You can learn a lot from your fellow jumper friends. They think I'm crazy because I love to gallop at solid fences. I think they're crazy because they love to gallop at fences that fall down--super giant fences, at that. But, it's a solid idea to learn from each discipline and not to hate if they happen to do something a little different. Today I'm going to walk you through an exercise I learned from the jumper world. Even though it seems simple, this exercise teaches you and your horse how to stay straight, keep the engine revved in the turns, and how to maintain balance and impulsion from straight lines to turns.
This exercise functions as a figure-8, in theory. You have the opportunity to approach, start, and end this exercise from any side and I advise that as you progress through your ride, you do. Like always, begin this exercise and every exercise with either very low fences or poles on the ground. This gives your horse and you the opportunity to work through the footwork while there is little risk.
Start from your choice of direction with a developed and balanced canter. Canter over the pole on the ground, to the two-stride to the wide oxer. After the fence, focus on straightness and canter straight for two strides over the second pole. Depending on lead, turn to approach through the middle of the exercise. Make sure you maintain impulsion through your turn and keep your shoulders and your horse's shoulders upright and straight. Remember, inside aids create the bend but the outside aids create your turn. Come to your two 1-stride poles, to your fence, to your two landing poles. Repeat and change directions.
You can come from the right and land right, come from the left and land left, or you can come from the right and land left, and come from the left and land right. Just be sure you are switching it up.
After you have come through a few times with poles or low fences, slowly start to raise the fences, keeping in mind the oxers should remain wide. If you must sacrifice height in order to keep them wider, so be it.
Give breaks between sessions as this exercise is a decent amount of "body building" on the horse's part. Let the poles do their job of giving you somethign to ride towards and giving your horse an opportunity to work on footwork. Focus on your equitation and sitting up through your turns and over the fences. Focus on sitting up on landing and landing "in your heels," feeling your weight drop down into the stirrups. If you forget to sit up, these oxers will feel wonky and your turns will be a pain in the butt to ride!