#SundaySchool: How to perfect a related distance on a curve

  • Showjumper Oliver Tuff (pictured) explains how to tackle dog-leg lines, which can be tricky if you don’t approach them correctly

    Oliver, 16, made history at 2018’s Horse of the Year show (HOYS) when becoming the youngest rider to ever win the senior Foxhunter title, partnering Darino B. Oliver was on the winning junior Nations Cup team in Lamprechtshausen, Austria, in 2018, and jumped the only double clear to help Great Britain win the junior Nations Cup Youth Final at Sentower Park in Belgium.

    Training the stars

    Darino B makes riding a dog-leg easy because he’s always looking for his next fence. He’s always thinking and luckily he’s adjustable as he will shorten or lengthen when asked.

    Another horse I ride, whom I won’t name, has quite a big stride and can fight when I change direction. In this case I would plan to ride an outside line so I have more room.

    Dog-leg turns — where a turn or bend has to be made in between fences — can cause problems when riders don’t stick to the line. I’ll often see them drifting out and losing the rhythm, and having to add a stride. This gets them in a muddle because they fall in on the line and arrive at the next fence too close, which means they can’t jump it or they knock it down. If the first fence goes wrong it makes it difficult to get to the next one.

    Tackling the issue

    1. As with any related distance, you’ll need to walk the distance between the fences. Ensure you keep straight leaving the fence and then stay straight on the approach to the next fence, so you walk the correct line. The change in direction should be smooth, not jolted, to avoid shortening the horse’s stride.

    2. When warming up, ride forward in the canter and keep the horse in front of your leg.

    3. As you approach the first fence on the dog-leg, ensure you are riding to the centre of the fence. The line is designed to be jumped from centre to centre; this will give you the best chance of clearing both fences.

    4. As you jump the first fence, keep your eye fixed on the second. Be sure to leave the first fence straight and approach the second fence in the same way, so you ride the line the distance was built on when you walked it. Sit up between the fences to avoid tipping forward and getting in front of your horse, as this could make it easier for him to stop.

    5. Maintain your forward canter so the horse focuses on the second fence. The second part of the distance will determine how you tackle the line, so sit up and look up.

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    Consider this…

    • Think about the length of the distance and the length of your horse’s stride — by knowing your horse’s stride and way of going, you’ll be able to ride through the fences accurately and give him the best possible chance of jumping clear.
    • Does your horse drift in or out? If he tends to fall in, recognise your distance will be shorter, and if he jumps out on to the outside line, the distance will be longer.
    • Practise dog-legs over small fences at home — you can start with guide poles on the floor to help you stay on the correct line.

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