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Skinny fences made simple

Posted in Jumping

Find skinny fences tricky? No problem! Here’s how to ace them every time

A skinny fence is one that’s narrower than normal. You might come across them during showjumping rounds, working hunter classes, arena eventing or on a cross-country course. It’s a good idea to practise them in advance, so you’re not surprised when you meet one in a competition. They require accurate riding so your pony doesn’t run-out, but by breaking them down into a few simple steps, you’ll soon find it easy!

Be precise

Accuracy is key when it comes to skinnies. Here’s what to think about to make sure you ace it…

  1. Your canter It’s no good having a long, strung-out canter, as you’ll struggle to stay straight and in control. Sit up tall, keep your legs firmly on and maintain a contact to encourage plenty of impulsion and bounce. A shorter canter is better than a longer canter for skinnies, but it’s really important to maintain the energy to encourage a good jump.
  2. Your turn If you don’t ride a good turn to the fence, you’ll end up on a wonky line, which is much more of a problem when you’re jumping skinnies, because you’ll risk a run-out. Look around the corner to the fence as you approach it, turning in plenty of time, and use a half-halt if you need to steady your pony. This will give you the best chance of getting him on a straight line and in a balanced canter, ready to jump the fence.
  3. Your getaway You’ve jumped the fence – success! But don’t forget, your landing and getaway are just as important, especially if you’re jumping a course. Having a wobble on landing will affect your line to the next fence, so sit up, keep your leg on and stay straight!

Step-by-step

If you or your pony haven’t had much experience jumping skinnies, the best thing to do is to break it down into a few easy steps to build your confidence up gradually.

Step 1: Wings

Taking the fence away is the best place to start, so you only need to think about your accuracy and approach. You can either set up two fence wings closer together than normal and ride through the gap or ride over a narrow pole on the ground. 

Whichever option you choose, think about riding a straight line towards it and keeping in the middle. Remember to stay straight as you ride away, too.

Step 2: Wide V-poles

V-poles are two poles, each with one end resting on the top of the fence, spreading out in a V-shape with the other ends resting on the floor. They act as a channel to help guide you into the fence. 

Build a small fence and place the V-poles on it. Start with them wide so the poles are resting on the far ends of the fence. This makes them more inviting for your pony and is a good way to introduce them to him.

Approach in a steady, balanced canter on a straight line to give your pony a chance to see the poles and work out what you’re asking him to jump. Keep an even contact to stay straight and wrap your legs around his sides to help channel him into the fence.

Step 3: Narrow V-poles

Once you’ve successfully jumped the fence with the wide V-poles a few times, make the channel narrower. Do this by bringing the V-poles closer together at the top, so they’re set at around the width of your pony. 

This means you have to be even more accurate with your riding as you approach the fence. Try to keep his canter steady, bouncy and rhythmical – too fast and your pony won’t have a chance to read the question, which could result in a run-out. 

Step 4: Ground poles

Now it’s time to put your accuracy to the test a little more! Once you’re confident with the narrow V-poles, take them off the fence and lay them on the ground so they’re at the same width as when they were wide V-poles, but lying flat on the floor. 

They’ll still act as a guide to channel your pony as you approach the fence, but you’ll need to make sure you’re riding super-straight so that you meet the fence well, because it’ll be easier to have a wobble. 

Step 5: Put it into practice

Once you’ve built up your confidence and ability jumping skinnies, you can take the V-poles away completely. Ride the fence in the same way as before, with an accurate, straight approach and staying straight on landing, too. Because you’ve built it up gradually, both you and your pony should feel confident about jumping the fence well.

Ace it at competitions

When you’re jumping skinnies at a competition, you won’t have V-poles to guide you and in some cases you might not have fence wings, either. So, it’s super-important to plan your line and approach in advance.

Walk the course on foot before jumping it. This lets you plan your line carefully and you can use objects such as trees or arena markers to work out where you’ll turn to get an accurate approach. Remember all you’ve practised and you’ll fly skinnies with no problems!

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