One of the horses I ride has a very scopey jump, but likes to get in deep to the fence. That means he has a very steep bascule and it can feel quite uncomfortable for the rider because he is long in his body and rounds his back so much. Sometimes I feel I need a parachute for the way down!
Anyway, I`ve been doing some work on encouraging him to take off slightly further away from the fence and not go up so steeply. I toyed with the idea of placing poles, but as he puts in a lot of effort over poles I decided that I would be better off changing the type of fence he jumped, and using poles at a later date.
Firstly, his canter needs a bit of improving because it is very big striding. It needs balancing, yet very carefully, because he can easily fall into trot and lose the energy of the canter. If the canter lacks energy he usually gets too close, and grunts on landing. Because the canter is big striding and he’s quite long in his frame, you can feel like you’re approaching the fence very quickly, so there’s a bit of mind over matter to apply the leg instead of keeping waiting for the jump. Hopefully as the canter improves on the flat he will be stronger and be able to keep a more collected canter yet retain the power needed for jumping.
Upright fences, which teach a taller rounder bascule, can encourage horses to get quite close to them, so I rolled the ground pole out a generous foot to encourage him to take off a bit further away. This really helped him, and although he still gave the fence plenty of air (it wasn`t that big), it was far more comfortable for both of us. I’m now adopting this technique for every jump so that he consistently jumps from a better take off point and develops the correct muscles along with his confidence.
The next type of fence we`ve been using is a fairly low, yet wide oxer, again with generous ground lines. This jump teaches a horse to stretch over the fence, and to cover the ground, which is precisely what this horse needs to learn to do. Oxers will also help him build fitness and strength. Ascending oxers all encourage a less steep bascule, whilst square oxers will encourage him to spend longer at the highest point in his bascule.
I found that after doing the wide oxer the horse approached the uprights with a better canter and wasn`t tempted to get too close. He almost needs opening up in the warm up to help his technique over uprights.
The plan for the moment is to continue with generous ground lines, wide oxers, and focus on single fences until the getaway canter is improved, where he travels onto the next fence but is still balanced, and then introduce related distances and start linking fences together so that he becomes consistent.