Of all the common mis-understandings between horse and rider, there are four that stand out, says Jenny Richardson BHSAI, for Pegasus:-
A rider who loses his or her own balance will compromise the balance of the horse, which will affect the horse’s way of going. Whether riding a simple upward or downward transition or over jumps, it may create one or more of the following problems: hollowing, wobbling, wrong bend, wrong canter lead, running or leaning. Ensure your position is central, straight and fluid so that you move as one with the horse and not in any way against him. Simple pointers like not looking down, upright shoulders and stirrups on the balls of the feet with heels down are correct foundations for harmony!
LOOKING DOWN AT JUMPS
Looking down at jumps is an issue that’s most commonly seen when jumping water trays or spooky fillers, as they draw the eye and sometimes catch the rider out, unaware of the mistake he is making.
Side effects of looking down are that if your head lowers, your shoulders and hands will also drop forwards and down.
This may cause the horse to run on to his forehand rather than sitting on his hocks ready to take on the fence.
The best way to judge your take off point is to focus on the highest point of the jump!
Look at the top rail of an upright, or the back bar of an ascending spread.
THE RIGHT PACE
Rhythm is everything in any discipline. It is very common to see riders only schooling at home in a collected canter and then wonder why they are not making the distances in combinations in a show jumping competition or why in dressage that their marks are so low.
In dressage the judges are looking for balanced, expressive big movements and in a jumping competition the course builder is asking you to jump from a medium to forward canter, especially as the fences get bigger.
It is important to train at home in the same canter as that required in the ring. There are brilliant exercises to test your ability to adjust the pace as is needed for whatever you will be doing, such as lengthening along the long sides and shortening through the short sides of your arena.
Never under-estimate the level of fitness needed to be an effective rider. Core strength is paramount together with the stamina needed for the correct heart rate over the period of time required. Should you be struggling for breath or your muscles aching, how can you expect to be able to command the obedience and attention of your horse. A top tip is to pace yourself, allowing breathers at certain points between separate tasks, eventually you will be able to continue longer without breaks. Bad habits can creep in un-noticed, cutting corners is an easy option. Compare it to when you took your driving test and had to be perfect at every point, and then later becoming complacent due to repetitiveness. So be aware and strict with yourself, always looking for new training techniques to keep you on your toes!
Jenny Richardson is Equestrian Centre Business Manager at Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate, a venue that offers luxurious equestrian holidays, including flatwork and jumping training breaks, in the heart of Ireland. Visit www.castleleslie.com