6 Exercises to Nail Your Hunter Derby, Part 1 - Expert how-to for English Riders
Improve your horse’s pace, track and balance by practicing parts of this unique course at home, says derby star Liza Boyd. In Exercise 2, we learn to master the bending line.

In Part 1 of Liza Boyd's series on acing your hunter derby rounds, we learned about how to pick up and keep a good pace. Now, learn how to master the bending line! 

The Challenge: A derby course usually includes at least one bending line. When the footage is not marked on the posted course diagram, the striding is determined by the track you pick and the pace you choose to bring out your horse’s best jumping style. (Note that when the footage is indicated—for example, “110 feet” or “eight strides”—the judge will be looking for you to ideally execute the line in that number of strides.) Depending on the bend between the two fences, you may also have to execute either holding the counter canter or a smooth lead change.

Your Goal: Plan your bending line in advance. Learn to make both fences match: Find a nice distance in, keep a consistent tempo and a smooth track, then find a nice distance out. 

Try This Exercise to Help With Bending Lines

See Photos Below for a Step-by-Step Guide

See Photos Below for a Step-by-Step Guide

1. This exercise requires riding a vertical to an oxer on an easy bending line with PVC poles on a 90-degree angle in front of the vertical.

1. This exercise requires riding a vertical to an oxer on an easy bending line with PVC poles on a 90-degree angle in front of the vertical.

2. The PVC poles helped me keep Cassanto straight to this first fence. I find a nice distance to it and on landing begin a soft bending line to the oxer.

2. The PVC poles helped me keep Cassanto straight to this first fence. I find a nice distance to it and on landing begin a soft bending line to the oxer.

3.  I finish the combination in eight strides by finding a nice distance, in rhythm, to the oxer. Note that since I followed the track of the bending line, Cassanto is jumping this second fence in the combination straight on.

3.  I finish the combination in eight strides by finding a nice distance, in rhythm, to the oxer. Note that since I followed the track of the bending line, Cassanto is jumping this second fence in the combination straight on.

4. Once Cassanto has mastered the track, I practice executing a lead change from left lead to right lead at the apex of the curve, which is marked with a cone.

4. Once Cassanto has mastered the track, I practice executing a lead change from left lead to right lead at the apex of the curve, which is marked with a cone.

5.  Moving the PVC poles to the right (see photo below) forces Cassanto to jump the vertical on a more acute angle. This sets up a deeper bending line to the oxer. This line is now best ridden in nine strides.

5.  Moving the PVC poles to the right (see photo below) forces Cassanto to jump the vertical on a more acute angle. This sets up a deeper bending line to the oxer. This line is now best ridden in nine strides.

This line is best ridden in 9 strides because of the acute angle. 

This line is best ridden in 9 strides because of the acute angle. 

To read the full version of this article, check out the original story in the June 2017 issue of Practical Horseman. 

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