The required tempo of the canter will wary and depend on the height of the jumps and individual power of the horse but for all average horses with average jumping talent the key to efficient jumping is how the rider rides the canter in corners and turns immediately prior the actual jump.
When I say efficient I mean riding in such way that looks after all structures of the horse: muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons. Turning sharply to a jump, allowing an unbalanced, forehand heavy canter when jumping, sitting heavily on a horse or letting it lean in or fall out in the corners all have its price even if the poles stay put…
Riding a good turn to a jump is not as easy as it often seem and if you watch show-jumping shows you will notice that the riders who rides their corners and turns well is usually the one with sounder and more supple moving horses.
Today I’ll share with you a simple exercise that you can try at home and which can literally transform your approaches and jumping style in a few months of regular practice.
Start with walking 21m line one way and 21m way the other way so they cross in the middle. At each end of your imaginary lines place one cone. You will then ride on the inside of the cones.
Your mission is to ride each quarter of the circle with your horse bending gently around your inside leg whilst putting a lot of emphasis on eye-body steering i.e. you look around to the next cone and the next cone as you circle so the horse isn’t over – steered and over-directed but starts to tune in to your pelvis and upper body position as well as weight distribution in your body that follows direction of your eye contact. This is very important when jumping as you will be paying attention to leaving the horse’s head alone to some extent.
I find this exercise is of great use with riders who want to jump but are a little weary of leaving the ground. They often ride with quite tense and restricting hand when approaching the jump, trying to ride every inch of the horse and every centimetre of the stride. This sort of jumping will usually only work for very confident rider with very good eye for distance who can place the horse accurately at every jump. This style takes away horse’s choices altogether and is rather useless for nervous or novice jumper.
You want the horse to be an intelligent partner in your jumping adventures and he must be able to have freedom of its head and neck at all times. The cones circle exercise takes some of the rider’s attention from the horse to the task. It helps to teach directing the body of the horse with power of intent rather than millions of aids.
When jumping, I also ask the rider to ride every turn to the jump as part of the circle as they recall from the exercise which helps the rider stay on top of the impulsion, engagement and relaxation at each stride.
Practising trot and then canter (in full seat, half seat and rising canter) between the cones improves feel for rhythm, concentration and ability to focus rider’s eyes on an object while continuing to ride effectively.
If you try this (or have tried it already) do let me know how it went and if you found this helpful 🙂