HomeExpert AdviceArticleThree gridwork exercises you can do at home

Three gridwork exercises you can do at home

Posted in Riding Schooling and Training Jumping

No course? No problem! Try these great grids to sharpen up your skills

Three gridwork exercises you can try at home

Grids are great for practising the variety of skills you need to navigate a course successfully, but they don’t need to be boring. Instead, they’re a fantastic way to work on new techniques, solve problems and strengthen your partnership, and you’re only limited by your imagination.

The beauty of grids is that they can be as simple or as complicated as you want, which means that if you have limited resources at your yard, it doesn’t mean that your progress is also limited. Even if you have the opportunity to school regularly over courses, you can still benefit from a grid’s ability to isolate and resolve a problem.

TOP TIP – Only attempt gridwork with the assistance of an experienced helper to reset fences and change distances. It’s important they can recognise when a stride doesn’t suit your horse so they can adjust the fences accordingly.

Warming up for gridwork

Your warm-up for gridwork should be structured around preparing your horse to jump several fences in a row. Begin by warming up on the flat, incorporating lots of transitions, first between the gaits then, as he becomes more supple and responsive, within the pace, too. This will get him listening and thinking quickly, and will mean that once he begins jumping, he’ll be able to change his striding more easily to jump cleanly through the grids.

When he’s ready to jump over a single cross-pole, put a placing pole on the take-off and landing sides, each 3m from the jump. This will encourage him to focus before, during and after the fence, as the next question will come up quickly when you add in more jumps.

Always introduce gridwork piece by piece, rather than jumping straight into the line. Start by putting placing poles where there will be jumps, then raise the initial fence. Once you’ve ridden through, put up the second fence and reapproach. Continue until you can ride through the whole grid.

Gridwork exercise 1 – the confidence builder

What it does

This straightforward grid doesn’t have any tricks up its sleeve, which means it’s a great starting point to help you and your horse find a good rhythm and produce a clean, confidence-boosting jump through the line.

How to ride it

Approach in trot so that you can get the ideal take-off spot to the first fence. Allow your horse to land in canter, and focus on remaining balanced in the saddle and riding straight down the line, rather than pushing on or checking for a stride. If he knocks a rail or has an awkward jump, ride through again without changing anything, this way he’ll learn from his mistake and adjust his striding to suit the distance.

If you or your horse are inexperienced

Ride through the grid and ask your helper to check that the distances suit your horse and he’s not struggling to fit in the correct number of strides. For an inexperienced horse, this grid is a great way for him to learn how to think ahead without interference. For an inexperienced rider, it’s perfect for learning to feel a rhythm and ride positively without interfering.

If you and your horse are more advanced

Use this grid as a way to introduce trickier striding in a no-pressure way. If your horse prefers to lengthen his stride, shorten the distance to the final fence and add placing poles so that he has to collect his canter to pop cleanly through. If he tends to shorten and add strides, ride for the correct number of strides, using the placing poles to help him out.

Bonus benefits

This grid is perfect if you’re ready to start jumping bigger fences, as it sets up a quality canter and creates consistency and rhythm, so you and your horse will be well within your comfort zone. Keep the first fence as a high-sided cross-pole to encourage him to stay straight and set the second fence at the height you’ve been jumping. The oxer can then be raised incrementally to allow you to get comfortable over a larger fence.


Gridwork exercise 2 – the lead corrector

What it does

This grid helps you to practise thinking ahead and landing on the correct canter lead after a fence.

How to ride it

Approach in trot. As you reach the second bounce, ask your helper to call out a fence number – one means you turn left on landing, two means that you maintain your horse’s straightness down the four-stride line and three requires you to turn right.

If you or your horse are inexperienced

Decide with your helper which final fence you’ll jump before beginning the exercise to give yourself time to think about your line. Jump the bounce fences, then your chosen fence. Focus on turning in the air to encourage your horse to land on the correct lead. Don’t forget to think about what leg you’ll need to land on after the final fence, too. Keep riding positively and thinking about your own balance as you approach each fence, making sure to look in the direction of the line you’ll ride during and after the jump.

If you and your horse are more advanced

Once you’ve got the hang of consistently picking up the correct lead, add an extra level of challenge by incorporating another single fence. Instead of calling out one number when you’re halfway through the bounce line, ask your helper to call out two – for example, if they say one and two, you’ll have to land from fence one on the right lead, rebalance and ride a half-circle back over fence two. Moving the single fences closer together will increase the challenge.


Gridwork exercise 3 – the leg leveller

What it does

This grid helps to keep you and your horse straight, and encourages him to jump cleanly and evenly – perfect if he often leaves a leg.

How to ride it

Trot over the placing pole and into the first fence, which should have high sides to encourage your horse to jump centrally. The placing pole after the first fence will help make his canter round and uphill, allowing him to pop through the bounces with ease. Because the bounces are alternating sloped poles, rather than full cross-poles, he’ll have to stay straight throughout or risk making the job harder for himself. The high sides will also encourage him to snap his legs up cleanly. After landing from the final bounce, canter one forward stride to the ascending spread, which your horse should produce a round, even shape over. If he knocks a fence or makes a mistake on the way through the grid, ride it again in the same way and allow him to make his own corrections.

If you or your horse are inexperienced

Jump through the exercise with the slanting poles as full cross-poles first to allow you both to get used to jumping centrally through the bounce. Keeping the fences below the height you normally jump will allow you to ride confidently through the line without being put off by the look of the alternating poles. Once you’re happy with the exercise, you can increase the height of the poles, which will encourage a cleaner jump.

If you and your horse are more advanced

Once you’ve mastered the exercise, you can adjust the striding from the bounce to the spread. Take out the placing pole and lengthen the distance to 7.5m, so that you have to push for a forward one stride after riding the short bounce strides. Alternatively, if you have the space, lengthen the distance to 14m (three strides) and ride it once as a three-stride line, then as a four-stride line and finally a two-stride line.


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