We finally had the follow up to this lesson this week and we made great progress!
I’ve been saving up a new exercise for this pony so that she goes off the aids, not five minutes later.
We began with a double on the ground with a leaving pole. They trotted through it keeping a forwards rhythm and then my rider had to ask for canter over the placing pole. She could then gauge the pony’s reaction and the pony learnt that going when told made the exercise a lot easier for her as the poles flowed in canter.
It took a few repeats for the pony to pick up canter accurately but you could see her beginning to focus more on the rider.
Then I out the first fence up to a small cross. Height wasn’t important, it was just to make the pony think a little bit more about her legs and canter when told to. Again, the first couple of times they tripped over the cross half trotting as the pony ignored her rider’s canter aids. So I suggested my rider became stricter. There’s no time for second chance in a jumping course. When the rider says “let’s go” the pony needed to say “okay!” So that they cleared the fence. The next time around, my rider asked for canter with the whip backing her leg up. The pony went! And cantered through the double nicely.
After riding the canter transitions a bit more forcefully my rider could then back off and ask with just the leg and got a response.
We build the double up to two crosses and two canter poles before the first jump. I’d built the double as a short one stride double but the pony kept creeping in an extra short stride, even though she was in the correct take-off zone. I think this was because her canter was much more balanced, rhythmical, a slightly more engaged behind so the little mare couldn’t make the distance comfortably as her hindquarters weren’t strong enough.
I didn’t want to chase the mare and rush her through the double as I felt it would jeopardise the good approach we were getting.
I changed the exercise slightly so that it was three canter poles to a single cross pole, which forced a rhythm from the pony, worked her hindquarters more than traipsing along, got her off the forehand, yet is easier than bounces which the mare finds difficult.
Again, it took a few attempts to get canter when requested, but the canter was much improved! The bascule was also more correct, with less pull from the shoulders, which helped my rider stay secure in the saddle.
Once this exercise became established and I’d built it up to an upright I took the poles away and we worked on keeping the much improved canter on the approach and after the fence.
The first time the canter lacked power, despite a brilliant rhythm, so there was a refusal. So I reminded my rider to use her leg a couple of strides out so the pony focused on the fence and wound up the canter slightly.
We finished with a beautiful jump out of a really balanced canter, with the pony ready and waiting for her rider’s aids, which she’s been a bit ignorant to previously. Next time I want to revisit combinations and linking fences with the same balanced canter.
“Showjumping is dressage with speed bumps” is a phrase I have on the back of one of my hoodies, and it’s very true. Get a good rhythm and the jumps just happen smoothly.
However, things don’t usually go to plan. Recently I taught a girl and her pony, working on jumping a course with some scary fillers, so that we could focus on riding good lines and linking the fences together smoothly. We had a number of issues to overcome though.
The pony is a bit backwards thinking so can be slow to react to her rider’s legs, which means the canter loses its impulsion quite easily. So they do a lot of opening up the trot and lengthening and shortening strides in the warm up, and when her Mum rides, and try to be consistent and quick to back the leg up with a sharp tap with the stick…
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