4 exercises to help you ride better lines when jumping

British Eventing National under-18 Coach Caroline Moore shared some of the best exercises for improving rider lines when jumping when she was one of the speakers at The Pony Club Coaching Conference at Hartpury College earlier this month (14 February 2019). Below we explain what these exercises are and how to ride them effectively.

1. Format: Place two parallel poles in the middle of each side of a square. Ride around the square ensuring you come straight out of your corners and through the middle of the poles.
Start the exercise in trot before progressing to canter where you can then count your strides around the corner and down the sides which will help you maintain control.

Points to remember: Sit up tall, look ahead and use both your inside and outside leg to support your horse around the turns. Keep an even rhythm and focus on riding straight down the sides of the square.

What Caroline says: “This exercise works on both straightness and turns and is particularly good for balance. It makes riders aware of a good square turn which is important when jumping and ensures the rider focuses on coming out of turns straighter.”

2. Format: Set up three sets of three or four trotting poles on a serpentine and trot over them from both directions. This exercise works the horse’s gluteal, abdominal, oblique and trapezius muscles and, if done regularly, will really improve their physique and muscle tone.

Points to remember: Always be looking ahead to the next set of poles so you have time to prepare and can ride the line you want. Aim for the middle of the poles.

What Caroline says: “This exercise gives the rider responsibility for their line and teaches a horse to be careful. Have the right energy, be balanced and be patient if your horse wants to canter through the poles, keep riding through it concentrating on your line and let him work it out.”

3. Format: Lie a short pole at either end of the arena with a set of jump wings halfway between the two poles. Ride over the middle of the first pole, through the jump wings and then over the second pole to practise your straightness. Start the exercise in trot and then progress to canter before making the poles into skinny jumps and the jump wings into an upright.

Points to remember: As you ride down the line keep your eye on the final pole/jump to help you maintain a straight line. Stay straight for a few strides after the final pole to ensure your horse learns good habits.

What Caroline says: “With this exercise less is more. Ensure you only use light aids and try not to interfere too much with the stride pattern, focus on your line and the rhythm will come. If you start to deviate from your line use shoulder in to correct yourself.”

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4. Format: As exercise three (above) but add in cavalettis on an off-set angle either side of the upright. Then ride in a straight line over the first two elements before taking a curving line to jump the cavaletti.

Points to remember: Always look ahead, keep an active canter and wait for the fence to come to you.

What Caroline says: “You are your horse’s sat nav, they don’t know where they are going so make sure you tell them before you jump so they are looking at the next fence. Concentrate on your line and your rhythm rather than worrying about seeing a stride.”

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