In last month's article Michael and Spotty had progressed in their training with Amanda Brewer to be able to work over several poles in a calm and balance rhythm. Spotty a 16.1hh 6 year old Hanoverian mare, who likes to show how much she enjoys life, is now really beginning to settle to her work and be a far easier ride.
Michael realising his aim - competition cross country
Spotty has continued to develop her confidence with both flat and pole work and Michael also has become more established in his riding position. After much practice both are now ready to start work on individual fences building up to a course and a small competition.
With Spotty working nicely over 3 poles a small cross pole was introduced. Michael had to concentrate on the 6 stages of riding a fence, maintaining a straight line through the poles. Riding in a nice forward rhythm as she popped the cross pole Michael had to also focus on allowing Spotty to stretch through her neck and back.
As before, when Spotty becomes excited Michael returns to the inside, outside then over exercise (see last month's article) and using small circles to release the tension in her. Familiarity with exercises can also help to relax and calm horses because they know and understand the routine.
Over the course of several lessons a grid is built, progressing from the cross pole with one stride to an upright, then finally another stride to a spread. The fences do not need to be high, as it is the technique over the fencce that is being worked on.
Gridwork helps develop confidence in both horse and rider and encourages correct technique in the horse. Once the horse has been correctly presented to a grid the rider can focus on his position rather than concentrating on seeing strides. This is unlike riding individual fences where the rider must concentrate on his take off point.
Jumping her show jump round calmly
Amanda next introduced another exercise to ensure that Spotty was listening to her rider. Practising lengthening and shortening stride for a number of paces is a useful flat work exercise for improving jumping technique. This teaches the horse to be responsive to the rider ready for altering stride on the approach to a fence or between fences.
Another exercise which benefitted Michael and would assist anyone who has difficulty in seeing a stride, is cantering over poles. The rider is able to judge distances and count strides without the horse having to jump repeatedly.
"Gridwork helps develop confidence in both horse and rider and encourages correct technique in the horse".
Over several weeks Michael's jumping position became more established through the grid, and Spotty was jumping calmly, they then progressed to individual fences, and putting them together into a small course.
When beginning to ride a course the rider needs to:
The improvement in Spotty's flatwork benefitted her course jumping. Although she was clearly looking forward to jumping she remains responsive to Michael and is no longer uncontrollable.
Michael's aim at the start of his work with Amanda was to be able to ride in a small unaffiliated one day event. He has now realised this aim. Spotty found the atmosphere at the dressage a bit too exciting but went superbly cross country thrilling her rider and supporters and her show jumping was much improved.
Even though there is still much to learn Michael and Spotty are continuing to make progress. Michael is planning his next outing and finding that Spotty is becoming much more pleasurable and fun to ride the better schooled she becomes.
Michael will now concentrate on taking Spotty to small dressage competitions to get her used to being out and about whilst continuing to working on both flatwork and jumping at home.