Get kitted out
Before you start jumping, it’s important that you and your horse are correctly kitted out. You’ll need an up-to-standard riding hat and gloves, and it’s worth considering a professionally fitted body protector, too. It’s important that your horse’s tack is comfortable and fits him well. He may also benefit from wearing boots to protect his legs, and reduce the risk of knocks and scrapes.
A winning warm-up
Before you start jumping, it’s vital to warm up properly to get your horse listening and prepares his muscles for work, reducing the risk of injury. Ride lots of circles and transitions, both between and within the paces, to make sure he’s paying attention. This also helps to create adjustability and balance, which are very important once you start jumping.
Being able to get the correct number of strides between fences is a vital skill, particularly when you’re jumping a course. To practise, set out two poles four strides apart and ride through them in canter, aiming for a balanced, even rhythm. Once you can consistently achieve the four strides each time you ride through the poles, aim to extend your horse’s canter so you can get three strides, then collect it so you can fit in five.
Gridwork is great
Gridwork is your best friend when you’re trying to improve your jumping technique. It’s a good place to build your horse’s confidence, as it’s easy for him to understand what you’re asking. Build a simple grid of three fences with two strides (10–11m) between each, and put a placing pole three metres in front of the first fence to help your horse take off in the correct place. Start with the fences as poles on the ground – trot over them a few times, then try again in canter. Once your horse can canter over the poles in a balanced rhythm, turn them into small cross-poles one-by-one, starting at the end of the grid. Don’t add in another fence until your horse is confident with what you’re asking, then gradually increase the height.
Don’t be tempted to put the jumps up straight away. It’s much better, and safer, to keep them small and work on improving your technique, rather than jumping a height that you’re not prepared for. Once you’ve perfected your position and your horse is jumping confidently and correctly, gradually increase the height of the fences at a pace that suits both you both – a knock to your confidence could set you back.
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