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#SundaySchool: How do I maintain control when jumping a combination?

Talented young showjumper Graham Babes explains how he improves his horses’ rhythm and straightness in a sequence of fences

Graham, 21, grew up with horses at the family’s Darwhilling Equestrian Centre in Scotland. He has competed in showjumping since the age of eight, and won team gold at the 2011 pony European Championships and team silver at the 2018 young
rider Europeans.

Training the stars

As my eight-year-old, Glencoe, has an exuberant jump and a big stride, he used to find combinations difficult. He would sometimes drift to the side to give himself more distance between fences. This exercise taught him to shorten his stride and jump more economically over combinations without any interference from me.

The exercise

I set up this exercise in the centre of the arena (see diagram) as it allows you to approach from either rein. The aim is to improve obedience, rhythm and straightness through a combination. It is also extremely beneficial as it helps you concentrate on your own position over the fences.

Tackling the issue

1. Start by building one small vertical fence with V-poles. On the ground, nine feet from the vertical, place a plank on
the landing side.

2. Once your horse understands the exercise, you can add more elements. Place the second vertical eight feet from the plank and, again, add another canter plank nine feet from this second vertical on the landing side.

3. Add a third fence in the same way, but leave out the canter plank after the fence this time. Start with verticals, then change the last element to an oxer. This can be made higher and wider progressively to allow your horse to develop his scope. Only increase the height and width as your horse’s confidence builds.

4. You can adjust the height of the fences to suit your horse’s experience. With the younger horses, I find the V-poles and the canter planks catch their attention immediately, so I prefer to keep the verticals small to allow them to remain relaxed. I want them to focus on their straightness between the V-poles and not to overjump, as that then makes the distance to the canter plank tight.

For older horses, it keeps them athletic and strong without overjumping. It also gives them a change from cantering around a course of fences.

Continued below…

Consider this…

  • Use planks instead of poles. If your horse stands on a pole, it will roll and could cause injury.
  • Be aware of your own position and straightness, so you don’t unbalance or hinder your horse.
  • Approach the gymnastic line off alternate reins as this helps your horse become more flexible on both reins.
  • Only increase the height and width as he builds confidence.

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