Last week I had fun with a young client and her jumping pony, working through some related distances. We’ve done a lot of work recently on maintaining the canter on the approach to fences – with energy but not too much speed. And ensuring that my rider doesn’t rush the last few strides in a panic, or even allow her pony to take charge! It’s a fine balance between waiting for the fence and still closing the leg on the last couple of strides so her pony knows she has committed to the jump.
We began by warming up over a small cross, with the focus of “waiting for the jump to come to her”. They got a bit too close, but my rider had made her point. She hadn’t let her pony take over and rush towards the cross pole. Keeping the pony in check meant he chipped in a stride, but when they came to the jump again he didn’t take charge and race. That meant my rider could concentrate on other areas of her jumping.
Once they’d warmed up we moved on to the related distance. It was four strides when put up to height, and after riding through once, I asked my rider to add in an extra stride. This was just a test, to keep her thinking and to ensure her pony stayed focused on her as his strides tend to get bigger as he goes through combinations. The fences were a plank and an oxer, and as soon as they had mastered the exercise we moved onto dog-legs.
The first dog-leg we worked through was from the plank onto a left curve to an oxer four strides later. The first time my rider approached on a slight angle so they drifted right over the plank and chipped in a stride before the oxer. This highlighted to my rider the importance of a straight approach, and then riding her line from the moment she lands. She had to work on sitting quietly between the fences, but still keeping her leg at the ready so her pony knew she was committed to the next fence.
After they had mastered this left handed dog-leg we practiced the right handed dog-leg, from the first oxer they jumped to an upright four strides later. Their approach was straighter but my rider panicked about the size of the oxer and chased her pony at the last minute. They jumped long and landed on the left lead which meant they needed five strides to make the distance. I was pleased with my rider’s quick thinking because she sat up and held for a proper fifth stride, instead of letting the pony add a short one. Lifting her right hand over the fence, turning her body to the right and bringing her left leg behind the girth meant she corrected the canter lead and they made the distance easily.
To finish, I set them a course to check that they could adapt their jumping to suit different combinations, as they would have to on a course.
I thought my rider rode it near on perfectly. Her approach to the first dog-leg was spot-on, but it would be nice to see a more subtle adjustment of their canter. That will come, and the important part is that they made it on four strides. On the second dog-leg she rode the oxer perfectly, taking a near pop, and had to push a bit towards the upright, but they still met the jump on a good stride. And the final related distance was fab!
When I discussed the round with my rider I was pleased that she knew the areas for improvement for herself, and could explain the adjustments she had to do. I think she was also starting to understand that if she sets up the canter correctly and doesn’t interfere with the last few strides they will always meet the fence in the right place.