Flatwork for Showjumping
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   21st Aug 2013   •   16,216 views   •   1 comments
Flatwork for Showjumping

It may sound surprising to say, but ‘showjumping’ is actually not all about ‘jumping’. When faced with a big course of jumps, the horse’s physical jump can only take it so far. What matters is what happens between the jumps; balance, impulsion, adjustability, and the overall quality of the canter. This is what is needed to produce a decent showjumping round. Unfortunately, these qualities are not things that can be taught over fences. Although every showjumper hates to hear it, the harsh truth is that before you’ll be able to jump successfully, you have to do your homework. And sadly, that means doing your flatwork.

In a showjumping horse, the most important aspect to focus on is that he is loose and supple behind, freeing up his quarters to give him the power he needs to jump. He must be balanced and rhythmic, with all his power coming from behind. He should never feel flat and on the forehand between the jumps – a horse that isn’t collected between the hand and leg, charging around on the forehand, is the horse most likely to have a nasty fall during the course. That is why, as riders, it is our responsibility to ensure that our horse is properly warm and supple, and that his quarters are strong enough to power him through the course. The following are some of my favourite warm up exercises to engage the quarters and loosen up a stiff horse, thus allowing for a more safe, successful and confident jumping session!

Transitions within a pace. When trotting large around the arena, collect the trot for three strides, and then lengthen for the next three, trying to show as much difference as possible. Make sure that the horse is always between hand and leg, and keep repeating the exercises until his quarters feel looser. As he begins to loosen up, try lengthening and collecting very subtly on every stride – this gets the horse snappy and responsive, trying to change his pace at a split second’s notice, and should cause him to engage his quarters and work more through his back, thus giving a bigger, looser trot. Repeat the exercise again at canter.

Flatwork for Showjumping

Leg yields. Leg yields should be done in both directions at trot and canter to loosen the horse’s quarters, and get him thinking about the placement of the hind legs. It is very important that he is crossing over behind, so make those leg yields dramatic.

Flatwork for Showjumping

Shoulder in. This serves much the same function as the leg yield, and serves to get the horse using his quarters even more.

Five to ten meter circles. It sounds simple, but a tight, ten meter circle ridden in a collected pace and – most importantly – turning from the legs and not the hands is a surefire test to see whether a horse is able to push from his quarters, or if he’d rather just drag himself along in front. I like to do my circles around a jump to keep the size and shape nice and tight, and to offer some direction. Circles should be ridden one at a time so the horse can really push off his quarters without becoming too tired. Ride forward out of the circle, and lengthen the stride a little to allow him to stretch.

Canter transitions. Whether it’s from halt, walk or trot, a good, upward canter transition is a great way to spice up a horse’s quarters. Do as many canter transitions as possible from all gaits – even try some simple and flying changes if your horse is at the correct level. All of this will get him working properly behind, and moving forward off the leg.

Flatwork for Showjumping

Rein backs. The rein back is an invaluable tool to any showjumper, as it instantly engages the horse’s quarters. Many showjumpers, myself included, will rein back at the sound of their bell before beginning a course to get the horse back on its hocks, and ready to jump!

Next time you jump your horse, give him a proper warm up. Take the time to loosen him up correctly and get him really working behind, and you will see the difference in the quality of his canter, and the quality of his jump.

Happy flatwork, showjumpers!

Flatwork for Showjumping
Horse News More In This Category:  Horse Training      Horse News More From This Author:  Polo the Weirdo
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All you showjumpers out there, check this out. How do you warm up your jumping horse in order to get the best performance?
  Aug 21, 2013  •  17,455 views
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