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Alex Bragg's Gymnastic Jumping Series

The purpose of gymnastic jumping exercise

Gymnastic exercises train the horse to trust you and to jump between the wings, which are vital for cross country. The horse will gain independence and think for himself, rather than rely on you as a rider and his reactions will improve. If you set a grid up that puts the horse right every time, he wonít learn how to think for himself so there will be little margin for error.

Pace, distance, angles and point of take off will vary every time you ride and you want your horse to be able to react in a positive way when you make adjustments as you approach a fence.

As a rider, gymnastic exercises will highlight if you are unbalanced and whether you are better on one rein than the other.

When using gymnastic exercises progress steadily so that you donít over face your horse. You want to challenge yourself and your horse but you must remain calm and in a rhythm. A horse will only learn if it is relaxed and thinking for himself rather than feeling stressed and panicked.

Gymnastic exercises will prepare your horseís mind and body that they have to do something else and they will help you develop your own and your horsesí skills in a safe environment.

SEVEN FENCE GRID USING POLES AT VARYING HEIGHTS

What you are hoping to achieve

Introduce this exercise to teach rhythm, balance and athleticism. At the same time you will be training the horse to use his initiative and his ability to think for himself.

The exercise

Place 7 poles on the ground about 3 metres apart. You will need to vary the distance depending on the size of the horse or pony.

Trot through the poles from both directions so that the horse is settled.

Slowly raise the poles one or two at a time until they are all raised.

Introduce varying heights so that the horse which will encourage him to adjust his jump according to the jump in front of him.

Potential Pitfalls

Your horse or pony may learn the grid so keep adjusting it so that he remains focused and thinking for himself.

FOUR FENCE JUMPING SERPENTINE

The purpose of the exercise

This exercise requires a high level of concentration from the horse, which improves his focus and initiative and develops rhythm, balance, athleticism, suppleness and accuracy. It is good for showjumping and cross country.

The exercise

Set the fences in a plumb line at different distances apart. The further apart they are the easier the exercise is.

The jumps should be between 1 and 2 ft high and you donít need a ground line as you want to horse to focus on the rail.

Start off jumping one fence, then two, leaving a fence between to make it easy for the horse and to get him used to turning and jumping on an angle.

When your horse is going forward in a good rhythm and feels relaxed, jump the fences next to each other and build up to jumping four in a row.

Jump down the line on both reins and donít go too fast, stay very balanced as a rider but donít balance on the rein. It is the horseís responsibility.

ARC EXERCISE

The aim

When jumping on a circle you keep the inside leg on the horse which develops softness over a fence. This exercise will help you ride your horse from your leg and seat so that the horse can jump in self-carriage.

The exercise

Place three poles on an arc 2 metres apart at the centre.

Continue the arc to a fence 9m away. Approach in canter on both reins.

To make the exercise harder, raise the outside of the canter poles on the outside by a metre, which will create more jump in the canter.

Raise the fence up or down depending on the experience of the horse and the level of difficulty required. You could also add another fence 3 or 4 strides after the first fence.

Keep going until you feel your horse is soft and equal on both reins.

You can extend the exercise by continuing on a circle or you can ride on a figure of 8, which helps develop softness and suppleness through the horseís back.

As a rider focus on the poles and the middle of the jump.

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