Imagine you’re heading into the showjumping ring, ready to ride a clear round. Your horse is hopefully enthusiastic, but the last thing you want to feel is out of control. I once had a horse, Unique, who loved his job, but could become very strong and boisterous over fences, always keen to find the next one. I had to teach him to jump and ‘woah’, so I spent many sessions jumping single fences with him and then asking for a halt transition. After years of practice, he could halt almost immediately.
Being able to bring your horse back to you is an important skill in showjumping, giving you the tools to add a bit of punch to his canter and balance him in preparation for turns. However, you should make sure you have the foundations in place first.
Test your transitions
They’re an important and unavoidable part of your riding, but how much do you really work on transitions at home? Be honest with yourself – to achieve success in this exercise, they need to be crisp, particularly your downward ones.
Get into good habits by making transitions a mainstay of your warm-up. A good downward transition maintains straightness and the feeling of even pressure at the end of both your reins, and your horse should be able to balance himself with his hindquarters, not lean on your hands. When riding a downward transition, remember to…
- sit up tall
- keep your leg closed around him
- avoid pulling on the reins
- talk to him
Setting up the pole tunnel exercise
Build this exercise on the centre or three-quarter line. You’ll need to create a pole tunnel leading to a placing pole, which sits one canter stride (2.7–3.4m) away from a single fence. This should be a pole on the floor to start with. After the fence, there’ll be a second pole tunnel in which you’ll halt.
Step by step
It can feel like there’s a lot to remember when you’re riding this exercise, but breaking it down into steps simplifies things…
- the approach
- pole and fence
- the getaway
Pick up a copy of January Horse&Rider, on sale 14 November, for the full exercise and top advice from showjumper Anna Power.