Caroline Moore, former five-star eventer and British Eventing national under-18 coach and junior team coach, we learn how to teach a horse how to jump this technical cross-country question
Developing the horse and rider’s eye to stay straight across an angled skinny is a crucial part of the training when moving up through the grades. This is how Caroline trains this particular skill in an arena before moving onto grass.
Aims of the exercise
- Develop confidence to jump across an angle
- Take-off and land in the corresponding spot
- To advance the horse’s eyesight to pick up a line
Start with two narrow fences on a straight line on a 24 yard distance (approximately 22 metres). Your horse should jump through these very squarely and straight with confidence.
Once you have achieved this, you can start putting a small amount of angle on the second skinny fence. The horse will probably hardly notice it to start with, but it’s important for you to maintain your focal point. Keep riding straight, all the while giving the horse confidence.
Then you can add some more angle onto the second skinny fence to make it more of a significant question. On the last couple of strides before take-off, the horse might question what you are asking him to do. As a rider you have to work very hard to make sure the horse stays straight.
If you are working with a younger horse, always go back to the building blocks of their education by using poles on the ground for example, to help hold them in to the narrow fences. This will help them to gain confidence and to learn to stay straight.
Developing this exercise further, I have built a skinny fence to a corner. It is important that you give a horse a good stride pattern to a corner in a combination to start with to give them confidence. I have then tested horse and rider more with this combination by placing another skinny after the corner as a third element. This way horse and rider always have something to focus on. It’s important that the rider keeps their eyes looking through the flags.
Another exercise I use a lot, is a flatwork one. It is all about focal point. I place two narrow poles on the ground on a related distance. This is all about developing a rider’s inside and outside aids so the horse sits between the leg and rein. Using shoulder-in or travers between the two poles is important because it makes the rider really look where they are going. Make sure that you don’t take your eye or body off the line. Straighten your horse up coming out over the second pole and you will find your horse will learn to go where your eyes go.
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Points to be aware of:
- Being reactive
- Rider sighting the next fence
- Maintaining rider balance
- Making sure the horse doesn’t fall onto his shoulder in-between fences
- Always praise and reward your horse
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