I teach a pair of siblings, who mainly jump, and can be tricky to teach because they have two totally different horses, are different abilities and levels of confidence, as well as an age gap. It means that I have to really think about my lesson content so it ticks both boxes. However, I came across this exercise last week and it was highly beneficial to all four of them.
Stupidly, I didn’t take a photo of the exercise because it is quite difficult to explain, but basically it is six angled jumps on a line, and you jump through them so that you are riding short dog legs …
Actually, just watch the following video!
We built the exercise up fence by fence. The jumps didn’t need to be big because the riders were more likely to make an error on their lines or lose the quality of the canter so the jumps needed to be of a height that the horses could scrabble over if necessary.
The exercise is multi-layered, and I had a different aim for each rider.
The elder, with the balanced school master (in the video), had to focus on riding smooth turns between each fence, maintaining the canter rhythm, and ensuring she was on the correct lead, changing over fences if necessary. Her horse tends to charge at jumps so this twisty course actually helped her contain the canter, and he had to work hard on his balance. She wasn’t always quick enough to ask him to change, and sometimes expected him to look after her; in the video she didn’t insist on a change of canter lead on the top loop. The next time she rode it she did, and it was much more fluent and balanced.
The younger of my riders has a pony with quite an opinion of his own. And whilst he loves jumping, the canter can be a bit hectic on the approach and the pony having a bit too much responsibility. So their aim while riding this exercise was to look ahead to the next fence, maintain the canter between fences, ride smooth lines between fences. Another biggie was for him to maintain the canter around the top loop so the pony didn’t nap to his friend. The pony is very flexible and happy on counter counter, so I didn’t want my rider to worry about changing legs over fences as I think it’s more important to develop their canter approaches first.
Although the exercise looks straightforward, it requires accuracy and a quality canter, and is really good for suppling a horse. I think my clients were surprised by how much thinking they needed to do and how tired their ponies became.
You can probably see in the videos that both riders drifted right over the final fence. An extension of this exercise would be to make fence six a double because it will force them to use their right leg to ride straight through the double.
I think I will continue to develop this exercise in their next lesson, getting the elder to focus more closely on changing canter leads, and for both of them to count their strides so that their canter is more consistent and it will focus them on riding more accurate lines, not letting their horses drift out through the outside shoulder.