Pony Club Rally

I got to experience being a Pony Club Mum – something all horsey women aspire to!

It was one of my little client's first Pony Club rally. This spring her confidence has soared and she's looking forwards to her first camp in a few weeks time. However with a heavily pregnant Mum, I was brought in to be leader/groom/support party at her first rally.

The pony is a Pony Club pro, but hasn't been out since my client has owned him – about two years – so he walked off the lorry with his eyes on stalks, snorting in anticipation. Although my rider is quite competent at home off the lead, I clipped one on and got her mounted. We walked around, or rather jogged round, while the seemingly hundreds of other ponies were trotting and leaping around. After all it was the summer BBQ rally and everyone was full of end of term spirits. For a newbie though, it was all a bit daunting and we got a bit nervous.

Unfortunately, the excited pony at the end of my lead rein was unsettling my rider. We walked to try and settle him down until the rally got started, but he was definitely a bit on the fresh side.

Our first activity was gymkhana games. Probably not the best decision with a fresh pony! So I resigned myself to doing some sprinting!
The first race was bending and we managed to keep to a steady trot to help our team win, and my rider started to relax a bit, letting go of her grab strap. The second race was ride and run. We broke into canter on our sprint to the end – she sat a buck and I hurriedly brought it back to trot. With my rider sprinting towards home I started jogging back with the pony. Who bronced merrily alongside me to the watching parents horror!

My rider thankfully hadn't seen this acrobatic display and happily got back on, and for the rest of the games her pony decided that he'd expended enough energy for tonight and was perfectly behaved, standing perfectly still while she picked up cups and dropped balls into buckets. She loved the games although I'm not sure who won in the end.

Next up was showjumping. As the pony seemed more settled I asked my rider if she wanted to do the warm up on her own. The lead reins and little ones were warming up together so I felt it would be quiet and safe. She nodded happily, so I stood in the middle with the instructor ready to assist if necessary. I had to bite my tongue a few times when instructors instinct kicked in – "shorten your reins!" "Heels down", those sort of comments. After all, I know how frustrating it is when parents comment from the side lines so I needed to set an example.

They got on well in the warm up, trotting in the small group together and over the pole. When it came to jumping the course I decided it was best to lead my pony and rider. They can jump little courses at home easily, but I was slightly worried that the pony might return to the ride a bit too quickly. I would rather they negotiated the course with me alongside and were safe, and confident afterwards than had a speedy, erratic round that knocked their confidence. The pony was brilliant, and jumped everything nicely from an active trot – although I didn't think I was going to make it around all eight jumps, I'm so unfit!

Pleased with how the jumping had gone, my rider asked me if she could do the final activity on her own. It was the drill ride. I nodded, secretly very relieved, but also pleased that my rider felt confident enough to try riding in a large group alone.

I explained to the instructor that they were perfectly capable but if necessary I would be on the sidelines. I checked that the pony in front of my rider didn't kick. She knows not to get too close, but if there's a choice I'd rather she was behind a non-kicker in case she accidentally got a bit near. It's hard being an instructor and not trying to organise the kids and ponies!
Anyway, I stood well back so I wasn't tempted to interfere, and watched the group of ten, ranging from 16hh horses with 16 year olds to 11hh lead rein ponies with five year olds, learn and ride the drill ride.

I was really proud of my rider holding her own in the group, keeping up and following all the instructions. Riding independently and also being aware of all the others. It's always daunting riding with older and more experienced riders, as well as being in a busy arena, so the fact that her pony was foot perfect and my rider was confident and competent was very satisfying to watch.

After a hot dog and drink, with some new little friends made, we headed off home. My rider had thoroughly enjoyed her first rally and is now very, very excited for camp. I feel more confident in the pony now I've seen him be a perfect gentleman at the rally, and I'm happy my rider will be able to take everything in her stride and have an amazing time. To me, seeing kids have fun and grow as riders is what Pony Club is all about. I'm also now in the Pony Club spirit ready for next week's camp – how exciting!

Using Observations

I had a client riding her Mum’s horse this week, who she hasn’t ridden very often, and hasn’t jumped her for a long time. 

I think she was slightly nervous when we began jumping, a bit worried about the unknown. So we had a discussion about how to create her own set of expectations for riding the unknown.

When you go to ride a different horse, perhaps when viewing to buy, you invariably see it ridden beforehand. By considering your observations, you know what to expect. They may not live up to these expectations, but at least you are more prepared.

