Ex­er­cise 2: Ground Pole to Cross­rail

Practical Horseman - - Cross Country -

Kent might make the dis­tance slightly longer so the horse had to stretch—so long as it was within the horse’s ca­pa­bil­ity. On the other hand, if his horse was eat­ing up the dis­tance, Kent might make it a bit shorter so the horse would get ac­cus­tomed to a short dis­tance and learn to wait.

At home, Kent typ­i­cally does gym­nas­tic work once a week and course work once a week and is care­ful to be very de­lib­er­ate with the amount of jump­ing. “I don’t want to jump ex­tra jumps for fun,” he said. “You’re just beat­ing up on the horse for no rea­son. The least amount of jump­ing I can do to ac­com­plish the les­son—that’s my goal. … I can teach him to slow down on the flat or over poles and then build the jump up to as small as pos­si­ble to get where I am try­ing to go.” As he did on the flat, Kent asked rid­ers to fo­cus on feel and gave them op­tions in cer­tain parts of the ex­er­cises to turn, cir­cle or stop when they felt they needed it to bet­ter the horse.

Ex­er­cise 1: Ground Poles

Setup: Two ground poles 16 feet (one stride) apart

Kent in­structed the rid­ers to ap­proach the sim­ple ground-pole ex­er­cise on a nor­mal can­ter with­out con­trol­ling the stride too much and to catch it once off the right lead and once off the left. Horses were to qui­etly can­ter over the first pole, take one stride and land on the other side of the sec­ond pole. The dis­tance was set at 16 feet as a spe­cific train­ing ex­er­cise to make rid­ers prac­tice pa­tience, and wait for a “dis­ci­plined” dis­tance. “You don’t want a fly­ing dis­tance over the rail, where it’s su­per long,” he called. “Just step over.” He ad­mit­ted that the dis­tance might feel a lit­tle long to rid­ers aboard horses with shorter strides.

Lessons from the flat­work were quickly car­ried over as Kent re­minded rid­ers to keep their up­per bod­ies from jump­ing for­ward at the poles.

Ex­er­cise 2: Ground Pole to Cross­rail

Setup: Ground pole 9 feet to a cross­rail, then 9 feet to an­other ground pole

This ex­er­cise was used as a con­trol ex­er­cise in which a qui­eter and shorter dis­tance worked bet­ter than a long one. Horses were to can­ter the pole, take a quiet bounce

step over the cross­rail and fi­nally, a bounce stride over the sec­ond pole. Kent noted that if the fence had been much larger, it would be set at a longer dis­tance. First, rid­ers went through Ex­er­cise 1 on the right lead, qui­etly stopped or did a down­ward tran­si­tion, then turned left into the arena wall be­fore ap­proach­ing Ex­er­cise 2 on the left lead.

“This is an easy dis­tance to the pole com­ing in. That’s why we wanted to prac­tice the dis­ci­plined dis­tance at the poles,” said Kent. “Don’t just fly at the rail. If you’re not sure, al­ways add one stride.”

Since Ex­er­cise 1 was set at the end of the ring, the horses an­tic­i­pated go­ing right af­ter the ex­er­cise be­cause there wasn’t as much room to turn left. Kent stressed the im­por­tance of train­ing the horses to turn left and roll back into the wall, re­pro­gram­ming them to stay in tune and to hold the line where the rid­ers wanted to go.

“The idea of turn­ing back­wards into the wall is that the horse doesn’t an­tic­i­pate the turn,” Kent said. “It’s go­ing to teach them bet­ter bal­ance and to slow down and wait for the rider to know where they’re go­ing next so that they’re not an­tic­i­pat­ing and tak­ing it into their own hands.” Echoes from the flat­work came through as De­laney Flynn strug­gled with her horse’s pogo-stick can­ter. Kent told her to en­cour­age the horse to have a long stride with­out be­ing fast. He had her cir­cle first to get a longer stride be­fore ap­proach­ing Ex­er­cise 2. “Don’t let him can­ter in place,“he called. “Ac­cel­er­ate around the end and [be] pa­tient at the ex­er­cise.”

Ce­cily Hayes and Lothello demon­strate Ex­er­cise 2, a cross­rail with ground poles placed 9 feet on ei­ther side.

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