What’s in Your Ring? Mixing It up with Katie Murphy

What’s in Your Ring? is an EN series in which riders share their favorite jumping exercises. It’s easy to get stuck in a training rut, and we hope this will inspire you with fresh ideas that you can take home and incorporate into your own programs. This week’s edition comes courtesy of EN blogger Katie Murphy, an accomplished eventer who has found success on horses she developed herself through the levels. Find out more about her teaching/training business, Murphy Eventing, based out of Autumn Hill Farm in Epping, New Hampshire, by visiting murphyeventing.com.

Photo by Katie Murphy.

Photo by Katie Murphy.

The theme of my ring is “variation.” I normally always have a gymnastic line, two sets of cavaletti exercises, and a jump course. My jump course lines are often off turns, with many options to tie fences together through roll backs, slices, or related distances that reinforce the importance of adjustability. I have horses of all levels routinely working in my ring — from ground poles to Intermediate — so it is important that my exercises be diverse and appropriate for all levels.

Diagram by Katie Murphy.

Diagram by Katie Murphy.

The gymnastic line: This grid is far trickier then it looks, and height is not important to get the most from this exercise. Verticals are the first and final fences, with a vertical placed as a middle element and rails set 9’ between them. Oxers are then set at 30’ (may need to be adjusted depending on stride and arch of the line) from the center of the grid. For the more experienced horse, I will raise these ground rails to encourage concentrated work through their top line.

It may be jumped from either direction, and linked together through a rollback oxer to oxer and back through the grid. The oxers are set 35’ from one another, angled middle to middle. The oxers may then be sliced for upper level horses, as an angled 2 stride, and used as individual fences within a course.

Cavaletti: I fell in love with cavaletti work while riding for Ingrid Klimke at the NEDA Fall Symposium. They are fantastic for improving engagement, strengthening (especially stifles), joint articulation, and suppleness. These two exercises are set on an arch –- one exercise is shorter in distance to encourage to shorter step, more elevation and collection. The longer distance encourages more forward movement from the shoulder and push from the hind.

The beauty of cavaletti is in the application — work off the outside line for more space or a bigger stride, use the middle or inside lines for more collection. At the center of each cavaletti: for walk work they are set at .85 meters, for trot they are set at 1.2 meters. If setting these purely for canter work, the inside cavaletti are set at 2 meters, and the exterior are set at 3 meters.

I always begin horses over cavaletti in a straight line at the lowest height before raising them or working on a circle. Higher is not better: I work over the middle height most often, and the highest height is only reserved for canter work with experienced horses.

Photo by Katie Murphy.

Photo by Katie Murphy.

Course work: I like “quick thinking” questions to keep my focus and make me work through mistakes in the moment — not several strides later. I always have a distance set for practicing an adjustable stride between jumps. Two skinnies are positioned within the ring for straight approaches, angles and slicing related distances to other fences. Additionally, I include a vertical with a crossed rail on either side to encourage straightness and a tight front end, and at least one oxer with a rail crossed over the top to encourage an expressive effort. I often have two fences positioned with a narrow path between them.

Horses of all levels are asked to work on the flat between the fences as well as over them for greater focus, straightness and working off the aids. This also tests the rider in how they prepare and communicate with their horse.

If working a horse for the first time or a green horse, all fences and cavaletti are lowered well beneath the horse’s experience, and then gradually increased in size and complexity.

Many thanks to Katie for sharing. Do you have an exercise to share or is there an eventer you would like to nominate for the series? Email [email protected]

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