Equestrian Coach and Equine Services Australia

This month's exercise .

Keep riding over those raised rails, you will get the feel more like a jump than just poles on the ground. Have a play with the length of the canter, regular rhythm , slightly decreasing ,look away as you approach. You can angle, turn back lots of fun playing with the canter. 


As always I spend a lot of time in the pr area watching or riding. I see so many people not prepare themselves well. Everything seems to put them off, the small area the jumps moving up too quickly,horse inattentive. Watch the best riders and you will see they look like they are not in a hurry. I can tell you they might be but they don't look like it and as a consequence the horse does not feel the pressure. Less is better, don't overtrain in the pr area.Horse get confused and riders become agitated of courses.Allow time to reflect before going into the ring and make sure you watch the one before you go to make sure you are ready.Muttering is fine too.

Any month a tip is good.

To learn is hard. Most riders become fustrated when the horse doesn't 'get it'.

As your experience enlarges you will find the horses 'get it' much better. That is because you become better at the priorities and more consistent with position.

A rider said to me recently' I cannot remember about my eyes ,my hands and my legs hen I am coming in to a jump' when I asked for an explanation about what was happening. I said 'absolutely right you cannot'.One thing at a time, the more your skills become automatic(you do not even have to think about them)the more you can take on.A beginner or novice rider has a narrow skill level so keep to the  basics of the jumping.Approach line, pace , jump and departures. The rider is the horse's  teacher so  small increments are best.Give yourself a small number of things to do have a go,pull up and think about what was good and what needs to be refined  then have another go. If you are learning make sure you take short breaks because it it hard to keep control of everything without frequent breaks.

When the horse understands they will happily have a go. Now when the it is time for the horse to go regardless of wether the jump looks spooky or big etc the rider must be positive and ride the horse over the jump not just to it.Many a refusal happens because riders think oh yes all is ok and some horse need their riders to be positive all the time or  only some of the time. Positive shows up in everything you do, leading the horse moving their feet and accepting prompt responses to aids. The rider being firm and fair some need leg at every fence some need steady rein pressure and quiet with the leg. ANY weak jump must be followed up with a stronger leg or canter or both.



Contact, the rider is the one who decides what is acceptable regarding how much weight there is in the rein.This can only be achieved by using both leg and hand with the seat thrown in the middle to connect it all.  When the weight changes from steady to light/nothing ,the rider needs to push the horse forward then close the fingers and check to see if  the back legs are working actively enough and you will have some weight in the rein,steady not heavy..When the horse is heavy the rider needs to activate the hind legs  with more sideways/lateral exercises to ask the horse to carry their own head and shoulders. When the lateral movements are decent the horse will be light,if they are not then while asking for the sideways movement keep half halting to make the stride go up more and not down and faster..If the horses' head goes up and down then keep using pushing quietly using your half halts until some positive response occurs.coming into the jumps don't be conned ,think the same. 


Push yourself sometimes turn shorter and shorter but not go faster.That is a challenge in itself. Learn to breathe when you go fast, do not get tight and tense. The best riders almost look like they are cruising and not doing much. The busier the rider looks the less the horse is thinking for itself. 

I like to practice this type of thing(short turns) over poles, invent angles. Then when your horse is following you well that is moving forward through the turn start with raising the heights. 

Angles are good for accuracy just ask an eventer.Try some 3m length poles.Even on the ground they are more challenging. 


I like to watch horses going around and because I am a competitor I know what is happening because I have done it and mucked it up same as everybody else.

I see riders worrying about take off spots too much . Lots of teachers talk about too soon to their students. Learning to feel what canter you have is better. 


Put two jumps up on a curve approx 6 strides apart . First put the rails on the ground between the wings/drums and canter back and forth, jump the first one then circle before the 2nd  and  canter over the 2nd fence and start again. Every time the horse puts it head in the air becomes unbalanced circle after each fence, if all goes well keep going on the curve.Always think about your departure, where do I want to go to be ready for the turn etc. 

Raise the fence to 60cm and repeat. You can ride from both reins on a big circle.

 Once you have  control of the pace and the balance you can think about focusing on the stride numbers. The right number of strides is nothing without the two former.

Height wise you can play with as much as you like up to your level. The aim is to get the horse to wait and follow smoothly throughout. Starting out low, allows all the issues about freshness, bit rusty get out of your system before you get serious about the size of the jumps. If you jump whist the horse is resisting and strong your timing will not be as good and you will be teaching the horse what you don't want it to do. Must have the positives working for you.


An exercise I have had fun with was from a George Morris video. Once you get warmed up and  your horse is past being tough to canter around on. pick two jumps and alternate  your approach. One  more open next one little waiting. And repeat, repeat repeat until you can be sure you are approaching the fence how you want. Quite interesting result from your horse I think you will find. One thing, please be particular about your corners. 


