Olympian McLain Ward’s Favorite Jumping Exercise

McLain Ward shares a gymnastic exercise that helps him prep his horses for classes such as the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Washington qualifier.

2017 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final winner McLain Ward is a big believer in gymnastics for his horses. In fact, he has one ring at his New York farm that is perpetually dedicated to gymnastic set-ups.

McLain Ward and HH Azur on their way to a win at the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final. Nancy Jaffer

Why the emphasis on gymnastics?

“What I feel has helped me more than anything in my own riding is balance, body control, position and timing,” explains McLain.

Try one of his favorite exercises yourself. Set a crossrail in your arena and 11 feet after it, build a 2-foot oxer. Place a landing pole 9 feet after the oxer, and then 21 feet from the pole, build another small oxer (see the diagram). McLain emphasizes that the fences for this exercise must all be very small and never higher than a meter. Your horse will canter the crossrail, canter a bounce to the small oxer, land inside the landing pole and then take a slow two strides to the second oxer, instead of rushing.

As McLain points out, it’s hard to get a horse to slow down in two strides for a combination when you’re jumping a course. “They always take a big first step. The only way you can do it is by sitting against the horse, but then their head comes back at you. In this exercise, the landing pole forces the horse to land shallow and take a short first step, so the horse backs up in the two strides on his own.”

This exercise helps address a set-up that is common in the show ring these days, a double combination from a vertical two short strides to an oxer. In a grand prix, especially with the tight time allowed, course designers know they’re forcing a rider to gallop hard into a combination, and then you have to make the two strides short, said McLain. “It’s quite challenging.”

McLain is among the top international riders competing in the $130,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Washington at 9 p.m., Saturday, October 28, 2017. The event is part of the Washington International Horse Show in Washington, D.C. from October 24–29, 2017. Other highlights include the $35,000 International Jumper Welcome Stake at 3:10 p.m., Thursday, October 26, 2017 and the $50,000 International Jumper Speed Final at 7:15 p.m., Friday, October 27, 2017.

This is the sixth competition in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League for riders vying for points for a spot at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final, April 10–15, 2018 in Paris, France.

Follow our coverage of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Washington and the Washington International Horse Show. We’ll bring you videos and photos of your favorite horses and riders, along with the latest news and results. BONUS: Enter to win a trip for two to the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Paris, France, April 10–15, 2018. To earn an additional 10 extra bonus entries, send a selfie that you take while you are at the Washington International Horse Show competition and upload it to the entry page. 

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