British showjumper Laura Renwick shares her top exercise for improving balance and strength for controlled turns
During her 13-year professional career, showjumper Laura Renwick, a former winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, has made regular appearances on British Nations Cup teams. She is renowned for producing young horses and for training riders from the Maldon, Essex, base she runs with her husband — former showjumper John Renwick.
Training the stars
I use this exercise regularly with six-year-olds after flatwork and it is excellent for improving their balance and strength and assisting with seamless leg changes. Also, when I’m training riders, it helps them to see a stride off a corner.
I frequently see riders at the lower levels thinking that they are going fast in a jump-off, but at the end of their round they are disappointed to see what a slow time they have notched up.
The problem is that they think speed is a winning formula when their momentum has made economical turns almost impossible. Either that or they slow down to go around a corner and consequently waste time.
The key to winning a jump-off is good rhythm and controlled, tight turns, so you can take the shortest route. Watch the leading riders — they never look like they are going particularly fast, but they record great times. They shave off those extra milliseconds.
However, this can only be achieved with plenty of practice at home. I have used this cross-pole/figure-of-eight exercise for many years to address this issue. It is excellent for improving a horse’s balance and strength, assisting with seamless leg changes and helping the rider see a stride off a corner.
Tackling the issue
1. Place a small cross-pole in the school, initially near the edge so the arena side prevents a young horse from falling out on the corners, and then, in time, move it to the centre.
2. Warm up by jumping the fence a couple of times in a straight line, then approach again in a controlled canter and jump across the fence on an angle.
3. You can start angling the cross-pole on either lead. If you have angled it from the left, you should land on the right lead and circle right, keep up the canter momentum and then angle the fence right on the next approach, followed by a circle left to complete the figure-of-eight, and so on.
4. Start with fairly large circles and carry on with the pattern until they gradually become tighter.
5, Repeat the exercise only five or six times — it is important not to overwork the horse.
The international showjumper talks us through this multi-fence workout which she uses with both her younger and more experienced horses
The international showjumper uses a canter-on-a-circle exercise to help develop balance and control, which can be used in the ring
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- Often the horse will land on the wrong lead leg. If so, get him to change back onto the correct one as quickly as possible.
- Inexperienced riders frequently get in front of the horse’s movement. Sit up, look at the fence as you come around the corner and stay behind the movement.
- Bitting is personal preference, but for young horses doing this exercise full cheek snaffles can offer a little support on the turns.
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