This is another exercise that I did today from BE trainer, Jo May. My horse needs to improve his footwork, strength and the way he pushes off the ground and this exercise covers all these.
Frank will merrily go round a course in his regular canter pretty easily but he needs to throw a better shape over the fence and he needs to be politer and more disciplined into a fence as his rhythm will alter or he will lift his head and hollow. Frank is 6 but he found this exercise tough and by the end was really tired so please take this into account when doing it.
The aim is to be able to come to fences in a very compressed canter with the horse staying round and engaged into the bridle. The little upright fences encourage the rider to get a very deep spot without being worried and pushing and they encourage the horse to have better footwork. Frank was much better on one rein than the other and I had a schooling whip to keep his canter engaged and through into the bridle as occasionally he would drop off the leg as its hard to keep the compressed canter. The oxers need to be jumped in the same canter as the circle.
Frank quite often landed on the wrong leg so he had to keep going on the circle until he gave a change over the fence. This improved his footwork and is often an issue we have jumping a course that he is not quick enough to change.
As someone who likes to have a good forward shot to oxers, I found coming to the oxers in a small canter very hard but you do get a much better shape from the horse and more push from the ground. If the horse is finding it all easy then the oxers can be raised. Frank finished on about 1m but a friend’s good Novice horse was jumping 1.15m oxers on this exercise while the uprights on the circle remain at 2ft.
You might want a helper as they will have a few poles until they get the rhythm required on the small canter while on the circle but Frank did get better by the end of the session. The aim will be to carry on building his strength by regularly doing this exercise and to improve his footwork.