rooms that can be jumped!  Pretend you are 12 years old, home alone (well, your horse is there too) and bored.  Hmmm…get the idea?

Okay have fun!

Next time I will have tips for:  ”Horse Showing and Schooling”,  when you have to bring your small child along… or, small dog along.. Applicable, depending on relationship with said dog.

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Building Horse Jumps

After moving many times in the last 15 years due to my husband’s military career, we have finally settled in one spot! Moving with horses, dogs, kids and all the equipment can be quite challenging. I’m sure it has taken years off my life.  My good friend Rhonda can totally relate to this as well!  She and her husband (and horses, dogs, kids….) shared the same military lifestyle until retiring recently as well.

Hopefully this will be home for quite a while…as all animal and human family members absolutely love it!

I made some jumps in the mid 90′s that I’ve been hauling around with me on these many relocations, so needless to say they were starting to get a bit wobbly. Time to get some supplies and make some new and improved things to jump my fire breathing dragon over, oops, I mean my lovely horse B-Man. B-Man is a 10 year old OTTB who was once a true fire breathing dragon, but is now only a part-time fire breathing dragon. A Thoroughbred turning 10 is a wonderful thing!

Okay, so back to jump making. I’ve always had a problem finding wood poles that are round and long enough to use as jump poles.  I gave up searching for these elusive, affordable, perfectly round 12ft poles and discovered landscaping timbers that you can buy at Home Depot.  Normally they are priced around $3 or $4, but once I found them on sale for $1.97!!!  So, they are quite affordable.  At 8 ft, they are shorter than the “normal” 12 ft jump poles, but if you and your steed can comfortably school narrower fences, that is all the better.  Also, they are not completely round.  They have two rounded sides and two flat sides.  When you pick them out, make sure to look for ones that are straight (not warped) and avoid ones that are blemished with mold or any other horrible flaws that will make then hard to paint.  Here is a picture before they are painted:

horse jumps

Landscape Timbers

Now, lets talk about jump standards.  There are many ways to construct them, but the simplest way I have seen is to use 4×4′s for the upright part and 2×4′s for the base.  When jump schooling home alone, I’m not leaping the moon so I’m quite happy to have 4 ft standards.  If that is cool, you can get a pair of standards from cutting an 8 ft 4×4 in half.  If you want to practice nose bleed jumping, by all means get two 8 ft 4×4′s and have at it!   Cutting an 8 ft 2×4 into 16 inch pieces will give you the base parts.  Here is a picture of it all put together:

Horse Jumps

Base for Standard

The best part is that the helpful guy at the hardware store cut the pieces for me!  He sawed the 4×4′s in half and cut the 2×4′s into 16 inch pieces.  Believe me, the less sawing I have to do the better!

To attach the base pieces, use wood screws.  Using nails is a bad idea as they tend to work themselves loose and become hazards in the field.  Ask me how I know this!  Okay, so two screws per piece is a good number.  Off setting their position diagonally is good, so as to not get in the way of screws coming in from the other sides.  You can see this in the picture above.

Now you are ready to drill the holes for jump cups.  Make sure to have a jump cup with pin on hand to test out your holes as you go.  It’s a good idea to use a larger drill hole than what your jump cup pin is….again, ask me how I figured this out!  After struggling with jamming the pins in for so long, finally donned on me to make the holes larger!  Also, please please make sure to test the holes.  They might seem straight, but you won’t know its crooked until you put the pin in and see that it won’t slide through the jump cup on the other side.  That is really irritating.   Also, make sure you drill holes at heights you will need to practice jumping.  Don’t be shy on the amount of drilling….it’s good to have a range of heights to work with.  I had drilled my original jumps to work mostly at my horses’ level, only to start jumping some ponies at my place.  Had to get the drill out again to make things right for the little guys!  Anyway, just easier to cover all possibilities when the tools out!

Now ready for painting!  This is the best part, picking out colors and deciding how to stripe the poles.   I like thinking of cool stripe designs for each jump.  I do three to four poles per jump with their own design and colors.  That way you can make an oxer or vertical and have enough poles that match.  Whenever I am at a show or different place schooling, I try to see if there are any interesting jumps that catch my eye for doing at home.  I’ve had great luck with using outdoor enamel paint, usually white for the standards and white parts of the poles.  For the colors, usually outdoor paint as well, but can’t always find that in enamel.  Here are pictures of the finished products:

Horse Jumps


horse jumps


Yes!  Jumps ready to go!  Next time I’ll share some ideas on items to add as filler for jumps, an easy liverpool, and things to brighten up jump schooling at home.


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