A couple of weeks ago I was trying to be ingenious with jumping exercises, working on suppleness and agility as well as jumping technique.
I’ve done jumping on circles recently, but wanted something slightly different this week. In the centre of the arena I placed a cross pole, on the E-B line. From each side, I walked a three stride right hand dog leg to another cross pole.
That left the exercise as; coming out of the corner after the short side, jumping the first cross pole on a diagonal. Left three stride dog leg before jumping centre fence. Then right three stride dog leg before over third jump and into the corner.
There are a few elements to work on through this exercise.
Firstly, the beginning and end of the exercise are using the corners which means it is a short approach to the first fence, meaning the canter needs to be very balanced and the hocks underneath them in order to be able to negotiate the sharp corner and be ready to jump the fence almost immediately. Over the final fence, the rider needs to sit up on landing, keep the horse collected and balanced, ready for the tight turn. Once the canter is of a good enough quality the exercise becomes much easier, and you’ll notice a real difference in jump offs.
The next element to focus on is the rider’s line. Due to the change in direction there’s very little room for error. In a normal dog leg you can take time to straighten up after if you take the second fence on a slight angle; but in this exercise riding the middle fence on an angle affects the next dog leg. I kept the fences as cross poles to help guide the rider’s eye. Once they can see and ride the lines, getting three strides between each fence is easy and the canter becomes more rhythmical.
Next up in improving the horse’s suppleness is changing canter leads over each fence. The horse is on the right lead into the first fence, needs to be on the left canter between the first two fences, change onto the right canter for the second dog leg, and then back onto the left canter lead for the final corner. This means that the horse needs to be athletic enough to change leads. Again, meeting the fences with a good canter, and straight makes all difference in being able to change canter leads. The rider also needs to check that they are asking for the change of lead and not blocking the horse with their position and weight distribution.
Once all of these factors are been perfected the twisted combination flows easily, with both horse and rider working harmoniously; and their suppleness improves, which will make jumping courses much easier to negotiate successfully.