This week’s gymnastic exercise

I am infatuated with gymnastics. They’re such an excellent tool for working on our horses’ adjustability, developing our eye for distances, and so much more. So, for my students and boarders, I’m going to start offering a weekly gymnastic exercise and tutorial. This week’s exercise is an excellent tool for working on adjustability. The first line is a gymnastic line to help shorten your horse’s stride–it’s set up with a placing rail 8′ in front of the first jump followed by an 8′ or 9′ bounce (depending on how big/small your horse is), another 8′ placing rail, then 20′ to the third fence, followed by a final 8′ placing rail. Don’t worry, there’s a diagram below. Ride your horse on a shortened stride with plenty of energy–if you don’t have enough energy, he won’t have enough oomph to bounce out and make the 2 stride. Not enough compression, and he he’ll have the rail on the second fence or miss the distance to the 2 stride. Start off with rails on the ground and build up to crossrails, then verticals. Raise the last fence first, then the first fence, and finally add the rail to complete the bounce. Jumping this exercise with verticals will ensure your horse has to rock back and use his body to jump in, bounce out, and have enough energy to get over the final fence.
Once your horse is easily compressing his stride, move to the second line. This line has a placing rail 11′ from the first fence, and the 2 stride is a long one at 33′, followed by a placing rail 11′ out on the other side. After compressing your horse’s stride, you’ll now have to encourage him to open up and lengthen–I have my students gallop in-hand along the long side of the ring before rebalancing through the turn. Maintain enough forward energy from the gallop so that you can close your leg on the approach and encourage your horse to really lengthen. Upon landing, you’ll need to have your leg on to ensure your horse stays forward–otherwise you’ll have a good chance of chipping in before the second fence.
When your horse is riding the lengthening line well, it’s time to add another degree of difficulty: ride the two together. Ride through the first exercise, making sure you remember to keep the energy as you shorten your horse’s stride, then gallop him along the long side of the ring before coming back around to ride the second line. Then, ride the second line, land, sit up, and immediately begin compressing your horse to turn back to the first line.
Finally, to test the horse’s accuracy, I’ve added a skinny double bounce line. The distances between the fences on this line are a standard 10′. So if your horse can easily compress and lengthen his stride, tackle the skinny bounces to really test your ability to adjust your horse and keep him focused on the line!

The green lines are placing rails--adjust distances slightly to compensate for larger horses or ponies, but remember, the distances should reflect a lengthened or shortened stride!

The green lines are placing rails–adjust distances slightly to compensate for larger horses or ponies, but remember, the distances should reflect a lengthened or shortened stride!

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One comment

  1. Tracy · January 23, 2015

    What a great exercise!

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