Joanna Johnson, Emma Jones and Fran Dark accompanied their parents and Miss Hall to the Hand Stadium for some indoor Show Jumping practice on Friday evening. Jo and Emma were riding their team horses Sham and Elton, while Fran brought her new horse, the lovely Fly, to the training session.
It is often said that from little seeds big acorns grow and it only takes a quick look at how much the girls have improved over the course of the last 18 months to know that this is true. The group environment of being coached and watching others being coached is invaluable and it’s a shame so many of our events have been cancelled this year due to the rain.
Emily’s top tips!
Obedience is crucial in the show-jumping ring. Essentially your horse must go where you want him to go and do what you want him to do, when you want him to do it. Your horse must learn to wait, between hand and leg between fences. If possible, use your upper body weight instead of your hand to shorten and lengthen your horse’s stride and speed. You can practice this by getting your horse to lengthen and shorten in the school.
Warm up in trot and canter. The majority of your jump work will be done in canter, so you need to think about how you can improve your horse’s obedience and technique in his canter. To jump a course of fences, your horse needs to be supple and so warming up is important. Riding your horse alternatively in the canter with firstly an inside, then an outside bend and incorporating leg yield, so he responds to your leg commands the instant you put them on and ask him to move away will help with obedience and suppleness. You can use canter circles, moving him forward then bringing him back to keep him listening. Stop and start him on those canter circles and try spiralling in and out in the canter, moving him in and out of the circle with your leg. Once he feels warmed up in the canter, you can ask for counter counter which is a great suppling exercise in preparation for show jumping. It helps you as the rider to get control of both the inside and the outside of your horse’s body. Also incorporate some halts. Get him to come back to you, using your upper body weight to halt him, not your hands and reins. Ensure he stops square beneath you each time you halt and is ready to move off at your lightest command. Once he is listening, can hold his rhythm and is taking you forward, then you can start to incorporate some fences.
Sit tall when approaching a vertical and squeeze – do not push. If approaching a double of verticals, keep body upright going into the fence, then squeeze to get the second part, holding your horse between hand and leg. If you push you will only flatten and your horse will knock off the top rail. If you find yourself going in too fast, just sit back – don’t be tempted to throw your horse at the fence.
…oxer or parallel
Approach an oxer in the same way as a vertical. It is important to ride forward when landing after an oxer and to drive your horse forward into your hand, keeping your rhythm. Keep your focus on the next fence.
…moving up the heights
All you can do as the rider is present your horse to the fence level, to the centre of the jump, balanced between hand and leg and in control. After achieving this you can then progress from 80cm to 1m to 1.20m and higher as long as you keep this principle the same. If presented correctly, you will find that the height makes no difference to the horse. The higher you jump, the more the horse will learn to balance himself better, meaning that you as a rider will have less to do. Another tip is to occasionally practice a higher level at home than what you will be expected to jump at your event. If you have entered a BE90, then practice jumping, mastering and feeling comfortable jumping a few 1m courses at home, that way when you get to your competition and walk your show-jumping course, you will feel confident in both you and your horse’s ability