In our brand new look magazine this week (16 April), cover star Nicola Wilson kicks off the H&H Interview series, talking about a delayed start to the season, losing Opposition Buzz and the start of a new era. Here, take a look at the British team regular's simple jumping exercise, that gets the results you want

A varied workload keeps horses interested in their work, and British Olympian Nicola Wilson uses the following figure of eight jumping exercise to train her horses, so that they learn while having fun.

“It channels a horse’s energy and mind so that I can quietly work them without battling to stay in a rhythm. They soon learn that not being consistent makes it more difficult,” says Nicola.

The exercise teaches rhythm – it is particularly useful for horses who are inclined to rush and break their stride pattern – as well as balance and straightness. It is also a great confidence booster and helps to get the rider and horse’s eye in for a stride.

“It highlights even the smallest issue, such as not staying straight, so that you can work on correcting it,” adds Nicola.

Nicola Wilson’s show jumping exercise: figure of eight

Nicola Wilson jumping diagram1

1. The fences only need to be small for this exercise to be effective. Place seven 2ft uprights on the points of two 20m circles, including one on the centre line covering X.

2. Start with the fence at X as a ground pole with a pole on either side, so that you have three canter poles in a row (fence 1).

3. After warming up, canter over the poles in both directions.

4. Make the middle canter pole (at X) a small upright and jump it in both directions.

5. Now turn left or right after landing from X, and jump the next fence on the circle.

6. Continue to X again, this time going in the other direction on landing and jumping the next fence on the circle.

7. Next jump a fence before turning to the one at X, and continue to the one after so that you do three fences in succession, without leaving the circle.

8. Repeat three in a row on the other rein.

9. You are now ready to jump a full circle.

10. Now do it in the other direction.

11. Finish by riding the full figure of eight, so that you clear every fence in succession, starting and finishing over X.

12. You can increase the difficulty of the exercise by raising each fence several holes. Bear in mind, however, that even at a low height this is a demanding exercise, especially for horses who are young and/or inexperienced.

“Always do the same amount of work on both reins,” advises Nicola. “Often horses are better on one rein than the other and so it is important to do an equal amount of work in both directions.”

Read our interview with Nicola Wilson in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (16 April 2015)