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Jumping: 3 Exercises that can make you flawless

are you a show jumper photo archive
are you a show jumper photo archive

Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes, and therefore we have collected three – in our opinion – really good jumping exercises. They all focus on getting the horse flawlessly over a jump, and therefore you can use them to gradually work your way up. Less can of course also do the trick, and even if you ride at a lower level, the exercises can help you and your horse progress in your jumping.


Exercise 1: Take your time in the approach

When jumping, it's important to do your groundwork well. Therefore, the approach is one of the most important things to train – and you should take your time with it. If the horse runs, it certainly doesn't get easier to get to the other side – on the contrary. This exercise helps you keep the horse attentive to your aids, so it always responds correctly and promptly to them. This way, it learns that it doesn't get to jump if it doesn't listen to you and wait for you. You prepare the exercise by setting up two jumps with a distance of your choice between them as shown below. The pink line shows the riding direction:

untitled image (1)


Ride the first jump, preferably in a canter, and focus on keeping the horse straight, right from landing and all the way to the next jump. When the horse begins to speed up or otherwise misbehave – for example, by kicking out or leaping forward – turn it away from the jump into a volte. Ride as many voltes as you need to get the horse back in place. Only when it no longer misbehaves, do you continue. Take your time, because if you don't, the horse certainly won't either. And that's exactly what it needs to learn.

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Exercise 2: Powerful takeoffs with the forelegs

When training the horse's takeoff, the focus tends to be on the hind legs. It's true that the horse needs to have its hindquarters well under it to be able to take off powerfully and thereby get high over the jump. But that's not always enough. You might find that the horse's energy in front dies out just as it's about to take off with its forelegs – even if the approach has otherwise been good and energetic. To avoid this, you can place two canter poles in front of a jump. There should be one canter stride between each, and they should be precisely adjusted to the size of the horse you are riding on. The poles ensure that the horse's forelegs are activated, making its canter strides more powerful. The jumping combination you should create looks like this:

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There's not much more to this exercise than to set the horse in a canter and let it go at the pace it jumps best in. The goal is simply to make its canter strides before the jump stronger, so it lifts its forelegs with more power when it gets to the jump. If you do the exercise every time you jump, the horse should begin to incorporate it as part of its jumping technique.


Exercise 3: Lift legs equally high over the jump

If you want to jump flawlessly, it's also important that your horse lifts both legs properly over the poles – both the hind legs and the forelegs. Therefore, you can choose to set up this slightly more demanding exercise course, which makes the horse aware of how high it lifts each leg. First, lay out a pole, and then set up a cross jump with a 1-meter distance to the pole. The three subsequent jumps should be half-crosses with 1/2 canter stride to each. Finally, set up an oxer 1 canter stride away from the last half-cross. It should look something like this:

untitled image (3)


You should ride over the pole in a trot. It should get the horse to move more "uphill", making it easier for it to jump the series. Then let the horse go into a canter and steer straight at the cross. Maintain the straight line all the way over the rest of the jumps and remember to stay back in the saddle. It's easy to lean forward when there are so many obstacles in such a short space. The half-crosses are meant to remind the horse to lift both the right and left leg, while the oxer ensures that there is a "real" jump at the end, where the horse has to use what it has just been made aware of.

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In doubt about the distances?

As mentioned, it is important to adjust the distances as precisely as possible according to the size of your horse. In the table here, made by the Danish Equestrian Federation, you can see how far there should be between your jumping combinations in a canter depending on whether you're riding a horse or a category 1, 2, or 3 pony.

illustrated by danish equestrian federation.
Illustrated by The Danish Equestrian Federation.

The article was originally published in January 2020 and has since been revised and updated.


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