More Exercises to Tune Your Eye for Jumps - Expert how-to for English Riders

More Exercises to Tune Your Eye for Jumps

This Olympic silver medalist shows you how to improve your track-riding skills over broken lines for smoother jumps. By Peter Leone for Practical Horseman magazine.
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Riding a connected broken line, you jump two fences set on a curved line where how you ride the first jump affects how you arrive at the second, called related striding. To be successful and smooth, you need to keep your horse in balance while choosing the correct track and pace to produce the desired number of strides between the jumps. Any loss of balance, direction or pace will make it difficult to recover between jumps and cause you to "miss" the distance--leave out a stride or have an awkward too-close or too-long takeoff. Combining two broken lines, creating a total of three or more jumps connected by related distances on curved lines, increases this challenge.

When riding connected distances well, each jump sets you up for the next. For every jump, you have to take off in control and land in control. Particularly with the first jump of the line, you have to take responsibility about your track both arriving at and riding away from the fence.

Here are several ways to add variety and increase the difficulty of the S-curve exercise I gave in my article "2 Exercises to Tune Your Eye" in the October 2009 issue of Practical Horseman.

Add Variety
To make this exercise more interesting and fun, experiment with different approaches and exits--sometimes riding straight tracks in the five strides, sometimes riding curved tracks in six strides, in either direction. Always plan the exact track you're going to take throughout the entire exercise before beginning. Play with different combinations of the elements, too. For example, ride the broken left line from Fences 2 to 3 and then roll back to the right to jump the broken left line from Fence 2 to 1.

You can also set the distances for different striding, always measuring the lines on a half stride (add 6 feet to any standard distance). For example, if the lines were set at 4 and 1/2 strides (66 feet) each, you'd ride the distances in a quiet five or forward four strides.

Increase the Difficulty
More-advanced riders can add new challenges to the S-curve exercise one step at a time:

  • Step 1. Replace Fence 2 with an oxer.
  • Step 2. Replace Fence 1 with an oxer and Fence 2 with a vertical-to-oxer one-stride in-and-out, set at the standard 24 feet distance. Remember to reposition Fences 1 and 3 as necessary to retain the correct distances in the broken lines.
  • Step 3. Make Fence 3 a 3/4-face liverpool vertical (so 3/4 of it is in front of the vertical). For advanced competition horses, reverse the liverpool, so it's entirely behind the vertical.
  • Step 4. For advanced jumpers only: Set the in-and-out distance gymnastically short (22 or 20 feet). Then ride "the add" striding from Fence 1 to the first element of the in-and-out and the normal striding from the in-and-out to Fence 3.

Grand Prix show jumper Peter Leone began riding at age 5 and went on to earn many Best Child Rider Awards at major horse shows before winning the World Cup Grand Prix of New York at age 18. Since then, he has represented the U.S. Equestrian Team at numerous international competitions, including the 1982 World Championships and the 1996 Olympics, in which his teams placed fourth and second, respectively.

Ridden well, each jump in a connected broken line sets you up for the next. The calm expressions of both Karyn Foley and Dutch Warmblood Safari show that Karyn

Ridden well, each jump in a connected broken line sets you up for the next. The calm expressions of both Karyn Foley and Dutch Warmblood Safari show that Karyn

To read more about the S-curve exercise mentioned here as well as other exercises to improve your track-riding skills, see "2 Exercises to Tune Your Eye" in the October 2009 issue of Practical Horseman.