I used a nice, simple jump exercise today to help get my rider’s eye in after the Christmas break.
On the centre line, about X, I placed one jump. Then from the centre of the cross, angled at 45 degrees, I walked two canter strides and placed another jump, parallel to the first. I then repeated this so that there were four jumps in a square around the first one, two canter strides between them and the centre fence. If you had a birds eye view of the arena, the jumps would be in the same configuration as the five dots on a die.
With all the jumps up as crosses, we warmed up over the centre jump, checking the rhythm, impulsion and straightness in the approach and get away.
Then we jumped the two fences to the left of the centre fence, which are also conveniently a related distance of four canter strides. Again, we looked at the rhythm and ensuring the canter remained positive and the strides even between the fences.
The cross poles help guide both rider and horse to the centre of the fence, so helps improve their lines to the fences. Next we put this to the test.
Coming out of the left corner, horse and rider jumped the three fences on the diagonal. They had to jump each fence at an angle, which can cause horses to back off a fence, or encourage them to run out. It tests the rider’s ability to hold their line to the fence, especially with green horses.
We practiced riding the diagonal lines in both directions, asking for a change of canter lead over the last fence. Because the corner is more acute than turning onto the centre or three quarter lines, a horse is more likely to lose impulsion or fall out through the outside shoulder round the turn, which can affect the quality of the subsequent jump.
This horse and rider managed the diagonal lines very well, making the exercise look very easy. The canter stayed rhythmical and each jump flowed nicely.
I made the jumps into uprights, which can make it harder to stay central to the fences and so test the rider’s eye for lines. And then we linked the lines up to make a course, which focused on the jumps flowing, and getting the correct canter lead for the corners. On this course it’s important to use the corners of the school otherwise it’s harder to ride the lines – if you jump the first fence at the wrong angle then the distance to the next fence is wrong and the jumps won’t flow.
From the left rein, canter across the diagonal over the three jumps onto the right canter, and then over the related distance (the latter element being the first fence of the course in reverse), before jumping the diagonal line off the right rein and then the other related distance on the left rein.
It’s a nice, simple course which builds confidence in seeing lines, encourages a flowing canter and helps a rider see the benefits of preparing for jumps in their turns.