What’s in Your Ring? is an EN series sponsored by Attwood Equestrian Surfaces 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 from Huxley Greer, an event and dressage rider based out of Cnoc Na Aisling in Wirtz, VA. Currently, she is bringing her two OTTBs up the levels in dressage and eventing.
In the last year, Vesuvian helped Huxley earn her USDF Bronze Medal and competed through Fourth Level. “Ian” should be making his Prix St George Debut this summer. Marked Ruler competed at Training level last year, finishing the season at the Waredaca Training 3-day. In 2017 “Marcus” will be moving up to preliminary and is aiming for a CCI* in the summer. Cnoc Na Aisling is a full service boarding and training facility. To learn more, visit huxleygreer.com.
The Art of Jumping in a Dressage (or Very Small) Arena
If you’ve ever had to jump in a dressage, or just very small arena, you know the challenges it can bring. I’ve only had a dressage arena to jump in for the past 10 years or so, and I can tell you it has its advantages and disadvantages. Recently I also got the ride on a very big striding horse, which makes jumping in the dressage arena just a tad bit more complicated. All of this being said, setting up courses and exercises in a small arena is one hundred percent doable.
Fortunately, regardless of the ring size, you can still get a lot done in a small space. Below are a couple of my favorite courses and gymnastic exercises to use in a small arena.
This course is fantastic for working on related distances and straightness. Also, this course can work well for both green and experienced horses. Last, but not least, nearly all of the lines can be done off of both leads, something not always possible in a smaller arena.
The important part throughout this course is to keep your impulsion in the canter through the — fairly short — corners to arrive at the first fence of the lines comfortably. The skinny in this course is completely optional, but for more experienced horses and riders can offer an additional challenge. For me on my current horse, I had to work hard to ensure I kept an active canter while making any adjustments I needed in the lines.
While the oxer to vertical line is set up for five strides, you can experiment with either holding for a six, or pushing for a three to improve rideability. The turn from the vertical to oxer to vertical in and out is also great for working on both rideability and straightness. Speaking of straightness, the skinny to vertical on the diagonal is an element of this course where you can work on straightness. To make the line either harder or easier, you have a little bit of wiggle room — even in a tiny arena — to move the skinny closer or further away from the vertical.
This course also has plenty to offer for green horses and riders. With my greener students, I find it helps them to stay in a steady rhythm (even if it’s just trotting) while focusing on keeping their horse straight, but also planning for their next line as soon as they land over the last jump of the line they just rode. The diagonal fence in this course can be set up with three or four strides between, but can be challenging for green riders as they have to find their line to the second fence at the first fence.
While I try to mix up what I have set up, I find that this course offers to most variety and options while being a fairly good representation of what you might find in a show jumping course at an event — related distances before or after combinations, roll back turns, and a couple of longer lines and turning/straightness questions.
This next exercise is one I picked up from my trainer Mark Combs. It’s another one where you can work several things at once and can also make it as friendly or as difficult as needed for different horses. Fortunately, this exercise fits well in a small arena.
Mark set this up for my horse because he needs to stay straighter and rock back more on his hind end. I have to admit that the exercise can look a little daunting, so for greener horses or riders it might be a good idea to add the V and placement poles gradually. The V poles on each side of the verticals force the horse to stay straight, also encouraging them to rock back on their hind end. It’s imperative to come into this exercise in the best, most balanced canter possible.
Ideally, you’ll alternate having a lower and then higher fence in this exercise. You can start with giving your horse more “wiggle” room, but can gradually make the space in between the V poles smaller making the exercise more difficult. A placement pole in between each fence (so set at about 11’ away) can also increase the difficulty of the exercise.
Jumping into the exercise, some horses may back off slightly, so it’s important that the rider supports with the leg to keep the horse’s feet moving. I found that this exercise had fantastic results for my horse and is wonderful for building strength and encouraging straightness.
Many thanks to Huxley for sharing! Do you have an exercise to share or is there an eventer you would like to nominate for the “What’s in Your Ring?” series? Email [email protected].