Show jumping exercises for event horses

The show jumping phase in eventing is influential, but many riders find it stressful. So, British Showjumping Coach Mandy Frost suggests some exercises to practice and explains why show jump training is so important to becoming a successful eventer.

Why is show jumping training important?

Eventers who consistently jump clear rounds pay attention to detail within their training programmes. It is important to know where your horse’s strengths and weaknesses are, so that you are including work that is developing his strengths as well as improving his weaknesses, making your horse’s training plan individual.

As the degree of difficulty of height, lines and turns increases, so too does the need for ride-ability. Early training must be done so that by the time you get to competitions it is second nature for the horse to be adjustable. A large emphasis should be on training exercises to improve the control of the horse after the jump.

Exercise 1 – landing and control after the jump

• Using a circle upon landing assists your horse in being able to rebalance and return to a good canter pace, without the interference of your hand.
• As the rider, you should be encouraged to sit straight and use your upper body – to sit deeper in the saddle and to use the inside leg more to outside rein on the circle to re-establish your horse’s canter.
• The correct landing and continuation of the pace after the obstacle is an important part of schooling.
• Don’t let your horse run away after the jump.
• Create a circle to control your horse and ride through the paces to walk at first and then gradually move to continuing the canter on the circle – your horse should be more responsive to controlling the pace.
• When you land, absorb the impact through your legs, not your seat, and take your body taller.
• Use the circle to slow them.
• As your horse becomes more experienced, the slight shift in your upper body position will be enough to adjust the speed and canter stride.
• The more your horse develops their loin muscles and quarters, the sooner they will be able to slow down in fewer strides after landing.
• Some young horses take 10 or more canter strides to regain balance.
• The normal reaction is for the rider is to pull on the reins to slow down on landing. This not only ruins the horse’s mouth, but lets the horse know that when they jump the fence there is a good chance that they will get a pull on the mouth for their efforts. This can make them pull harder and run off faster.

This diagram shows how you can use just circles in early training stages (done on both reins), then have increased difficulty for further development.

Exercise two – improving the shape of the jump

• Placing pole, vertical, bounce, vertical.
• Your horse is encouraged to take a more collected shortened stride.
• Designed to encourage your horse to develop strength in their quarters and become sharper with the front legs on take-off, raising through the shoulder and encouraging use of the wither.

Exercise three – encouraging shortening in combinations

• This exercise helps your horse regain balance and correct the stride between fences without interference from the rider.
• The placing pole between the two fences is set there to assist your horse to land and keep the stride short.
• A straight approach is crucial – a good even canter stride to a good take-off point.
• Also important is to maintain your rider’s position, keeping the upper body tall and not folding too early over your horse’s neck, with hands still and down, allowing your horse to jump into the bridle.
• Peak the jump directly over the fence and not after the fence.


Exercise four – riding corners and curved lines

• Tactics for riding corners and lines should be analysed when you walk the course.
• Your eyes should always be on the fence that you are approaching, yet you need to be mindful of the line you are riding, making sure that you use every inch of room to ride deep into the corner.
• On a curved line you always have a choice between cutting the corner a little to shorten the distance, or going a little wide to lengthen the distance.
• As the rider, you also have to consider that most horses will be shortening their stride a little while turning.
• The use of outside leg and hand in unison with the inside leg is important when riding the corner while maintaining the inside flexion.
• Keep in mind how stiff or flexible your horse is on each side and make suitable adjustments to cater for this, for example: whether your horse is likely to fall out on the corner or drop its shoulder in.
• Coming out of the corner, the most important thing is to be straight upon approach to the fence.
• You cannot rely on speed to get you over the fence.
• If your horse is at all wavering in holding a line you will need to have him at a pace in which you have plenty of control and you want the horse to be truly between your hand and leg.

First published in the March/April 2019 issue of British Eventing Life, original words by Katie Roebuck