Step 2: Practice a Corner in the Arena
SETUP >> Build the simulated corner in your arena so you have enough space to jump it in both directions: Lay a barrel on its side. About 10 feet from it, place two standards close together with cups facing the barrel. (They can be closer than this depending on your level.) Rest one end of a 12-foot pole on the barrel and put the other end in the cup. Do this with the second pole and standard. Place a ground line at the base of each vertical. Put one end of the last pole on the front of the barrel and the other end of the pole on the ground, angled to the outside of the jump at approximately 100–110 degrees. This will act as a wing (or guide rail) to direct the horse and encourage him to jump. Alcatraz has competed up to the Advanced level, so he quickly becomes unimpressed with this corner. If he were less experienced, I would make sure he had jumped the corner confidently with the front rail lowered in both directions. If he is hesitant, I will continue to jump with the front rail lowered until he jumps confidently. Then my helper would put the front rail into the cup and I would approach again, as I’m doing here, using the same seat, leg and hand aids as I did in Photo 3 on page 45 along with the guide rail to make it very clear to Alcatraz that I want him to jump the corner.
WHERE TO FOCUS >> To determine what part of the corner to focus on and jump, bisect the angle, imagining a line that cuts it in half from the widest point of the corner to the tip. In the center of that line, picture another line running toward you at a 90-degree angle. This is the line of your approach. The aim is to pick a “window” on the corner that includes the narrowest part of the corner—without risking a runout—and the widest part of the corner—without asking too much of a scope question for your horse. Approaching the corner in the middle of that window gives you room for error if your horse drifts on approach. After Alcatraz confidently jumps with the guide rail, my helper removes it and I approach the corner in the same way I did before: defensive seat in the saddle, legs firmly on his sides with wider-set hands.
TIP >> The progression to jumping the fence as a full corner might not happen in one jump school. For the first school, you might start with the front rail angled down to the ground and a wing pole to guide the horse (see photo 3 on page 45). For the second school, you might review the first school briefly, then if your horse jumps confidently, put the pole back in the cup while still using a wing pole. For the third jump school, you can take away the wing.
I lowered the front pole of the corner from the cup to the ground. This creates a softer face on the corner and helps Alcatraz to understand the concept of jumping it. At this point, it is useful to have a helper on the ground who can place the poles in and out of the cups and change the placement of the wing pole. About five strides before the corner, I dropped into a defensive seat in the saddle— sitting and bringing my upper body upright. I also made sure my legs were firmly on his sides and widened my hands. The combination of leg, seat and hand aids applied together has allowed Alcatraz to confidently jump the corner. (He was a little fresh this day, which is why I am using a short release here.)
Now Alcatraz is ready to jump the corner at a higher height, which will prepare him for the size of the actual corner once we go out to the cross-country course.
TIP >> Horses and riders will progress at different rates when it comes to jumping a corner in the arena. The key is to advance at a pace that builds confidence in both you and your horse. If it takes three or more jump schools to reach this point, the time spent in the arena doing your homework is worth it.