Wish you got that amazing clear round feeling every time you jumped? We do, too! It can be so frustrating when it doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped, especially if you’re not sure how to prevent it happening again next time.
Whether your pony knocks the poles, refuses or runs out, we’re here to help. The PONY magazine guide explains why it’s happening and how you can fix it…
What’s happened? Your pony’s knocked a pole down – oops!
Why’s it happened? If your pony takes off too early or too close, he’s more likely to knock a pole – either with his front legs on take-off or his hindlegs on landing. Also, if he doesn’t have enough impulsion, he might not be able to get his hindquarters underneath him to take off well.
Fix it by… getting your pony listening to you and perfecting your take-off.
Using a placing pole in front of the jump is the easiest way to show you and your pony where the best take-off point is. Here’s how…
Exercise: placing poles
- Place a pole one canter stride in front of the fence (around 3m or three-and-a-half of your paces, depending on your pony’s stride).
- As you approach the fence, sit up tall and look up and ahead. Wrap your legs firmly around your pony’s sides and maintain an even contact to encourage him to have a bouncy canter.
- Your pony will canter over the pole, then take off in the perfect spot!
Top tip – Remember the difference between impulsion and speed. Impulsion is the amount of energy your pony has to propel himself forwards, speed is how fast he’s going.
Sliding to a stop
What’s happened? Your pony’s stopped and refused a fence – eek!
Why’s it happened? For some reason, your pony’s decided he’s not ready to jump this fence. It could be that you’re in the wrong position, he’s not on the right stride or he doesn’t have enough impulsion. It could also be because he’s lost confidence or been spooked.
Fix it by… setting your pony up correctly and improving his confidence.
Jumping a grid will help you get a feel for your pony’s stride and encourage a good jump over each fence. Slowly building up the height and difficulty of the grid will increase your pony’s confidence and yours, too. Here’s how…
- Place three canter poles on the ground (three paces apart). Canter over the poles, aiming for the centre.
- Make a cross-pole in the place of the last pole, and canter through again.
- Build up your grid by turning the last fence into a small upright fence, and the middle pole into a cross-pole (adjust the striding for your pony).
- Remember to maintain impulsion throughout your grid by sitting up between fences and keeping your leg wrapped around your pony’s sides.
Top tip – You may need to adjust the distance between fences as you build your grid – remember to allow two paces each for take-off and landing.
It’s a run out!
What’s happened? Oh, no! Your pony’s run past the fence rather than jumping it!
Why’s it happened? Your pony needs clear instruction as to where he’s going. It could be that he’s confused about which fence he’s meant to be jumping or he’s decided it’s easier to run out.
Fix it by… perfecting your straightness on the approach and riding a good line.
There are so many things you can do to improve your straightness while jumping, from trotting poles, to cross poles, to jumping with guide poles. Here’s how…
Top tip – Practise your straightness with trot poles by always aiming for middle coloured stripe.
Did you know? Cross poles are great for helping you and your pony aim for the centre of the fence every time.
Exercise: guide poles
- Set up a small upright.
- Prop up two guide poles on the fence, about a quarter of the way in from each side – these act as a channel to help you meet the centre of the fence every time.
- When you’re feeling more confident and consistently jumping the centre of the fence, gradually widen the guide poles to the edge of the fence and then drop them onto the ground. Eventually you won’t need them at all!
Ready to go
When you’ve fixed all your jumping problems, you’re well on your way to riding a clear round every time. Occasionally your pony might need reminding of what he’s learnt, especially if you start jumping bigger or more technical courses, so make sure you keep practising these exercises. Don’t forget, there’s always room for improvement and the exercises are great practice for you, too.
Remember to always ride your pony forwards confidently – the more confidence you have together as a pair, the more you’ll trust each other. Before long, your difficulties will be a thing of the past and you’ll be flying round!
Top tip – Getting on and off to move poles is awkward and difficult. So, why not ask a friend to help move poles and fences?