Slick and sharp: the building block cross-country exercise that will aid your success

  • Caroline Moore, former five-star eventer and British Eventing national under-18 coach and junior team coach, explains how you can use this exercise to begin to teach your horse how to turn to and over a fence

    The aims of the exercise are to:

    • Warm up the horse’s muscles before jumping
    • Improve hoof/brain co-ordination
    • Aid correct muscle build-up and develop the horse’s core
    • To teach the horse a rider’s directional aids
    • To improve the horse’s eye
    • Encourage the horse to be physically and mentally careful

    I have three variations on this exercise — I have raised poles, dressage boards and blocks of square poles. All of these obstacles cannot be easily moved, so they encourage the horse to draw back, use its shoulder and develop its core.

    To begin with, go in a straight line and use a focal point to help you keep straight. This also helps the horse use its own balance and to develop its rhythm.

    You can then add a turn into this exercise which helps the horse learn about their rider’s directional aids. Ask your horse to think about the beginning of their turn at the start of the first set of poles — the horse will then know where they’re going by the time the actual turn comes around. This is the first building block for teaching a horse about turning over a fence. Your turning aids are:

    • Eyes
    • Weight into inside heel
    • Left rein closing towards right rein
    • Inside shoulder staying forward

    With this exercise, it’s really important to set up early, else you risk your horse falling out through their outside shoulder.

    Points to be aware of:

    • Maintaining balance and rhythm
    • Eye level
    • Energy levels and fatigue
    • Praise and reward

    More expert training advice from Caroline:

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