Australian event rider Sam Griffiths, who has been based in the UK for two decades, won Badminton in 2014 with Paulank Brockagh. A member of several championship teams, Sam’s best individual placing was fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Training the stars
In the early 2000s, I was competing an advanced horse called In The Groove. He ran out at a skinny fence approached off a turn. I knew that he was totally honest, so I had to find a way to alter the way he looked at a skinny when there was only a few seconds before he was to jump it. It was then I devised this exercise.
With consistent training at home it is possible to solve this issue.
You can even use this exercise to prepare for specific designers’ tracks as you go up the grades. For example, if I’m heading to a French event with a Pierre Michelet cross-country course I’ll build a three-star sized skinny in my arena with the oxer three strides away.
Tackling the problem
1. Build a small skinny fence (approximately 4-5ft wide) across the diagonal. Use
jump wings to prevent a run-out initially and only begin to remove these when your horse is feeling confident and jumping consistently.
2. Approach the single fence on a straight line in a rhythmical canter.
3. Build a fairly imposing oxer four strides in front of the skinny on a 45-60° angle. Place an object, such as a large pot or a jump wing, halfway along the bending line.
4. Jump the oxer in a forward canter, curve around the pot/wing and jump the skinny (still with wings initially), to which your horse will only have locked on a couple of strides out. Approach half a dozen times from each rein, although if your horse is weaker in one direction, jump up to eight times off the weaker rein.
5. Speed up around the turn as your horse gains confidence and experience.
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- This is a training exercise, not a test, so avoid making the skinny too big or so narrow that it encourages your horse to run out.
- Only make the angle tighter or the skinny higher or narrower when your horse is feeling confident.
- If he runs out, go back a step and reinstall the wings on the skinny.
- Put your weight into your heels and focus on having a strong lower-leg position — avoid gripping with your knees. This will make you more secure and less likely to be unseated by the sharp turn.
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