Riding Your Line

To make life a little more interesting with some of the kids I teach I’ve recently been testing their ability to ride lines towards fences with offset doubles.

With one client I put three fences on a diagonal line, one canter stride apart. With another I had two fences two canter strides apart.

Firstly, we trotted through the line, making sure the rider knew what they were aiming for, and feeling that the pony was staying straight between the poles, so they trotted over the poles at an angle. Next, we cantered through the line until both horse and rider were confident with the exercise.

Next up we began building the fences one at a time. I used cross poles, fairly low, to help centre the rider’s eye. 

Approaching jumps at an angle means horses are more inclined to run out, so we discussed keeping the whip in the hand of the open side, so it could be used on the shoulder to help keep the horse straight if necessary. That leg also needed to be prepared to prevent a run out, and a contact needed to be held in the opposite rein to help keep the horse on the diagonal line. My riders needed to stay committed to their line of jumps, and ride until the take-off point, not presuming that their pony would take over a few strides away.

Being clever ponies, both of them tried to correct themselves so that they jumped the fences perpendicular, but this caused a wiggle between the fences. After a few tries, and being a little bolder over each fence, they managed it. 

When a horse locks onto the diagonal line, the exercise feels effortless, and you can feel the horse’s straightness. It’s very hard to describe, but the art of jumping on an angle makes you acutely aware of any drifting over fences. 

Building the fences to uprights makes it trickier to find a line, and the exercise can be made to simulate cross country fences by turning them into oxers.

The client who was jumping the two stride double let slip that she hated jumping skinnies. So I set her a challenge! 

Riding a skinny fence requires commitment, and riding a line. 

I didn’t have a short jump pole to hand, so I slid the jump blocks in, making the jumpable section of the pole two thirds of the width. They managed it fine! 

We progressed to jumping the skinny at 18″ wide, with neither pony nor rider faltering.

Testing your ability to ride to a fence on an angle, and learning how committed your horse is to jumping on angles, can help get you out of sticky situations cross country, or shave off vital seconds in a jump off.

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