If you want to be successful in showjumping, it’s all about the detail, and being accurate and precise will give you the edge whether you’re an amateur rider or compete at the highest levels. For example, landing in balance on the correct canter lead in a jump-off can make all the difference between first and second place.
Here are some of the techniques I use to prepare myself and my horses so we go into a showjumping arena ready to ride a competitive round.
Ready for take-off
I was taught that the last three strides on the approach to a fence belong to the horse. It’s my responsibility to present him to the fence on the best line, in the appropriate speed and balance, but once we’re three strides out it’s up to him to figure out how to jump it.
It takes discipline to be quiet and still in the last few strides, and it forces you to make early decisions about your canter and judge the distance to the fence from a long way off, which is all good practice for course riding.
While it’s important your horse lands on the same leg when you want him to, being able to change his canter lead over a fence is a really useful skill to have, because it means you can go in a new direction as soon as you land without losing balance or rhythm. It’s easy to teach your horse to do this and all you need is one fence.
- Set up a small upright in the centre of your arena and ride over it in a figure-of-eight pattern. Approach on a slight angle and focus on keeping your canter rhythm.
- As you approach the fence, look in the direction you want to go on landing. As your horse takes off over it, give him the aid to change his canter lead by putting your new outside leg back behind the girth.
- On landing, loop back round to the fence and again ask your horse to change canter lead in the air.
- Ride over the fence five or six times, maintaining your rhythm and asking for a change of canter lead each time.
Find more great exercises and advice from Holly Smith in October Horse&Rider, on sale 23 August.