Four-star event rider Coral Keen provides one H&H forum user with some helpful advice on how to encourage their horse to use its shoulders more while jumping
Q: “What sort of exercises can I do to get my horse to use his shoulders more when jumping? Any advice would be great.”
A: “It is really important for a horse to be able to use its shoulder correctly.
“Below are some exercises I use to work and improve this area.
“Firstly, on the flat, riding a correct shoulder-in can be very beneficial. The goal of this movement is to teach the horse to use its inside hind-leg more effectively and therefore increase freedom in the outside shoulder. Using the corners of an arena is a good way of preparing for this movement.
“Another pointer is to ride some squares on the flat, so you can practice controlling the shoulders and check that the horse is not dropping to one side. This then translates to the turn you ride when you are jumping. Focusing on bringing the shoulders around to the fence, making the horse straighter and encouraging the use of both shoulders equally.
“I also use trot poles and here is an example exercise: start with flat trot poles set at a good yard, if not a yard and a foot away from each other. While using the trot poles I would encourage the horse to stretch and reach out. It is good if you can have someone with you on the ground, that can ease the trot poles out a little bit more as the horse warms up over them, again to encourage stretching. I would then raise every other pole at opposite ends and finally end up with two or three of them in the middle raised up. This should help the horse warm up through the shoulder, showing them how they can lift and use this area in something as simple as trotting poles.
“I would then progress to a tall cross pole, so your horse can’t be too slack, and again encouraging them to use the shoulders. I would use a placing pole certainly on take-off and you can also use one on landing. This helps to get close to the fence, so the horse can really rotate its shoulder.
“Finally, I would progress to a low and wide oxer. This does not need to be big, as the focus is on increasing the width. Have the fence on a related four or five distance which you could set from your tall cross pole. Then canter down on a level stride, and again have someone on the ground to make the oxer a little bit wider as you go. Make sure this is done away from the distance – you don’t want to be making the distance shorter, so make sure the widening of the spread doesn’t impede the related distance. As you increase the width each time this should really help the horse to engage their core and use their shoulders.”
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