At the Hartpury International Eventing conference this Spring (for which Lucy’s excellent notes are here) the featured SJ trainer, the very experienced John Ledingham, said that he likes to have people have their first warm-up jumps over a square oxer, which is contrary to what most of us do. Certainly I have always been taught to begin over either a X pole or an upright, jump those a few times, and then progress to an oxer.
“His belief is that a vertical does not encourage the shoulders up and the bascule needed.”
At a recent SJ session with a BE and UKCC3 trainer, Tina Ure, this idea was something we tried. She told me that since she adopted this strategy in warming up her pupils this year, they have jumped far more clear rounds.
It definitely prevents the rider from just going to ‘pop’ a small fence… it encourages production of a really positive, forward canter, which of course is always going to improve the jump.
I must admit it felt a bit strange. The first attempt was good, but when we slipped coming round the turn to it the second time, from the other rein, I pulled away to sort out the approach better, which felt daft to such a small fence… if it had been an upright I would have probably kept going, and perhaps got a bad jump from a bad approach. So, coming straight to an oxer focuses the mind even more on the quality of the canter and the approach, I found.
I will definitely be using an oxer as my first practice fence from now on – with all apart from baby horses, which I think will still benefit from a X pole first. I think it’s worth playing about with, to see how it influences your riding and the quality of your horse’s jump… and of course having the session photographed or video’d is always a huge asset. Sometimes the way it feels is not quite the way it looks, and the pictures tell a big story!