Fillers are often found in the showjumping ring and being able to jump them confidently will give you a head start at competitions. They’re great for brightening up your fences at home, too!
Always warm up your pony thoroughly on the flat before you start jumping to make sure his muscles are warm and loose and that he’s listening to your aids. Make sure you’ve established an active canter so he’s moving forwards with impulsion – this will help him to produce a good jump and give you both confidence, plus it’ll help you if he’s hesitant when approaching a filler.
Top tip If you don’t have any fillers at home, you could use barrels, blocks or cones instead
A correct approach can make a big difference when jumping fillers, especially if your pony’s likely to be hesitant or try to stop. Establish a balanced, rhythmic canter, look towards the fence and allow plenty of time to get a straight line to the fence after you turn. Wrap your legs around your pony’s sides to maintain impulsion and look up and ahead beyond the fence – not down at the poles or at the base of the fence, as this could unbalance him and make him more likely to stop or knock the fence down.
Top tip If your pony finds fillers spooky, keep the fences small until he feels more confident jumping them.
Build it up
If you’re new to jumping fillers or your pony finds them spooky, it’s a good idea to build up to jumping them. Start by building a simple cross-pole and place your fillers at the outside of the fence so they act like wings. This way, your pony will see that they’re there but won’t have to jump over them. Once he’s happy jumping between the fillers, move them in so they’re closer together. Jump this a couple of times then change the fence into an upright. Continue to move the fillers in gradually until your pony’s jumping them confidently.
Top tip Ask a friend to help you move the fillers and adjust the fence so you don’t have to keep getting on and off your pony.
Some ponies might find fillers scary because they’re often brightly coloured and can look intimidating, so it’s a common problem for ponies to refuse a filler fence. When practising at home, build fences with different types of fillers around the arena, and ride your pony between them so he gets used to them. You can walk him up to them, too, so he can investigate and learn there’s nothing to be scared of. The more different types of fillers he sees, the more likely he’ll be to jump the ones you meet in the showjumping ring.
Top tip If you have trouble with your pony refusing fences with fillers, ask a friend on an experienced pony for a lead. Your pony should be more confident once he realises the filler won’t attack him!
Check out our fab jumping fillers video with top trainer, John Smart.