Not every horse is born careful. However, with a few training tools, you can make him super-attentive. Showjumper Anna Power explains
No scope, no hope – it’s a phrase most riders are familiar with. We all want a careful jumper who tackles his fences with plenty of power, tucks up his knees and gives the top rail plenty of clearance, but this isn’t something that comes naturally to all horses.
If your horse is already tidy over fences and finds it easy to stay on task and listen to you, count yourself lucky. Equally, don’t despair if he’s prone to the odd knock. Carefulness is a skill you can train with a few handy schooling techniques and, as has been a running theme throughout this training series, it all starts on the flat.
Your horse’s jumping technique is another cornerstone of carefulness. He needs to get up in the air and fold his legs neatly to clear a fence. Working on carefulness over a single fence is ideal for boosting his confidence and these simple hacks will help you to encourage correct technique and accuracy…
- use a groundline A big, bright and colourful ground pole positioned at the base of the fence helps get your horse in the air. He’ll come up better through his shoulders and avoid clipping the top rail with a foreleg
- use close poles Rather than building an upright fence with a single pole, or with a couple of poles spaced well apart, use a second pole just a couple of holes down from the top one. This gives your horse a much clearer point to focus on and will encourage him to make the height
Exercise – V poles
A tried-and-tested training tool, v poles help keep your horse straight, focus his attention on the fence and encourage him to make a good shape over it, because the poles create a narrow space and push him up into the air. To use v poles…
- Place two poles on the top rail of an upright fence in an upside-down v-shape.
- Once you’ve warmed up over a crosspole, approach the upright. Keep the poles fairly wide apart at first, more like a u-shape. This makes them more inviting to your horse, and you can then work towards a narrower v-shape as he relaxes.
- Experiment with fence height and v pole width to work out how to optimise your horse’s jump – once you’re happy with the feeling he’s giving you over the fence, that’s as narrow as the poles need to be.
Make knock-downs a thing of the past with Anna Power’s top training tips in February Horse&Rider, on sale 12 December.