In the case of this rider, I asked her what she’d seen, or noticed, when her Mum jumped. She pondered for a minute, until I gave her some hints. Eventually my rider said that the horse she was riding doesn’t rush into fences, sometimes backs off fences and usually chips in a stride. She didn’t think she drifted left or right though.

I totally agreed. The mare is very different to my rider’s usual mount in that she is steady towards fences and prefers to get in too deep. So with the knowledge of the mare’s tendencies, or preferences, we developed a plan for riding the fence. My rider decided that she needed to create a really energetic canter, and have her leg ready to maintain the energy if the mare backed off the fence, and also to keep the handbrake off and be very positive to discourage the last minute chip-in. 

They set off. The canter was energetic, and they had a straight approach. Because my rider was prepared, she was ready to counteract the slight reluctance as the mare calculated the fence. The result was a very rhythmical, positive approach so they had the perfect take off point.

We continued building a grid, and they jumped beautifully. I was very pleased with how quickly my rider adapted to her ride and how she read and reacted to the mare’s canter approach to best support her.

Which led me to thinking. How much can you learn about a horse and their way of going from watching? 

Firstly, you can gauge the horse’s behaviour; are they spooking at a particular area of the school? Do they have their head up and focused in the distance? Are they tense or relaxed?

Then you can look at the way they are going. If the rider is having to use a lot of leg, or has a lax rein contact. This tells you the responsiveness to the leg aids and the level of tension, or likelihood of the horse rushing. Does the horse have a long stride, or is it high-stepping? Do they track up? If they have an active stride, or a short stride, they will feel quite bouncy when you ride. Although this doesn’t help you ride, it helps prepare you for how they will feel.

Although horses are influenced by their riders, by watching a horse working, you can start to make educated guesses as to which rein is easier for the horse, whether they have a tendency to drift left or right, and if there’s any crookedness in their body. This knowledge will make you more aware of any discrepancies between the horse’s reins and then you will be quicker to support and correct them. Having an educated guess as to what to expect will also make you more confident when you get on board too.

So if you know what to look for, and can begin to piece together how a horse looks from the ground, then they are familiar when you first sit on board and you can quickly adapt to them and start to influence their way of going. Of course, sometimes they can surprise you. It’s quite a skill, but try watching some horses at your yard and see if you can work out how they might feel to ride – if you’re lucky you might even get the chance to experience them.

Dressage Camp – Part 2

Canter is an asymmetric gait because it has three beats, and is quite rolling in it’s way of going. This often leads to a horse becoming crooked.

As riders, we ride plenty of circles – or attempts at circles – and in the canter this focus on curves can overdevelop the inside bend and also help crookedness develop. One exercise we did at dressage camp was really useful in addressing this issue.

Instead of riding circles, we rode heptagons, or 50ps. The aim was to ride three or four straight strides, before turning and riding another few strides straight and turning again. Because the turns weren’t that acute, the horses found it slightly easier and were less likely to jack knife around the turns. As they get stronger the heptagon can become a hexagon and a pentagon, and eventually a square.

Riding a 50p focuses the rider on their outside aids, which means less inside rein, less neck bend, and less falling out through the outside shoulder as well as less of a bulge through the rib cage against the outside leg. Then the horse is straighter, which means the inside hind leg will come under further and will take the weight of the horse’s body, so improving the quality of the canter. If the horse is bent too much then they will fall through the outside shoulder instead of the hind leg taking their weight.

The other benefit of riding a 50p is that the inside hindleg is strengthened and made more supple around the turns. It has to come under and towards the horse’s midline in order to make the turn. When it does this, the canter has more push, and becomes more uphill. A lazy inside hind is also activated so the rhythm becomes a more concrete three beats. 

After riding a few heptagons, I found that the canter felt much straighter and engaged. The horse I was riding lifted his shoulders and sat back onto his hindquarters, whilst still feeling very balanced. By not riding a circle, I knew my outside aids were more effective, which also means that it’s a really useful exercise for novice riders who predominantly use their inside rein.

The canter circles after were more balanced and I had a more uniform bend through the horse’s body.

