Developing The Rider To Think Ahead

(or ‘put their brain ahead of the fence’).

The course designer will often design fences that are affected by the previous fence, for example a serpentine line or a distance followed by a turn to a skinny fence. Experienced riders are used to thinking and planning ahead and will do it naturally but less experienced riders need to trained to plan ahead. 

I like using an exercise of a vertical to an over on 24yds followed by a fence around a right angled turn (normally a skinny) as the rider has to consider how they jump the oxer. Indoors the distance would lead you to riding the oxer on an open 5 strides which will make the turn to the skinny really difficult. I like to leave it up to the rider to work out a way of making it easier. Some riders will ride the distance on a shorter 6 strides as they will then have a more controlled jump at the oxer and others will ride the first part of the distance more forward so they can sit up and be deeper at the oxer and therefore have a more controlled jump. The exercise also teaches the rider not to ‘waste’ any landing strides as they have to sit up and ride the turn immediately rather than collapse for a couple of strides (which is very common with less experienced riders).

The other exercise that I will use a lot to teach the rider to be thoughtful of the landing is the serpentine (again I would use narrow fences as it is more appropriate). This exercise is all about teaching the rider to have the horse balanced to the new direction before the takeoff. If the rider doesn’t think ahead the horse will often land on their inside shoulder making the next turn difficult and leave the horse out of balance. However if the rider aims to ride straighter and uses the new inside leg firmer on the approach it will encourage the horse to land on the correct lead, in balance and looking for the next fence. This is often better explained to the less experienced rider whilst walking the course off the horse.