Get your horse more flexible!
Getting your horse and yourself bendy and flexible is one of the key components of winning at any level in the world of showjumping. Quick thinking and tight turns will win you all those valuable seconds. Practise makes perfect and this exercise is perfect as it can be done at any height, poles on the ground is perfectly ok.
Place the poles in a zigzag pattern along the centre line. Use multicoloured poles to make it easier to aim for the middle. You can start this exercise with poles on the ground. Follow the pattern of the green arrows, long flowing bends in trot, do rising trot and remember to change the leg every time you change direction. Always sit down when the outside front leg meets the ground. Keep your horse flexed to follow the line you are riding. Let the flexion flow through the body of the horse. Don’t over bend the neck, don’t let the shoulder point in another direction. Focus on looking at the next fence and let the horse flow with you. The tempo should be the same throughout the exercise.
Try to put the fences up, keep it small 30-40 cm is great, keep to trot.Make sure that you can keep the same tempo and flowing bends.
Step it up!
Come into a canter, set your pace. Keep it! Canter in a figure of 8, only use the two middle fences (orange arrows). Remember to look where you are going. Make sure your horse lands in the correct canter, if not, change it. If you find you always land in the wrong canter, slow down.
Assess what goes wrong. More often than not your weight is in the wrong stirrup/ wrong side of the saddle. Think motorbike racing!!! If you have this problem watch some motorbike racing on youtube to get the feel for weight and weight dynamics. Another example is skiing, if you put your weight on one ski, you will turn in that direction.
Start again, this time in trot, letting the horse fall into canter after the fence. Did you get it right? Well done! Keep the exercise at this level until you feel completely confident.Advanced
Start in trot. Make sure you can get the bends flowy and your pace even throughout the exercise. Follow the red arrows and make sure you hit each fence smack bang in the middle! To make sure you do not use the arena fence to bounce off, do stay about 1m inside. Dont cross the dotted line!
Continue into canter. Important here to keep the pace and to look where you are going. Notice how you can now use all the aids to do the turns, not just your hands. Remember to change canter, better to slow down to trot and get it right. This is not a competition, this is an exercise on the road to perfection!
What you should have achieved
After doing this exercise you should feel both your and your horses’ flexibility increase. Your horse should be more alert, awaiting your signals on where to go next. You should feel more confident riding those tight turns. Remember! This exercise should be fun for both you and your horse. It is a good exercise to build the “team” feeling, that you and your horse become one and work together.
Through the ages of showjumping you sometimes see horses flexed or even bend to the outside through corners. This might not be wrong and it does keep the shoulder pointing the right direction, and yes the shoulder is important….. BUT….
Striving for perfection, it is even better to be able to flex your horse in the direction it is going AND keep the shoulders pointing in the right direction. Doing those really tight turns gives the horse a minimum amount of time to assess what it is actually jumping – so strive for perfection.
Want more ideas for jump exercises? Or maybe a new fabulous horse?