Getting a bit bored of the usual simple grid, and wanting to move away from jumping courses, I devised this tricky grid earlier in the week to really get the two horses I was teaching with to think about their jumping. The bigger, and older, tends to charge into the fence and use momentum to get over, often rolling a pole with his hindleg. The smaller horse is bold but tends to disregard his rider’s wishes and can lose his canter rhythm before and after.
We began with four trotting poles, then three canter poles on the ground. When my riders warmed up over them I looked for consistency of the trot over the poles, no rushing, and then a clear, positive canter transition into a forwards canter to ensure the canter poles flow. Obviously the bigger horse tried to canter over the trot poles, but then he struggled to immediately go into the big canter required for the canter poles. The smaller one rushed through the trotting poles then ran into canter, but found his stride immediately for those poles.
Once they had both ridden the poles well, without overdoing the poles, I began building the bounces up. I began with the last pole, to a 2’3″ vertical, and it didn’t cause any problems. However, once the second vertical went up we met some problems. The bigger horse snuck in a stride between the first canter pole and the first upright, but managed the bounce, however he was soon forgetting to trot over the trotting poles. To counteract his charging we shortened the approach, and picked up trot closer to the poles. With the smaller horse we had a slight error of miscommunication. As he rushed through the trotting poles his rider was half halting, but when they went into canter his rider forgot to take the handbrake off, which resulted in a couple of run outs. It’s a fine balance, and after addressing the riders position and aids, they managed the two bounces successfully.
Finally, I put all three vertical up. The smaller pony was wrong-footed slightly and ran out because he couldn’t work out what to do, so I made the first bounce smaller, and then they flew through. After riding it again, correcting their straightness, I raised it back to the original height, and it posed no problems. It was nice to see the pony having to think about his job, and listen to his rider, who had to be more definite about his aids. For the older horse, it took a few tries to manage to bounce the three fences. He had to really engage his hindquarters in order to have a powerful enough canter that a little stride didn’t need to be added between jump one and two, and again his rider had to focus on maintaining the trot through the poles without him trying to charge for the fence.
Both horses were exhausted by the end, and it was a really taxing exercise for them. They had to use their hindquarters properly, which will help strengthen them and get them much fitter in time for the competition season. My riders had to think about what they were doing too, so I think the exercise was as mentally challenging for both as it was physically. To extend the exercise next time I could raise the trotting poles slightly so that the horses start to use their backs more, which will further improve their jumping technique.