H&H question of the week: How can my horse and I learn how to jump bigger fences?

  • Four-star event rider and multi junior and young rider European eventing medallist Georgie Spence provides one H&H forum user with some helpful advice on how to teach both her and her horse how to jump bigger fences

    Q: “I have a fantastic horse who only learned to jump about 18 months ago — she’s eight this year. She’s 16hh and she’s got the most wonderful jump. She jumps 80cm courses and leaves lots of room between her and the jump. She’ll do 90cm individual jumps without worrying too but I’d like to build her up to 90cm and 1m courses but obviously I’m happy for that to take as long as it takes.

    “I’d like to do some jumping work in the school to increase my confidence and hers, although it’s mostly mine. What I’ve found with my horse is that she won’t pay attention to anything less than 70cm. I was wondering if you could share some good jumping exercises that I could do.

    We have a great school at my yard with plenty of wings and poles. Things to bear in mind:
    1) All jumps have to be built and put away
    2) I don’t have a helper very often so I can’t get off and on throughout the session to change jumps”

    Georgie says: “My advice would be that you should stick to a few exercises and use them three or four times each before moving on to the next exercise as you have to put the fences away every time, you don’t want to be building a huge amount every day you want to jump.

    “A fantastic exercise is three poles down one side of the school, don’t measure them out, just put them down, roughly five or six strides apart.

    “Ride down the poles five or six times, just maintaining the rhythm and then making sure you take the same amount of strides each time. Then repeat this the other way.

    “Next try and add a stride in between the two poles. Again, repeat this five or six times on each rein. Then see if you can go through once, just taking the original amount of strides, and then go five to six times each way taking a stride out. This over time will really help you with distances and striding, but also being able to move the canter around.

    “This exercise can also be used with small uprights instead of poles.

    Continued below…

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    “Another great exercise is building a parallel fence down each long side, and an upright fence on each of the diagonals so you can change the rein. You can then jump the fences on a figure of eight. If you start to feel unbalanced or a bit quick you can put a circle in and then continue with the exercise. I always like to start with the fences quite small and then when both you and the horse get more confident you can put them up.

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    “Grids are always great exercises, but are more difficult on your own. If you could possibly build a grid, I would suggest three cross poles one stride apart from eachother and then two strides to a parallel.

    You could warm up over a couple of fences and then jump through the grid a few times at each height. This grid is slightly easier on your own as you don’t need to raise the height of the first three cross poles, but you can put the parallel up when you feel confident. This then gives you the best chance of producing a powerful canter, where you horse bascules.

    “When you have started to crack this at home, I suggest going to you local equestrian centre and either hiring the course or doing a clear round to start to gain confidence jumping the bigger heights but without the pressure of it being a competition. However I would also suggest trying to have someone on the ground while you jump, especially away from home just to be safe.

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