Ditches can be the problem area for many horses on a cross-country course. Here we try to break down how to train your horse to jump a ditch without any ifs or buts.
1. Slow it down
Whether your horse has never encountered a ditch or is a seasoned eventer, it is always a good idea to approach a ditch in you schooling session in walk. This gives your horse time to read the question and to think about where he is putting his feet. If you canter straight to a ditch they are likely to balloon it and not think about what they are actually doing. This can prove detrimental further down the line when there might be a fence following the ditch and you find yourself on a bad line or stride as a result of a bad jump at the ditch.
So approach the schooling ditch steadily but with your leg ready to support the horse if he tries to stop or avoid it. If your horse wants to have a good look at the ditch that is fine but don’t let him turn around. Always keep him facing towards the ditch and be soft with your rein. If he goes to rush, try to slow it down. Aim to get your horse walking calmly across the ditch every time.
2. Ride straight
In these early stages ride the ditch on a straight line to avoid any confusion. Horses find it difficult to judge where to put their feet when you ride a ditch on an angle. You increase the chances of your horse dropping a leg into the ditch if you ride it on an angle. Although this is not a big problem and they will learn from their mistake, if you have a green or inexperienced horse, it is best to keep things simple at this stage.
Looking to hone your skills with some schooling? How about these?
- Cross-country clinic at Keysoe
- Training with four-star event rider Caroline Moore in Shropshire
- Train with prolific eventer Jeanette Brakewell
- Attend a Tim Cheffings clinic in Devon
3. Don’t panic
If your horse decides he doesn’t like the look of the ditch don’t panic. It is important to keep things calm. Keep things simple and ask the question in the clearest way possible. If your horse won’t go over the ditch, keep him facing towards it and reassure him with your leg. Speed is not the answer here.
Repetition is key. Walk across the ditch turn around and do it again and again until your horse is happy and confident and is maintaining the same walk pace throughout the exercise.
Want to put your schooling to the test? How about these competitions?
- Novice one-day event in Cambridgeshire
- Hunter trial in Lincolnshire
- Horse trials in Northumberland
- Go unaffiliated eventing in Dorset
- Try a mini one-day event in Norfolk
5. Moving on up
Then you can move onto the next step, whether that be trotting across the ditch or introducing different elements such as a rail before or after the ditch.