I used this exercise with one of my teenage clients last week, who likes to overuse her inside rein in the canter, and her pony ends up turning his head and neck to accommodate her. After telling me she thought she was riding a 20p, not a 50p (they’re actually both heptagons – I checked as I started this article) she and her pony became straighter, she could feel the inside hindleg coming under and pushing them forwards, rather than out through the outside shoulder as it had done when they were crooked. In terms of jumping, having a canter that more effortlessly propels forward because it’s straight, means that jumping is more straightforward and effortless, and hopefully more successful.

So have a go at some canter not-circles and see if you can feel the improvement in the quality of your canter. 

The Importance of Straightness 

The trainer at dressage camp last week was saying that he doesn’t use the Scales of Training when teaching because he feels that straightness is way up near the top of the Scale, when actually it is paramount in being able to establish the basic rhythm, suppleness and contact.
Which made perfect sense to me. Although I wouldn’t ignore the Scale because it is an excellent baseline and system of referral for riders, I’m glad I’ve heard someone else say that they don’t think the building blocks are in the correct order and we should pay more attention to the aspect of straightness.

The Rubber Curry Comb

Straightness comes quite high up in the Scales of Training, but I feel it is often overlooked with novice riders, which can often cause problems later on in their training, or cause injuries due to over stressing a limb.

I wouldn’t expect a child or novice rider to be able to straighten a horse, and correct them very easily, but I would want them to be aware of what straightness is in it’s most basic form.

Firstly, it’s important to understand the importance of riding evenly on each rein, and changing diagonals whilst hacking to help the horse develop symmetrically. A horse with even muscle tone is more likely to travel straight. Straight being when the left hind foot follows the path of the left fore foot, and the same with the right limbs.

Lessons and guided schooling usually instils this to riders quite easily.

Another area I like to…

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Dressage Camp Part 1

Last weekend I took a client’s horse to a two day dressage camp. I felt I needed inspiring, could do with the motivation, and this particular horse has some issues (that isn’t really the right phrase) that I could do with some helpful suggestions to improve and I also knew I’d be able to apply my learnings to other horses that I ride. 

The weekend’s learning was split however I preferred, so I opted for a forty-five minute private lesson on each day. It was really interesting in the first session because this trainer picked up on exactly what I wanted to work on. Sometimes I think I’d be difficult to teach because I have quite specific aims for a lesson, but other times I think I’m probably quite easy because I’m focused.

Anyway, the main focus for the weekend was straightness and creating a true connection over the back. Whilst not particularly crooked, this horse often falls through his outside shoulder and avoids stepping under with his inside hind, and carries his quarters fractionally to the right.

The trainer immediately asked if the horse hollows in downward transitions, to which my answer was a resounding yes. He raises his head and blocks his back so doesn’t step under with his hindlegs. 

There are three phases of the hindleg movement in the transitions, I was told; the time it is in the air, moving forwards; the time it is underneath the horse’s body; and the time it is out behind the body. This horse tends to spend more time with his leg out behind the body, which means he isn’t carrying himself on his quarters and won’t be able to collect, but he also is unable to push into the transitions easily. 

So the aim of the game over the weekend was to alter the balance of this horse so that he spent more time with his hind leg underneath him, in a springier, bouncier trot.

One exercise we did to help improve the activity of the hind legs is shown in the video below. In walk I spiralled down onto a ten metre circle, and then asked the shoulders to come in slightly and the hindquarters to go out, so riding leg yield on the circle. The trainer assisted from the ground as this horse found it tricky initially and blocked his inside hind. We did this exercise predominantly on the right rein as it is this way that his hindquarters sit to the inside and he escapes to the left shoulder. So the exercise worked on his suppleness through the rib cage, straightening his neck, and teaching him to bring his inside hind under his body more. The difference in his trot when I straightened and rode out of the circle was incredible. His hind legs were like pistons firing the energy up and forwards so the trot was very balanced, effortless, and straight – there was a leg at each corner and I didn’t have to worry about him wobbling out. Once he was carrying himself like this it was easier to work on the bend and engagement of his topline, but that’s another post! 

All About Control

I did this pole exercise earlier this week to get my clients thinking about their level of control.

When I laid out the exercise I could see a level of complacency in the simplicity of the exercise. However, looks can be deceiving!

The exercise started with two poles as tram lines, to focus on straightness. A couple of strides away, there were three trotting poles. A couple of strides after that was another set of tramlines. After another couple of strides, were three canter poles.

