The Magazine June 2023

Quick thinking: Jump clear with Jay Halim

Posted 15th May 2023

Jay Halim explains how to give your horse the mental and physical skills to jump perfect clear rounds


Every rider dreams of that perfect clear round in the competition arena, when each fence feels effortless and the ideal stride comes naturally. But even though it may look easy from the ground, constructing a flawless clear is no mean feat. There are many ingredients involved in setting yourself up for success in the showjumping arena, but we’ll focus on your horse. The two key components any horse can develop to increase his chances of leaving the poles in their cups are footwork and jumping technique. I have an exercise for each that you can practise at home to increase your horse’s skillset and set him up for success at a show.

Exercise one: Cruise control

A key skill of a showjumper is that they’re fast on their feet and can think for themselves. This involves developing a high level of proprioception, something that takes both time and training.

One of the best ways to do this is by using poles on the ground, but with a twist. By setting up slightly uneven poles, you’ll encourage your horse to think quickly and adjust his pace accordingly. The trick, as the rider, is not to become too involved.

The main teaching point for this exercise is for your horse to develop initiative so he can sort out his legs should you encounter a sticky situation. Your job is to put him into cruise control while instilling confidence along the way.

Set it up

Place three or more poles in a line, spaced roughly apart for either trot (1.2–1.7m) or canter (2.7–3.4m), but skew a few of the poles so they’re on an angle.

How to ride it

  1. Establish an active working trot around the arena. Look up and ahead towards your line of poles, while maintaining a light seat. Make sure you press your weight down into the stirrups so your lower leg’s secure.
  2. The turn towards the line of poles is key so you don’t lose control of your horse’s shoulders. Maintain the impulsion by squeezing with your legs and make a square turn to approach the poles centrally on a straight line.
  3. Put your horse in cruise control and let him work out where to place his feet over the poles. Resist interfering, but keep your legs on, stay light in the saddle and soften the rein to allow him to lower his head and stretch. You want to encourage him to look down at the poles and engage his brain, but your head and eyes should remain up and looking ahead of you.
  4. Ride positively away from the poles and reward your horse. Try a few more times before changing the rein. You can try the exercise in canter, too.

Read more ways to perfect your horse’s jumping technique with Jay Halim in June Horse&Rider – get your copy today!

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