When I first became an apprentice I was introduced to this game called Block Elimination. Heard of it?
At the time I passed over it, but I remembered about it when revisiting skinny fences.
Block Elimination is ideal if you’re short on space or have a variety of horses and riders as it is not about height and speed, rather accuracy.
Depending on the ability of the riders and horses, you start with a line of poly blocks, about the same length as a normal jump pole, either standing upright or on their side.
Initially each combination jumps the jump. It should be easy, to build confidence and warm everyone up, especially the spooky horses.
Then you remove a block, so the fence is narrower. Some will then be knocked out. In the next round you remove another, until you’re left with one block in the final round.
Some horses who love jumping may surprise you by skirting round, because it is strange, there’s no wings to guide them.
In my experience kids always love this game, and the ones who take their time and listen to instructions are usually the successful ones, whilst the cocky, gung-ho ones get knocked out early on.
I didn’t play Block Elimination yesterday, but I will try it with this pony and rider to get them confident with skinnies and keeping their line. I did however, have two blocks upright and jump this pony over the centre of them.
He’s a jumping pony, and likes to rush, but surprised me the first time by rushing to the side. He then skipped over the corner when I re-presented in a very collected canter.
So I made a small gap between the blocks, so the jump was a bit wider. If it was a green horse I would’ve had more blocks to start, or put jump wings at the side to help focus.
With a four inch gap, the pony seemed more confident and didn’t rush his approach. It was almost like a panic attack – when he worried he rushed and that was when he dived out. I had to be really strict with myself and wait for the fence to come to me.
He popped it fine a couple of times so I made the gap smaller.
As long as I kept a contact, focused on my line, with my shoulders back, collected canter and leg supporting him, he flew it each time.
He popped it very nicely when the two were together, touching, giving us a testing skinny to build his confidence and understanding of the question.
If you think about it is a strange ask, pointing a horse at a random block in the school, with no guide, and expecting them to jump it.
Now this pony understands skinny fences better, and this idea of block elimination, I want to use this exercise with his rider to teach her to focus on her line, ride steadily towards it and not to rush the final strides, which could cause run outs in real competitions, and will help with riding corners and other cross country combinations. I also want to progress to jumping just one block with the pony, a bit like the barrel jumping exercise a lot of eventers do. I like it, but the barrel is a bit big for many of my clients!