By Jenny Richardson, BHSAI
Although jumping narrow fences is all about accuracy, control and steering, it is also important that horse and rider trust each other. The horse must trust his rider not to ask too much in terms of his ability and experience, so practice at home or at a XC schooling facility is essential. The following exercise will help you to hone accuracy by building the challenge up gently, without over-facing the horse. Ask a friend or your instructor to help you in the manege.
1.Place two jumping poles on either side of a jumping block or upright barrel, so they are acting as wings. Start with the poles quite wide, but angled slightly towards you, rather than being completely horizontal. Approach positively, with a short, contained canter, and treat the fence as normal – aim for the centre of the fence and look up and ahead.
2.Move the lowest end of the poles towards you, so you are creating a triangle shape, with the block as the point. Your horse has more opportunity to run out as the angle of the poles increases, so work on keeping the horse straight. Widen your hands if required to help ‘channel’ the horse in; approach from a positive canter.
3.Move the ends of the poles closer together, so the angle is more acute – you can now build the exercise up, ultimately creating a narrow approach (4). Bear in mind the horse will be more inclined to run out, so keep your straight line and use lots of leg to give confidence and help the horse to stay on the line. Maintain your contained canter, rather than allowing the horse to flatten.
If your horse is experienced and comfortable jumping in narrow spaces, move on to placing two lightweight, upright wings either side of a barrel, with no pole on top. Start off with the wings further apart, and gradually bring them closer. This is very challenging, as the horse has to trust that this is a safe space to jump through. Approach as above.
This exercise is great practice for the jumping real arrowheads at an event, which will have flags either side of the obstacle, which can help guide the horse in.
Short, broken wooden poles can also be used in place of the long poles, if they are safe to use (as per image below).
If you’d like one-to-one tuition in a holiday environment, investigate Castle Leslie Estate’s fabulous ‘Get Back Your Confidence’ riding trip. Our dedicated team of experts, which includes myself, is here to help guests at the riding centre get back into the saddle.