Is your horse awaiting your signals? Or do you feel like your horse is in charge? Are you in sync which way to go? With showjumping courses getting quite technical it is important to work on the conversation between horse and rider. A question we often need to ask ourselves is: Is my signals received by my horse? Are they understood? Do I listen to my horse? Are we on the same wavelength?
It must be a priority to build a complete team with our horse with perfect and mutual understanding. Riding should feel like dancing with a perfect partner. That’s when magic happens.
This weeks exercise will help get that connection.
Build 3 uprights as schedule above. Leave space for 4 strides in between the fences. If your arena only allows 2 or 3 strides, this is ok too, but keep the fences low. Start off with poles on the ground or small fences. Cross poles is a good idea to prevent cutting corners.
Start the exercise in trot. Start in direction number 1. Do 2 circles over each pole. Why 2? It is about expecting what is going to happen next. After 1 circle the horse still thinks you are continuing straight ahead, but after 2 circles it is beginning to think, oh we are staying on the circle. It is about eliminating the expected and bring the focus back to your aids. After you feel confident in trot in both directions continue on to canter. Try to keep a collected canter, if your horse is rushing bring this exercise back to the very basics!! Continue to circle the first fence until it no longer rushes.
When you master the exercise in both directions you can put the fences up a little and try again. Be aware that the jumps add up, so if it feels ok, once in each direction is enough.
Whilst riding this exercise think of where you are going. Use all your aids to tell the horse the way. Keep your horse between the hand and leg, keep a light connection through your reins. If it turns into a war, reduce your speed! This is practise! Always aim to solve any problems that you might have.
If your horse tends to rush, always look to yourself first. Ask yourself what you can improve to prevent the problem.
* Have you got an engaged canter before the jump?
* Does your horse lack impulsion before the fence?
* Can you easily do transitions without fences?
Be honest with yourself, riding is not easy but it gets a lot easier if we find the faults that WE make instead of blaming the horse. After all we are all capable of change, if we want to. Often the above problems are connected with balance. To save your horse there are plenty of ways to improve your balance without your horse:
* Balance boards, a tennis ball or wooden rolling pin and a short plank will do. Practise daily and see what happens when you put more weight on one leg.
* Rent plastic wonder! Contact your local race track to ask if they have a plastic wonder for rent. Plastic wonder, for those of you who have not tried it, is a plastic horse that moves similar to a racehorse. This is fab for balance! And for all muscles involved.
* Stand on one leg, how long can you keep your balance.
* Walk with a book or if you want to make it difficult, a football on your head.
These are just a few ways to improve your balance. If you are serious about your riding and want to improve, practise, practise and practise some more.
Correctly done this exercise should leave you with a horse that responds better to your aids. Your horse should also be more supple and await your signals. You should be on the same page regarding which way to go.
Written by Stina Harvidsson with the inspiration of Eddy Andersson.
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