One thing I took away from the cross country clinic I did with Otis a couple of weeks ago is that I need to stop backing off a fence when he backs off. I need to attack more so that he doesn’t chip in, and hopefully this will stop him jumping such a steep, high bascule.and make it easier to jump wider fences.
Back in the arena yesterday I decided to set up a row of bounces. With twelve foot between each cross pole I knew it would make Otis stretch between fences and make a shallower, wider bascule. I only used three jumps. Mainly because I ran out of puff shifting all the poles and wings, but also because I had to travel further afield (the jump store) for another couple of poles.
I gave Otis a placing pole a good nine foot away from the first fence and cantered him through the poles to open his stride and get him in the jumping frame of mind. Bounce poles on the ground are quite tricky as the horse needs to put in more effort and almost skip over each pole in order to make the striding. We managed it much more easily in right canter, which is his preference when jumping.
I built the grid up slowly and Otis took to it easily – unlike some, he knows what a bounce is. He had to stretch the first couple of times, but it quickly became easy. I raised it to higher crosses as soon as he became a bit too lazy and complacent. Whilst I want him to stretch, and not go up so high, I do want him to respect the height of the fences. I kept the bounce grid as crosses as Otis was much less likely to back off a cross, than he is an upright. I once taught a pony who easily bounced a grid as cross poles, but as soon as they became uprights he insisted on putting a stride in!
I worked Otis evenly from both reins. The left canter is getting more consistent over fences but when he puts in a lot of effort he tends to change. He did this a couple of times but once or twice he gave a good stretch and landed on his left lead. My friend, and pole putter upper, noticed that Otis jumps bigger from the right canter than the left, which I guess is due to hindleg strength. We finished with an oxer at the end of the bounces to really test Otis. The first time he out the brakes on, gawping as he clambered over the first bounce. But he soon figure it out and jumped the grid really fluidly off both reins to finish.
Jumping bounce grids are a very useful exercise to increase a horse’s agility, the riders suppleness, and also improve the canter by forcing a rhythm and improving the activity of the hindleg.
My next jumping exercise with Otis is going to be on a circle to further improve his jumping out of left canter and his confidence with it. I know he gets frustrated with himself because if I’m jumping a single jump from left canter and he lands on the right lead he shakes his head, slows down, and tries to change his lead!