The aim of the exercise was to make a good, accurate turn to the tramlines (this highlights any cheaters who drift around corners) and create a balanced, elevated trot over the poles before riding a canter transition in the next tramlines. This ensures the horse doesn’t drift through the transition and illustrates any preference over canter leads. The transition needs to be immediate and active so that the canter is of good enough quality for the poles. The aim is to improve the quality of the canter transition, the accuracy of the rider’s preparation and execution, and for the rider to very quickly be able to change it if it isn’t good enough for the poles. 

By turning into the exercise from both reins you can see which way is weaker. One horse I did this with tends to drift around corners on the left rein, so his shoulders didn’t turn enough to meet the tramlines and thus he struggled to start the exercise straight. When his shoulders were turned sufficiently, he compensated by swinging his haunches out. Of which is going to be worked on next week!

The trotting poles looked after themselves, so the next question was the canter transition. With straightness enforced, horses can initially run through the transition to make it easier but once horse and rider get the feel of it the hindquarters should be more active through the transition and the shoulders lift. As the canter poles are almost immediately after, the rider has to be quick to balance the canter so the horse either has enough energy for the poles, or hasn’t flattened the canter so they won’t make the poles.

Once my riders had mastered this exercise, and the ponies improving their canter, we turned it around. They had to approach in canter, canter over the poles and between the tramlines, make a trot transition ready for the trot poles. This was the tricky part!

The canter poles were fine, and the first tramlines helped create a very straight canter. However, the ponies got a bit onward and it took my riders by surprise that they couldn’t bring them back to trot in time. First of all, I got them to prepare for the transition earlier. Even whilst going over the poles they needed to be preparing. This helps create impulsion because they had to find the balance between maintaining enough energy for the poles, without generating too much speed. 

Next up, my riders needed to think about how they ride the transition. They were jamming on the handbrake, so the ponies just beared down on the rein. They needed a series of half halts, to keep their core engaged and upper body tall, with heels dropped in order to be more effective in the downwards transition. And be committed to achieving that transition – just because they love their pony doesn’t mean that their pony is allowed to ignore their aids.

Of course, once they have achieved the downwards transition, and quietly asserted their authority their pony will be far more obliging next time. 

This means that our on the cross country course they are more able to bring their ponies back to a more collected canter in preparation for a skinny, ditch, corner, or any other tricky fence, without losing the energy and the pony’s desire to jump.

All in all, an exercise of multiple levels, which improves accuracy and control, as well as improving straightness and quality of the gaits – particularly if the poles are then raised. 

Turning Horses Away

Today was a big day for Otis. He moved from his individual paddock, of medium size and of fairly flat ground, to a small herd of retired geldings in a large field on a gentle hill. As the vet recommended turning him away for a few months to allow the sidebone to completely settle down I made a big decision.

I didn`t think it was very fair on Otis to be turned away in his individual paddock. He`d be isolated and I would feel it necessary to bring him in and groom him a few times a week to break up his days and provide some stimulation for him. Which would mean that I would be more aware of his level of soundness and be more tempted to bring him back into work when he was sound. Furthermore in his individual paddock he’d need poo-picking, feed and hay every day. Which, as selfish as it sounds, is a chore when you get very little back in terms of riding. Plus my summer is looking pretty hectic so I needed to work out how to best balance things out.

Then I was talking to a friend who has his retired gelding (who used to be Otis’s field mate a couple of years ago) in a small herd and it came to me. If Otis was to spend a few months there it would be a far more natural environment with social stimulation for him. The field is more interesting and I hope the gentle slope will keep him fit and there’s high hedges for shelter, and plenty of grazing for him. The deal there is that the horses are checked twice a day and fed a small hard feed each morning by the yard, and they maintain the field. Which means that whilst I’m struggling with the feeling that I’ve abandoned Otis, this arrangement has taken the pressure off me for the summer and means I’m not tempted to bring him back into work for a while. Which is the best thing for both of us at the moment. Then I can just go and see Otis a couple of times a week, give him some attention and fuss, and enjoy being around him without the frustrations of him not being rideable. Then hopefully in the autumn he will be ready to come back into work. 

What are everyone’s thoughts on turning horses away? 

I’ve always thought that it can either be good or bad for horses. I don’t always like the sudden change for horses, particularly eventers, who go from a full on competition schedule to being left in the field twenty four-seven. It just strikes me as going from one extreme to the other. However, for some horses it can be very beneficial to their approach to work.

