Event rider Georgie Spence explains how performing bounces on a curve can teach a horse to be quick and neat over a fence
I have used this exercise — two sets of three bounces on a curved line — a lot over the years. Jumping horses need to be agile, regardless of whether they are showjumpers or event horses, and this exercise teaches them to be tidy over fences.
It’s really important that the rider keeps the horse between hand and leg, and on the line you choose (inside, middle, or outside line of the curve).
The exercise encourages the horse to use his back end and push off from the ground evenly. Being accurate as a rider — staying upright in your body, not tipping forward on to the shoulder and staying in balance — are key to this exercise’s success.
1. Set up two sets of three bounce poles on a slight curve. I don’t set out a specific distance between the two sets of bounces, but my arena is 30m wide, so it is normally about five strides.
2. For young and inexperienced horses, you can start with poles on the floor and then progress to small fences. My four-year-olds do poles on the ground to begin with and then I raise the poles gradually, starting with just the middle pole to the first hole on the wings, and progress when they are ready.
3. When the poles are set up as bounce fences, I have the outside of the pole four or five holes higher than the inside of the pole to encourage the horse to use the outside hindleg as much as the inside. The more experienced horses would have it at about 50 to 60cm on the inside and 70 to 80cm on the outside.
4. You want the horse to canter in and over the poles or fences, keeping a good rhythm and jumping smoothly, not launching or rushing. They should give themselves time to assess the exercise and jump quietly. They need to be agile, but not over-jump the first pole and end up getting themselves into trouble.
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Tips and pitfalls
● To make the exercise more difficult, you can practise riding an inside line on four strides, middle line on five and outside line on six strides.
● The rider has to be very accurate to keep the horse on the correct line.
● Don’t let the horse fall out through the shoulder — use your outside leg and rein contact to keep him straight and on the correct line.
● Remember, this exercise is tiring for the horse, so don’t overdo it and give him plenty of breaks.
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