Last month, I taught you how to ride forward on course, jump fences “out of stride” and use focal points to make smooth, accurate turns. This month, you’re going to build on those skills by practicing turning around a jump as you approach your next fence. This will help you stay focused and on track in the show ring when you have to ride around other jumps, decorations or obstacles.
To practice finding my line to a single fence on a diagonal as I go around other potentially distracting fences, I place a cone at the far end of the ring beyond the diagonal jump. The cone is where I want my straight track to take me after the jump. Here you can see the standard of the jump I need to go around (in the foreground), the jump I’m headed to (blue with white flowers) and the cone beyond it. Amy K. Dragoo/AIMMEDIA
Just as I did in last month’s focal-point exercises, I begin this exercise by picking up a forward, confident canter. When we reach the end of the ring before the turn to the jump, I squeeze my legs down and around Lynn Ellen Rice’s 9-year-old gelding, Callucci, to remind him to maintain his impulsion. Then I turn my head to look for the cone. As the other jumps pass through my field of vision, I pretend they are not even there. Instead, I look through them toward the cone. That helps me judge where to begin my nice smooth turn toward our jump. The straight line from my elbow to Callucci’s bit guides him onto the correct track. Amy K. Dragoo/AIMMEDIA
Then, as the center of the jump lines up with the cone, I can sit quietly and keep my eye on the cone. Amy K. Dragoo/AIMMEDIA
In the air over the fence, I am still focused on the cone, guaranteeing we land on the track I want to ride for the rest of the diagonal, which will set us up for a smooth turn to the left when we reach the end of the ring. You can see that Callucci has already read the cues I gave him by looking in the correct place—and has figured out where we are headed next. We approached this jump on our right lead, but he is getting ready to land from this nice straight jumping effort on his left lead in preparation for our new direction. I have not sacrificed any straightness, style or height of my horse’s jumping effort by twisting or ducking or pulling on my left rein to make him land on this lead. My body is not “telling a story” about wanting to go left after this jump. Amy K. Dragoo/AIMMEDIA
To read the full version of this article, check out the original story in the March 2017 issue of