How to Build a Show Jumping Gymnastic Exercise
A gymnastic exercise is any related distance between two or more jumps that is used to improve the jumping technique of both horse and rider. While there are literally thousands of gymnastic exercises available, the exercise used in this article is particularly useful for of its effectiveness in improving multiple things:
- Improving the action of a horse both in front and behind
- Improving the strength of the canter on landing
- Improving rider position
- Improving confidence for both horse and rider
This article will show you how to easily recreate this exercise at home to help develop and strengthen your technique in the show jumping ring.
Place a pole on the ground in the middle of one side of your flat space or arena, but at least 10 metres (32.8 feet) away from the edge or fence line.This is called the 'placing pole'.
Taking your tape measure, measure a distance of 2.5 metres (8.2 feet) parallel to your placing pole and put the first cavaletti there.
Place the second cavaletti 3 metres (9.8 feet) in front of the first.
Take your last cavaletti and place it 3.5 metres (11.4 feet) after the second.Make sure at this point that your cavaletti and placing pole are in a dead straight line.
Measure a distance of 6.5 metres (21.3 feet) in a straight line out from both ends of the third cavaletti, and mark this spot.You can use your boot to do this in sand, or spray paint if working on grass.
Put a pole on the ground between the two points you have marked.
Take two of your jump stands and put them either side of this pole.Set them up so the cups are facing inward and are directly in line with the pole.
Lift the pole into the jump stand cups.At this point you may like to add fillers, such as low gates or a small wall. This will save you from needing to add extra poles when you go to make to jump higher. This jump is called an 'upright'.
Put another pole directly in front of the upright.Make sure it is right in close to the base of the jump. This pole will be your 'groundline'.
Taking your tape measure, measure a distance of 7 metres (22.9 feet) in straight line out from both ends of the upright.Mark these spots in the same way as you did with the upright (using either your boot or spray paint).
Place a pole between the two marks, and add a jump stand at either end of the pole as you did with the upright.
Place the pole in the jump stand cups, and set the cups quite low.Place another pole in the same jump stand, but in the cups above.
Put another pole down as a ground line in the same way as before.
Take your last two jump stands and put them parallel to, but right up against the jump you have just built.Put a pole in the cups. This jump is called an 'oxer'.
Taking your tape measure,stretch it out from one end of the placing pole to on end of the bottom of the oxer.Check that your distances are 2.5, 3, 3.5, 6.5, & 7 metres between all the obstacles.
Switch your tape measure to the other side and check that the distances are the same.
Set the heights of the jumps.The cavaletti should be on the highest setting. To begin with, the top pole of the upright should be no more than 90 centimeters (35.4 in) off the ground. Set the oxer at the same height.
- Go through the exercise on final time from both directions - your horse should give you a beautiful final jump over the oxer!
- If you are struggling with the tape measure by yourself, use an electric fence standard to anchor one end of the tape in place.
- Use this exercise to push yourself or your horse to jump higher: the placing pole ensures that your horse will always find the correct take-off spot, and the related distances mean you can concentrate on your rider position over bigger jumps without worrying about getting the striding right.
- Firstly, ensure that your horse is familiar with the cavaletti exercise - the sequence of distances used here is called a 'bounce'. Because there is not room for a full stride between the obstacles, the horse must lift up his front end again almost as soon as his hind end lands. Some horses may not understand that this is what we are asking them to do and could try to jump all of the cavaletti at once.
- When you have gone as high as you want to with the oxer, lower its height (by around 10-30 centimetres, more if you have jumped quite high) and shift the back rail out, making the jump wider. You can go as wide as 1 metre, depending on what you are comfortable with.
- Go through the exercise, being sure to alternate the direction you trot in from, getting your volunteer to make both rails of the oxer higher with each repetition. You can take the oxer as high as 1.30 metres, depending on what you are comfortable with.
- If you are not sure how your horse will react, is a good idea to take all the poles (and fill, if you used any) out of the upright and the oxer and jump through the cavaletti sequence on its own. Don't worry though - most horses will jump the exercise correctly, and practising over a bounce is very beneficial for their jumping technique.
- The steps above should tell you how to set up or build a show-jumping gymnastic exercise. But it is very important that you also know how to USE this exercise. This exercise is designed for you to trot into at all times. It is very important that that you trot in from alternating sides. If you can, try to halt in a straight line after each repetition. There are a number of 'stages' to using this gymnastic.
- Once you are confident over the bounce exercise, you can put the poles (and fill) back into the upright jump (butnotthe oxer). Go through the exercise, getting a volunteer to make the upright jump higher with each repetition. You can make this jump as high as 1.20 metres, depending on what you are comfortable with.
- Once you have gone as high as you want to with the upright, lower it back down to about 90 centimeters (35.4 in) and put the poles back into the oxer.
- The distances used here are for a standard 12 foot stride, and should be suitable for all hacks. They are not suitable for ponies.
- Always wear a fastened, safety standard approved hard hat when jumping.
- Never jump alone: Not only will it make it hard to adjust the height of the jumps, it could save your life in the event of an accident.
Video: Gymnastic horse jumping exercises with Alex Bragg | Your Horse
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