A Grid Exercise

I did the following grid a couple of weeks ago on a clinic, so thought I’d share it with you.

Down the centre line I placed four jumps. This enabled us to work off both reins without having to shift ground lines or turn oxers around. The first jump was only ten-twelve metres from the track because I wanted to use the turns to balance the horses, to get their hocks underneath them to help them bascule. Sometimes if you have too many straight strides before a jump a horse will get long and flat in the canter so will find it harder to jump.

After the first fence, there was one canter stride before another fence. After another canter stride, was the third fence. Then after two canter strides was the oxer to finish.

The grid was quite taxing for a number of reasons. Firstly, coming off a half ten metre circle tested the suppleness and balance of the horse. If they drifted round the corner and lost impulsion then they found the grid very difficult to get through. If the rider wasn’t accurate on the turn then they risked drifting through the outside shoulder as they travelled through the grid, which would increase the distances between fences and so make it harder for the horse to negotiate.

Further more, the fact there were three consecutive fences with only one stride between is physically demanding on the horses, and tests their power, suppleness and gymnastic ability. Added to the fact most horses are coming back into work after a light couple of months and Christmas, it was more of a test.

As we built the grid up I used cross poles to help guide my riders’ eye to the centre. We focused on riding an accurate turn onto the grid, maintaining the energy through the turn and then riding positively through the grid so that the horses didn’t run out of steam and flatten in the canter.

Once the cross poles were flowing nicely, I started building the grid up into uprights, starting from fence four. With all the groups however, I ended up leaving the first fence as a cross, albeit higher than the initial jump they warmed up over, to ensure my rider’s continued to ride an accurate turn.

Finally, the last fence was turned into a parallel oxer.

We did find a couple of problems as we went through the grid: some of the horses tired towards fence three and chipped in a second stride. By ensuring they had enough energy through the turn and continued to ride forwards through the grid, these riders soon solved this problem. Other horses got long in their canter by fence three so either lengthened for a stride and launched over the fourth fence, or had one long stride then a shorter one between the third and fourth fences. We used the turn to help sit them on their haunches and then the rider needed to be conservative in the way they folded over the fence to encourage a smaller “pop” over each jump and to take a moment to breathe between each jump. This helped steady the horses without losing impulsion and kept the canter together more so that they managed two even strides before a clean bascule over fence four. If the horse still insisted on rushing through the grid then I got my rider to put in a circle at the end rather than to get into an argument and haul on their horse’s mouth. The act of circling steadied the horse and brought him off the forehand, back into balance, and led to him anticipating a turn rather than a race which meant that he slowed down through the grid.

The grid demanded a change to the shape of the horse’s bascule as they negotiated it. The first three fences, being in quick succession, required quite a steep bascule, with tidy front legs, and the hindquarters to work hard and to stay underneath the horse. Then the oxer required a longer curved bascule, taking off slightly further away and staying in the air for longer, from a slightly more open stride so that the horse could make the width of the jump. We had quite a few horses knock the back rail down because they weren’t quick enough to adjust their bascule shape.

All in all, it’s a grid which will test both horse and rider in a number of ways, and very much tests their gymnastic ability.

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