Depends on how much room you have,you should have a try at what you find the hardest at a competition. Many years ago I had a mental block about a certain set of distances.I set up the line at home and I jumped until I could say I was comfortable.Height wise start smaller and build,you may not get to the height you want for a couple of sessions but you will get there.  In those days coaching was limited and coaches did not attend competitions. YOU need to think and bury yourself in the whys and where for's, then get out and have a go. Learn to be a good critic.Make sure you give yourself a balanced view of the situation.2 positives to one negative at the least. Glossing over the gaps doesn't do you any favours. Acknowledging the area that needs work is the first step to help work on it. Having a someone to talk to is essential. As long as the person is supportive not gushing in the positive or too negative. Hard to find you might think. But I am reminded of the line in the first Crocodile Dundee movie.Dundee and the rich newpaper girl are at a party, meeting and greeting. The girl describes the person Dundee has just met as troubled,and a shame she has to spend a lot of time with her 'shrink' sorting out her problems. Dundee  replies with 'doesn't she have any friends'? No one better to talk to then someone who is trying to do the same thing.You may need to go and jump at the local pony club ground and move jumps around but putting effort in comes back to you in the positive.


I have a flat exercise ,serpentines.They sound easy but .

In a 20m x 60m arena you can ride three 20m half circles. You must change bend and flexion , and diagonal ,slightly before and across the centre line so you are ready for the new bend and half circle.

The change of bend comes up quickly in an arena. If you are in a paddock with more room you can take a slightly larger half circle and add more. We managed 6 half circles in my paddock. After a couple of serpentines you can add the counter bend. If you start on the left rein you keep the left bend even though you change circles. It makes the horses work the outside rein better with the rider using the outside leg to direct the horse's shoulders more.Faults to look out for; are too much bend in the horses neck,slowing down and the rider twisting their body to the inside. YOu need to feel you are pushing the shoulders around.



I often ask what does it take for you to feel ready to go to the show and at the pr fence. Always remember that one. That said the combination needs to do enough so they feel 'ready'. So the only way to find out is by finding out for yourself.

I enjoy the circuit and bump days where I jump little fences and funny angles trot and canter no pressure on distances just mucking around. Jumping lines,some horses take a couple of days jumping before they are ready otherwise they are too strong.

The big problem I see with training is the fine line where the rider wants to insist  and when they should and  stop go back a step or two or three.

The words are MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR HORSE AND START AGAIN' The start means ;start with simple things and if possible progress.Maybe it won't happen today or the next or the next . Chip away please, you and your horse will be better off. it is a tough one. The more experience you have you the more you see the problem from the horses point of view. 



Are you a person who likes to get to a venue early and your spouse/parent/helper doesn't!!!

Big problem,must fix.The group must have a team talk to sort out these supposedly minor things. As a competitor you need to feel you are in charge of your time to be ready .I hear parents/coaches at competitions saying too much. No one can process so many things at once.

You need someone to make you feel good about what you are about to do.

I ask every rider when do they want to hear the feedback,straight away.Most do not.As coaches/helpers we must remember to give more positive than negative.  It is harder than you think. If you do not know then keep quiet and wait for the rider to say something.Do not gloss over,the rider will always know. Besides the rider needs to become their best critic. It is a fine line to tread.


Some examples. 

What if I fall off, what if my horse stops,  what if I make a dumb mistake,like forget where to go?

The sports psychologists tell us 'to control the things you can control and don't worry about anything else' .

I take that to mean the footing for instance, if it is wet you cannot change it but if you feel very strongly about it don't start and wait for another day. cont... 

How to improve your practice fence time.

Always try to give yourself the maximum time allotted in the pr area.

If you or your horse suffer from pre-competition nerves get on early and cruise around the whole complex (where you are allowed).

The hardest part is knowing just how much you need to work your horse before the competition.

Some horses do not cope with all the activity in the pr area. They are over the top but kep calm and re-adjust your expectations. Stick to the basics,your pace, your line, jump what you are prepared to jump.If you get aggressive with horses,they will become anxious and worried. So be prepared for a little patience on that strike off for example and and don't stress about it.

You should already have a warm up plan  with a couple of what ifs.

Approx 10 jumps should make you ready.

If your horse is a zippy type keep the fences down a bit and make sure you have a minute to allow the adrenalin to seep out and collect yourself mentally before you go into the arena. 

The lazier types need a jump then straight into the ring.

The height depends on your standard, too big makes the horse back off too much,too small not enough to open them up. This is where you need to watch better riders at another time to see what their routine is.

Some riders warm up every horses the same because that is their best way to get into the ring prepared.Other riders are very tuned into their horses.

So  be adaptable feel what our horse is telling you.Experience is a great teacher

The more starts the less jumps you need on a day or two days. The ground also  is a factor, deep ground less jumps, not so big,hard ground ditto. Good ground breathe easily and enjoy the jumps. 

What type of jumps to use, small oxers, rising oxers, finish with a vertical.Always try to have ground lines.