Taurus Footwear sponsor Michaela Huntington a show jumper, trainer and producer and Micheala shared her fantastic show jumping advice in the latest edition of EQ Life Magazine.
In this week’s blog we take a look at Michaela’s advice on seeing a stride and improving your techniques whilst jumping.
“Reaching your perfect take off point is about being able to adjust your horse’s canter stride, should it be needed. There is a difference between seeing a stride and making a stride, and this exercise will help you understand both. If you are approaching a fence and can see that the take off point is going to be awkward, you need to be able to make adjustments and your horse needs to accept and trust your instructions to him.
Before attempting these exercises, it is necessary that you are comfortable with lengthening and shortening your canter strides on the flat, and your horse is relaxed and happy, even if there is a relatively slight change of pace.
You will need two poles set along the three-quarter line of the long side of your arena, ideally five normal canter strides apart. If the available space is too short, it is possible to work with a four canter stride distance, which will be a little more difficult, but less space than that is not viable.
Begin by trotting over the poles to accustom your horse to the obstacles and, when ready, start with a medium canter; stay straight and central and try to put an even five strides between the poles. An assistant on the ground is helpful to be able to slightly adjust the poles so that you have the perfect five strides for your combination.
Always try to remain on the correct canter lead throughout – returning to trot and starting again if needed.
Once you are doing this very well on both reins, try to collect the canter and shorten his stride so that you are able to put an even six strides.
It is important that all strides are the same and not five and a half, and practise should make it perfect. Because you are shortening his canter, you are going to get a little closer to the poles making a ‘deeper’ take-off point and engaging his hindquarters and making him wait for your commands. If you have a horse who tends to rush his fences, this is an excellent training exercise to improve him.
When your horse is used to shortening his canter, try to return to your original five stride distance and alternate the two options at will on both reins.
The next stage is to be able to lengthen your horse’s canter stride and put an even four strides in the distance – for this you may need to go a little too quickly at first but you should remain in control at all times. Because you are lengthening his stride, you will take off further from the poles, known as a ‘longer’ take-off point, which encourages your horse to be bold and to be responsive to your leg-aid.
Once you are able to lengthen his canter stride evenly return back to the five strides and alternate the two as desired, you should also be able to change all three options on both reins at will.
The reason for using this exercise with poles is to give you a point to focus on and ride towards, and improve your control. If it does go wrong, they are just poles and you are unlikely to cause any problems. If you can master these exercises, you will become a better judge of striding and should you approach a jump on a long stride you will have the skills to shorten your horse and reach a better take off point.”
Essex-based Michaela Huntington is sponsored by Norfolk-based Taurus Footwear, who produce competitively-priced, high-quality leather equestrian footwear for all ages, sizes and disciplines.
For more information about the range of equestrian and country footwear available from Taurus Footwear including the boots worn by show jumper Michaela Huntington visit the website http://www.taurusfootwear.co.uk