Exercises to Build Riding Skills Even If You Have No Horse
This article is the first of a 3-part series on exercises you can do without a horse, if your horse is injured, or without a riding facility written by Cristal Mariposa.
This training exercise will do a lot to help you advance your jumping skills. Whether you’re taking riding lessons or your horse is out with a minor injury, you can still noticeably improve important jumping skills. It can also be done in your yard or even in your living room too!
You can practice this exercise on foot without a horse, or if your horse is injured but can be ridden at a walk. This training exercise addresses:
- Approaching a fence
- Form in front of and over a fence
- Continuing on to the next jump
Before we begin, let me explain what is meant by a “ride to” point. This is something such as a tree, barn, or some other specific landmark off in the distance that can be used as an object to sight and riding towards.
The following training exercise was indispensable to me for maintaining a straight line of approach, keeping my eyes up in front of a fence, and helped me stay relaxed on a jump course. However, even though this is a training exercise, I still use “ride to” points for riding a cross country course. In this case I select my “ride to” points during the coursewalk and then use them when I’m on course.
Jumping With An Approach Off A Turn
- Start by indicating what would normally be your jump using a ground pole, making a line in the sand, or sprinkling flour if your footing is grassy.
- At 36 or so feet stand directly front and center to the “jump”. Pick an object in the distance past and 90 degrees to the jump. In other words, the object needs to be straight in front of you coming out from a turn. The object should also be eye level with your head up. This is your “ride to” point that you will look at as you ride forward toward your jump. If you have limited distance past the jump (such as in your living room), don’t worry. Just pick a “ride to” point as far as you can after your jump. What’s most important is to choose a “ride to” point that’s eye level with your head up.
- Next, stand in the spot where you will commence turning. Walk forward to the place where you would start looking around your turn This is where you should be looking at your fence in order to place your horse straight to the jump.
- After completing your turn, look at your “ride to” point beyond the fence and go directly towards it. Continue looking at your “ride to” point as you step over the fence.
Do NOT drop your eyes to look at the jump. Ever. Dropping your eyes will cause your shoulders to drop forward in front of the jump. Believe me, even if you’re lucky to have an experienced (and forgiving) horse, you don’t want this habit. It’s hard to get rid of and you’ll eventually pay for it if you don’t.
- Once you get the hang of a single turn exercise, then you can add a second “obstacle” on a left or right-hand turn after the first jump. Follow steps 1 – 4 to the second jump. When adding a second jump remember to look at your next fence one stride out and as you’re going over the jump. This gives your horse a heads up as to where he/she will be going next.
Jumping With A Bending Line
- Complete steps 1 – 4.
- In this exercise you will already have a second obstacle in place on a bending line.
- A stride before your first fence, look toward your next jump on your bending line. You should decide beforehand where your bend will be. Again, this will give your horse a heads up as to the direction she/he will be heading.
- When you have completed your bend look at and go towards your established “ride to” point after the second fence.
It’s surprising how much this training exercise can help your riding skills continue to progress even if you don’t have a facility, a horse, or your horse is nursing an injury. I think once you are back in the saddle, you’ll feel a difference!
The next article of this series will address how to avoid depending on the reins to get results that don’t work at all the way we think!