These exercises help to develop confidence. The exercises are useful for introducing young horses to fences and for developing jumping technique. The object is to encourage balance, rhythm and forward movement.
- Start by walking over a pole, no more than 12 inches from the ground, with a step pole in front, placed approximately 30 inches away. This helps your horse to consider all four of his limbs individually, rather than operating his legs in pairs. It also gives him a chance to supple his hocks and shoulders, without the hindrance of speed, or inaccuracy from the rider.
- When you feel confident, remove your feet from the stirrups and repeat the exercise, changing rein frequently. This should give you a better feel for your horse’s rhythm, which is vital as you progress with your horse’s training. Good jumping is all about creating a good rhythm from which your horse can negotiate fences with ease.
- All being well, progress to trotting towards a low fence, with the ‘placing’ pole 8ft 6 inches in front of the fence, on the ground. Keep within your comfort zone and maintain your horse within hand and leg — cadence is the goal here. You dictate the pace, not him, so at this stage be the pilot, not the passenger. Your body must be forward with an even contact in both reins, at all times.
- Still in trot, create a sequence of three fences, each with a place pole approximately 9ft in front. Shorten the distance for a pony. When you complete your grid, continue onwards in canter and ride a couple circles before returning to a steady trot.
- Move on to riding your grid in canter, when you both feel confident. These exercises help to create the correct technique, even if your horse finds it difficult. Hopefully, the horse should now be ready to attempt a course of fences.
The aims of the exercise:
As well as being beneficial for young horses, these exercises are good for horses who may have become anxious and lost their way. Make the fences interesting but not spooky. Horses need to feel challenged, not intimidated.
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