This last week I’ve used a really good pole exercise with quite a few clients and it’s been very useful.
In the centre of our large arena I put four jumps on a twenty metre circle so it almost made a cross.
In my first lesson, with an advanced client, I worked in trot and canter round the circle getting it consistent and rhythmical. Then I built it up with a medium sized cross, and then the opposite cross and then all four crosses on both reins.
My rider found this pretty straightforward, but it was beneficial as her pony usually jumps to the right, and can either chip in or take a long jump so it really helped the consistency of his jumping. Keeping the jumps as crosses ensured she was central and didn`t drift out around the circle.
Once she had mastered this I made the circle a little more complicated. To begin with she rode on the right rein round the circle, and then at one jump (the black and white on to begin with) she had to circle ten metres left upon landing and jump the black and white cross again before continuing on around the right hand circle. This took her a couple of attempts to get her horse balanced and change his leading leg over the jump. The smaller circle tended to be distorted and they fell into trot a couple of times.
We progressed to performing two ten metre left circles on the large circle at opposite ends and then we changed the rein in order to check the evenness of her pony. By the end of the lesson she was riding the ten metre circle over every jump on the large circle, getting a change over the jump 90% of the time. She had to work on not leaning around the corner, as if she was riding a motorbike, but rather use her inside leg to support the pony in order to set him up for the fence again.
The advantage of this exercise was that if she rode a dodgy line or jumped at an angle she had to think quickly and correct herself, and she could continue to practice until she had mastered the exercise. From my point of view, as soon as she`d jumped a good round or couple of jumps I could get her to leave the circle, thus ending on a good note.
Later in the week I used the poles on a circle for my little kids to practice steering and jumping position, and then for a novice jumper to practice looking around her course, and folding and sitting back up quickly, so securing her jumping position and making her more aware of the correctness of her position. When she was out of balance it affected the next jump, and the shape of the circle. As this rider has a tendency to fall in a heap on her horse`s shoulders it was enlightening to her.
The final lesson I used the poles for were a mother/daughter lesson who were learning to jump. Again, they practiced going in and out of jumping position, and over a little cross at the end. This kept their horses steady and stopped them rushing towards the little fence.
All in all, it was a useful exercise to riders of all abilities. I remember doing something similar a couple of years ago, to stop my horse making such a big leap over the poles. My lesson consisted of a circle of four poles on a slant at one end of the school and then two large oxers three canter strides away from the circle. I was amazed at how well circling balanced my horse and got him using his hindquarters so that the larger fences were easy peasy.