International showjumper and young horse producer, Sarah Lewis shares a jumping exercise designed to improve straightness and control for both horse and rider
This jumping exercise to improve straightness and control was taught to me by Malcolm Pyrah. I find this is useful for horses of all ages as it helps with concentration and it is also helpful for rider position and straightness. I find it particularly useful as a competition preparation exercise as it really focusses on rider concentration and reaction time. It can easily be done in a 20x60m or slightly smaller arena.
Sarah’s jumping straightness and control exercise
The exercise is performed out of trot. Start with a pole on the ground and 3.5 paces to a cross pole.
Ensure you ride a good corner and are straight when coming to the pole (and that the grid itself is straight). Make sure the horse keeps his trot and correct him if he breaks into canter.
Once he is happy and relaxed put a second cross pole at 3.5 paces from the first and repeat the exercise. Each time, re-establish the straightness and the trot after the fence.
Add a third cross pole at another 3.5 paces and then finally a small vertical (80/90cm) at approximately eight paces, before making the vertical into an ascending oxer.
Once the horse is relaxed about the grid, exit the grid by allowing him to canter on.
With young horses, follow the lead they land on to make it easy and come back around and jump the little oxer on its own at a slight angle (40°). On landing, correct the lead and repeat that step in the other direction.
Then, complete the entire grid a few times, gradually increasing the size of the oxer. Even on an experienced horse you would not need to have the oxer much bigger than 1/1.05m.
Watch the Horse & Hound Awards 2020 virtual ceremony
The grid is useful to work on straightness, overcoming green wobbles and on rider position and straightness.
I find that the angled approach to the little oxer really helps both horse and rider with reaction times and gets you both looking for the fence, which is essential in the ring.
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.