Tina Fletcher, who has produced numerous horses up through the showjumping grades to international level, shares the first part of her tried and tested system for teaching a young horse to jump.
Here is the process Tina follows with her young horses while they are learning their jumping basics:
1. Start with coloured poles on the floor, building up from one to a row of five approx 1m apart to suit the horse’s natural stride
2. If the horse lacks straightness use tramlines (a pair of parallel poles) as a guide on the approach and after the poles
3. Tina’s young horses do their early training in a snaffle bridle with a running martingale
4. The rider must keep the contact soft and should slip a couple of fingers in the neckstrap rather than catch the horse in the mouth
5. Once the horse is negotiating the trotting poles confidently, introduce a cross pole with a take off and landing rail so the horse learns where to put his feet.
6. Cross poles help channel the horse and encourage him to lift through his shoulder
7. While early jumping should be done from a trot, the horse also needs to learn to canter to a fence
8. Tina likes to introduce fillers once the horse is jumping coloured poles confidently, but always starts with an upright and pulls them out to the side initially so there is a gap to jump through
9. If the horse is spooky keep fences small so he can still jump them easily even if he backs off and loses impulsion
10. Repetition is key but don’t over do it. Tina jumps her youngsters on consecutive days but keeps sessions short and focused