I was in a nit-picky mood last week, so focused one client and her horse on their straightness when jumping. Before Christmas I’d noticed a slight drift over the fence to the right. It was very subtle, and only noticeable if you were stood facing them and looking for it. I’d established that they always went right, and I’d also noticed that the drift was more pronounced in combinations.
I built a grid of three bounces, followed by one canter stride and then a fence. As the drift became more pronounced with multiple fences I hoped that the bounces would highlight this to my rider, and also allow us to strengthen the horse so that she found individual fences or doubles easier and so stayed straight.
Between the last bounce and the jump I laid two parallel poles to make tramlines. This was to refocus my rider after the bounces so that she was definitely central and straight on that canter stride. We worked over the grid with the poles on the floor from both reins, and they were straight as a die. But that wasn’t surprising because the horse is fit and balanced on the flat. The drifting only occurs as she has to put effort into a jump and she pushes asymmetrically from her hindlegs.
Next I built the last fence into a high cross. This was to focus their eye on the middle, and to reduce the drift over the fence. Because the bounce poles were still on the ground their approach was straight, and the tramlines prevented a drift in the last stride. So we added in the bounces one by one.
With all three bounces up we started to see the drift occur. One time they knocked the right hand pole, which is a very visual clue as to the direction and timing of the drifting. They could jump two bounces and stay central, but upon landing on the third my rider had to open her left hand and close the right leg to maintain their line.
Next, I made the cross pole higher and then raised the bounces, which could trigger more drifting, but with careful riding my rider managed to hold her line. She had to keep her left rein slightly open, right rein close to the shoulder, and right leg at the ready to correct any drifting, whilst ensuring she kept her weight even down each leg so that she wasn’t encouraging her horse to drift.
We isolated the drifting to the right as the last stride and over the bigger jump, so I made an A-frame. An A-frame is an upright jump with two slanting poles from the floor to the centre of the jump, making an “A” shape. They can improve a horse’s technique as well as accuracy, but I didn’t want the mare to change her bascule but rather focus on the straightness so I didn’t put the slanting poles too close together or sitting higher than the horizontal pole.
We worked through the grid from both reins, and as you can see in the video below the pair are very straight over the bounces, with a minimal drift right to the upright. However, I think this was partly due to them getting their line to the bounces fractionally left as they actually jump the A-frame centrally. Which means it’s time for me to nit-pick their approaches to jumps!