If you’ve struggled to establish a rapport or the ground rules with a horse, perhaps one who has had a bad start to life or is very nervous or boisterous, then turning them away may not be the best idea as you can take a few steps back in their training and confidence levels. In which case you’d be better off keeping their routine but reducing their workload: perhaps fewer sessions a week, more hacks than schooling, or some ground work/desensitisation work instead of physical exercise. So you are continuing their education lightly and maintaining your relationship with them. Then perhaps when they are a bit more mature mentally, they would benefit from a short, complete break.

I do think that it’s important to have the right facilities to turn a horse away, especially a youngster who needs to hierarchy of a herd to make them toe the line. Large fields with a variety of terrain, forages, well matched groups, which will provide the most natural environment for them and allow them to just be horses are very important. Some yards can’t cater for this, in which case it may be worth doing what I’ve done and moving him; or keeping the basic daily routine of coming in the same and reducing the workload so they don’t get too bored and get into mischief because of lack of stimulation.

Why do people turn horses away?

The traditional sense of turning horses away is during the winter they are three – so they’ve been backed, begun their education, and then are allowed to reflect on their learning whilst also maturing.

Alternatively, competition or hunt horses are roughed off in the off season so that they can physically and mentally recover from the season. 

For most amateur rider owners, their horses are in light work, so there isn’t necessarily the need to turn them away for long periods. If their workload is varied – hacking, dressage, jumping – then they are unlikely to become stale. In which case giving them easy weeks every so often, where they have the week off or just hack for a few days, can be just as beneficial for the horse, and means yours or their routine isn’t disrupted too much. 

Earlier I mentioned that hunters are often roughed off to allow them to recover physically from the season. Time does seem to be the best healer, and I’ve come to the conclusion that when vets are involved in treating a horse for an injury they often neglect to suggest field rest. They prescribe box rest and then introduction to gentle work, increasing the work load over a couple of months until the horse is back in full work. Obviously you can’t go straight from box rest to complete turn out, but it would be nice to hear vets prescribe a slow transition (depending on the time of year) from box rest to field rest and then a few months of total field rest to allow the horse to recover completely before bringing them back into work. If I could go back in time, after Otis’s box rest I would have increased his time in the field without walk work. As it was November I’d have kept him stabled at night until February or March, and then turned him out completely for a couple of months before bringing him back into work. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Regardless of your facilities and opinion on turning horses away, I think they can all have mini breaks – like a half term holiday – to let them recharge, and if you can provide a stimulating, natural environment for them to have a longer break then they can also benefit from this. The worst scenario I feel, is a horse being turned away and is out all the time but with no company or space to roam. I hope Otis settles into this new routine and enjoys his time in a herd. Certainly when I left him he was wrapped up in a mutual grooming session.

Rising Prices

There’s been a lot in the news recently about the pay cap on public sector workers, particularly firefighters after the recent Grenfell tragedy. 

I’m not going to get involved with it as politics isn’t my strong point, but with the cost of basic living always rising it makes sense that wages have to follow the trend.

Which brings me onto equine businesses and changing prices. Business rates recently rocketed, hitting livery yards hardest. But unfortunately for them, you cannot raise livery prices in line with this because the rest of the country’s economy hasn’t changed in a similar fashion.

I always think that in order to raise your prices, be it livery, forage, lessons, facility hire, you need to be able to justify it. Take me, for example, now I have a higher teaching qualification I think I can justifiably increase lesson prices. If you are investing in new facilities or updating current ones then there is also room to increase fees. 

Unfortunately there are a lot of hidden costs in the equine industry, which is why things are generally expensive. For me, hidden costs include petrol, insurance, PPE, website costs, professional development. For yards, hidden costs can include ongoing maintenance, insurance, business rates, staff wages, machinery maintenance. So when there’s a sharp increase in one of the hidden costs it can make clients feel that price hikes are unfair. But you can be honest, and without going into specifics, tell them that the reason you are having to put up your fees is, for example, because of the increase in your insurance premium. Or whatever the reason is. I think that when people know why they are being charged more they are more accepting of the situation. Which ultimately leads to happier clients and a more respected business.

I also think that if a price rise is imminent then it’s also worth checking that your standards haven’t slipped. You can’t justifiably increase your fees if you continue to be late to lessons, or if the standard of service is deteriorating. That’s when people will get unhappy and start grumbling. People need to feel that they get value for money, and if they feel that they currently get good value for money then they will be more accepting of increased fees.

