How to take corner fences in your stride
Corner fences are one of the more challenging cross country fences for a young or inexperienced horse to understand at the beginning of their eventing career – however talented they are.
But there’s no need for corners to halt a youngster’s development. After showing her mastery of young horses by becoming the first rider to win consecutive five-year-old National Eventing titles at the Young Horse Championships, 5* rider Eliza Stoddart is more attuned to the task than most.
So – courtesy of her sponsor, Aloeride – Eliza is the perfect person to share her seven-step guide to introducing corners into your jump training at home. And it all starts by taking things back to basics and not over-facing horses in those early days.
Step 1 – Warming up
I warm my horse, Freddie, up on both reins. Freddie is quite an enthusiastic young horse, so I include lots of transitions to get him listening to my aids and focusing on me. I do this in walk, trot and canter. As with any jumping exercise, the horse must be on your aids and tuned into you as the rider.
Step 2 – Start small
I like to set up an exercise to introduce my young horse to jumping a corner in the arena at home. In this element, I have my Jump 4 Joy short telescopic wings with flags.
I make sure the guide rails are on the flag side to keep the horse straight and to ensure he understands the question. We’re jumping a small upright fence at about 80cm on an angle. Keep it small at the beginning so if the horse is apprehensive in the approach and the take-off is sticky, he has a good chance of clearing the fence and gaining his confidence.
Step 3 – Using the back rail
I make sure I jump the fence first without the back rail of the corner so that if he happens to make a mistake, he won’t lose confidence and land on the back rail. Once the horse is confident jumping the fence, we add the back rail to the corner and jump it on both reins.
Step 4 – Understanding the signs
In these images below, you can see by Freddie’s ears that he’s understood the question and is locking on to the line and feeling assured of himself. This positive attitude is followed by a lovely jump.
Step 5 – Removing the guides
The next stage is removing the guide rails on the flat side of the corner and moving the other telescopic wing into the middle of the corner to make it into a slightly more complex question and attempt it again. And, once more, Freddie understands and jumps accurately over the fence.
Step 6 – Raising the bar
Once you have ridden this a few times on both reins, you can think about putting corner jumps up a few holes. We jump it on the left rein again and, as you can see in the image above, Freddie has really understood, jumping it with ease and confidence again.
Step 7 – A lasting impression
After taking part in the corner fence practice session, Freddie is cooled off in trot with some stretch work, while I give him plenty of praise for completing the school exercise successfully.
Eliza’s tips for success
START OFF SMALL
Don’t over faze the horse initially and allow the horse to learn at their own pace. If your horse is nervous or apprehensive, practise over more schooling sessions, keeping the fence small and without the back rail. The critical thing with corner-fence training is building confidence, which doesn’t always happen in just one or two sessions.
Don’t underestimate the quality of the canter for jumping corners. You need an active canter with balance. Don’t allow the horse to take over and rush this fence. Corner fences can be rather unforgiving, so spending time working on your canter on the flat will pay dividends in the future. Practise working within the pace with collected, then medium, then collected again so your horse becomes tuned into your aids and becomes more supple and athletic in his body and ability.
STICK TO YOUR LINE
As with all fences, pick your line and stick to it. Be careful not to allow the horse to drift, as this can result in a run-out. I like to focus on jumping the narrowest part of the fence by the flag at home so when we’re faced with a formidable corner fence, the horse is all set to rise to the challenge.
Feature courtesy of Aloeride, the proudly British, organic aloe vera supplement trusted by equestrians worldwide to deliver superior aloe vera goodness. Taste-free, easy to feed and competition compatible. Find out more at aloeride.com
Article first published in the Winter 2021 issue of British Eventing Life magazine. Photos: Nico Morgan Media