In Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of eventer Kyle Carter's series on jumping ditches, he provides step-by-step exercises to give you and your horse a confident, safe introduction to tackling this cross-country obstacle. Refresh your memory on the first sections, and then find out how to complete the steps and finally jump the ditch effectively on its own. 

Step 4: Remove the Poles and Jump The Ditch on its Own

Once the poles are completely overlapping the edges of the ditch, jump them five times. Next, without taking a break, have your helper remove the poles. Then approach the ditch a little more aggressively, asking your horse to go even more forward. Jump it three times this way, aiming for the center each time.

This is the moment when many riders tend to let down their guards. Their horses have jumped the ditch successfully a few times, so they stop riding and take off the leg. This change in the ride signals to the horse that something’s different. That’s when he realizes what he’s doing and starts to worry that his rider doesn’t have complete confidence in him. To avoid falling into this trap, be sure your ground person is watching you closely. Ask her to offer feedback, pointing out any difference in your ride. Did you achieve the shortest, punchiest stride possible in the approach? Did you give a substantial forward aid at the marker? Did you continue to sit up or did your body tip forward? Make whatever corrections are necessary.

If your ground person notices that you’re tipping forward frequently in the approach and thus getting ahead of the motion, don’t be afraid to make a dramatic correction. Think of positioning your helmet over your heels or hips, even if it feels as if you’re leaning backward. This will discourage any last-minute changes in your balance that could upset your horse.

Whether you complete these steps in one or two sessions, remember that you should never have to resort to kicking or stressing your horse in any way. This logical, step-by-step process will make sense to him. He should finish it as happy and comfortable as he was when you started.

Most importantly, he’ll trust that you’re there for him. Maintain that faith by riding the same way to every ditch in the future.  

This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Practical Horseman. 

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