I’ve been giving my prices a lot of thought recently, particularly with my ITT exam. They haven’t changed since I set up my business three years ago. Well, last year I increased my clipping fees to stay in line with others, and because I had a new pair of clippers. Which means I can do a better job. 

But how do you go about changing price lists without disrupting your business? I always think client loyalty should be rewarded, and you have to balance out whether you are better keeping your prices the same and having a client have weekly lessons, or by putting your prices up and meaning that they then have fortnightly lessons. So long as you can fill that space then financially you haven’t lost out. But it’s a risk you take. Halving the number of lessons someone has is also detrimental to their education which may be catastrophic if they’re a nervous rider or on a green horse. So out of loyalty and respect for your clients it’s worth bearing that in mind. If you are a livery yard and put up prices then you risk owners doing favours for each other rather than using your services, which could affect your income.

There is also a question of how much to raise prices by. I always think there should be notice given to price changes of at least a month to allow families to budget. I also don’t think you should raise prices drastically, for example more than 10%. It’s a far softer blow to have two incremental price rises over three years than a large jump, which will upset the apple cart and risk the stability of your business. Plus, you don’t want to look greedy!

Equestrianism is already seen as elitist, so making yourself unavoidable to the amateur rider only does a disservice to the sport.

I think it’s also worth considering just changing the prices of one area of the business. So if facilities have changed, or equipment improved then you could justifiably increase prices for that area. Going back to my ITT exam; a higher teaching qualification could mean I’m better off just increasing lesson prices, and leaving schooling fees as they are. Which would only affect a portion of my business, meaning it’s probably more affordable for clients and less of a business risk to me. As a livery yard, if you have invested in new jumps or a cross country field then you could justifiably increase hire fees.

There’s lots of different elements to consider, and various ways to make the pill easier to swallow. I’ve altered my price list on my website for new clients, but am not changing current client prices at the moment. I do think all businesses should think carefully about the ways and means of changing fees. Which have to change as inflation, wages and living costs rise, but it should be done sensitively so that the business carries on running smoothly and clients continue to be satisfied with the quality of service they receive.

Only a Short One …

This is only a short post because I’m tired from dressage camp and still have a lot of unpacking and organising to do.

Dressage camp was at a large centre with an excellent cross country course so yesterday afternoon a friend and I went for a leg stretch around the cross country course; walking through the water and generally building up the bravery of the horses. 

The Diva, that I was riding, started off by mincing through the water, and shying ten foot from, with eyes on stalks, the ornamental camel, but with time he was trotting confidently through water and even gave the camel a kiss!

This morning we decided to actually go cross country. Yes, I know it’s a dressage camp, but it would have been rude not to given that the facilities were there. The ground is exceptionally hard at the moment, so I decided to only do little fences, and concentrate on the ones around the water and on all surface tracks. The aim being to give the horses a break from dressage, to have fun, and to build their confidence around the water and with steps and ditches. 

Which we did. There was a lovely selection of small fences around the water complexes and on the tracks. The horses felt great and The Diva even jumped into the water and cantered up a step the other side very happily.

Afterwards, we were talking to the owner of the centre and he had some gems of knowledge to share.

Currently he is trying to put people off from coming cross country schooling because the ground is so hard, but he thinks they’re busier now than when the ground conditions were ideal. Perhaps not good business sense, but good horse sense.

He went on to say that the main test in eventing is the width of the fences. Most horses can jump the height required, but few can jump the width required. Take for example, at BE100 the maximum height is 1m, but the maximum spread at the bottom is 1.8m, and 1.1m spread at the top of the fence. Here comes the facts. When jumping on hard ground, horses are more likely to jump with a steep bascule, i.e. up and down with very little distance covered. On landing, they don’t like putting their forefeet down first or opening up at the shoulder and thus loading their heels, so they tend to land steeply.

This obviously doesn’t have such an effect over little fences, but if you consider the competition rider training on hard ground then they will be changing their horse’s jumping technique which will mean they aren’t as economical with their gallop as they shorten their stride, and will lose time as they aren’t jumping the spreads out of a flowing stride. Additionally, they may lose confidence with the spread fences because they don’t want to take a longer bascule, or they associate it with jarred limbs.

So whilst it’s never been advised to do a lot of jumping on hard ground because of concussion risks, it’s interesting to know how it affects the mechanics of jumping and goes to show that it could actually be more detrimental to your competition performance by training over hard ground than by substituting it for some other training on a surface.