When you’re schooling at home, it’s easy to get into the habit of popping over a few fences, then pulling up for a rest, but this doesn’t prepare you for the demands of a competition, where you’ll need to complete a course that could consist of 10 or more obstacles.
Schooling over single fences has its benefits, but practising course riding is important, too.
This exercise combines the best of both worlds – it’s designed to help you practise and refine your skills over individual obstacles and combinations, then test them around a course.
The course set up
Ideally, you’ll be able to set out the course in an arena or flat field, then practise one or two of the different elements every time you school. After a few sessions, you’ll be ready to ride around the whole course in a rhythmic, adjustable canter. If this isn’t practical because of a lack of poles or space, or because others use the arena as well, set out one or two of the exercises each time you ride and practise them individually. If creating the complete course at the yard isn’t possible, consider hiring a venue that has the space and enough poles and wings for you to build all 10 fences.
Exercise – warming up
Once you’ve warmed up on the flat, use one element of the related distance (marked A on the course plan) for your jumping warm-up. Approach the jump on a circle, focusing on keeping the canter rhythm and creating a straight stride before take-off and on landing. Keep your circle evenly shaped and ride the same number of strides each time, which will help keep your horse straight over the fence.
Exercise – maintain your rhythm
Now practise maintaining your horse’s canter rhythm between the two fences (marked A on the course plan) by riding through the related distance in seven even strides. The fences should be set 27.7–30.8m apart, depending on your horse’s stride length.
You’ll need an energetic jumping canter and, as well as concentrating on maintaining your rhythm on the approach to each fence, aim to keep the canter the same when moving away from the fences, too.
Pick up a copy of Horse&Rider for all ten brilliant exercises to help improve your horse’s jumping technique, on sale 26 July.