#SundaySchool: Jessica Mendoza — how to practise seeing a stride with control

  • Currently based in the Netherlands, Jessica, 23, was a member of the gold medal-winning showjumping team at the 2011 and 2012 pony European Championships. She also won individual silver and team gold at the 2014 junior European Championships, having won team bronze in 2013. Jessica went on to represent Britain at senior level in 2015 and was travelling reserve for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

    Training the stars

    I use this exercise with most of my horses and am finding it particularly useful at the moment for my seven-year-olds I-Cap CL Z and Heat Off The Night.

    This is a good exercise to help keep your eye in to see a stride.

    It also teaches your horse manners, as well as control and balance. After all, related distances are everywhere on a course. It helps horses to learn to adjust their stride in the ring, so they don’t get stuck in the same rhythm.

    Tackling the issue

    1. Depending on your horse’s experience, start with two canter poles placed 18 metres or four canter strides apart on a straight line. Build this up to three poles, each 18m apart (see diagram one below).

    Start by riding four canter strides between each distance, then make it five strides. Play around with alternating the number of strides, too: four strides, then five and back to four.

    Ask someone on the ground to count the number of strides between each canter pole.

    2. When you’ve mastered this, progress to placing four poles on a circle at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock (see diagram two below). Practice altering the striding between poles again. This is harder as you have to ride each one accurately — there’s no room for error.

    3. To increase the difficulty, replace the poles with cavaletti. Do this on a straight line to begin with. Start by swapping the third pole for a cavaletti, then work your way up to changing all three.

    When you do this on a circle, it becomes even more difficult. Only change alternate poles to cavaletti unless you and your horse are experienced and confident.

    Continued below…

    Consider this…

    • Don’t overface the horse at any point.
    • Always make the initial distance between poles and cavaletti four strides, otherwise the exercise is too difficult.
    • If you have a hot, fiery horse, keep the exercise simple and aim to make it as flowing as possible so he doesn’t become overexcited. Therefore, use just two or three poles on a circle and make the distance five strides each time, rather than alternating between four and five.
    • If it goes wrong, go back to walk. If you are on the circle, come out of the circle. Gather yourself and your horse, find a good canter and come again.

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