Skinny fences require accuracy, confidence and plenty of practice at home. Here we share some tips to help you crack your skinny jumping technique so that you can clear them with confidence every time.
Skinny fences are tricky for horses because having eyes are on the sides of their head means that at the moment of take-off they can’t see any of the fence. With this in mind it’s important to perfect your approach and technique to enable your horse to get it right.
Create a skinny at home
To practice jumping skinnies, you don’t need your own cross-country course – in fact, all you need is a small, narrow filler, a plastic barrel or a pole short enough to create a fence that’s narrow enough to simulate this particular type of fence.
If you don’t already have a short pole, find one you’d be happy to saw to a length of just 4ft. Once you’ve got your short pole, set it up between upright – not spread – wings or on buckets. This is because you want to be able to confidently jump skinnies that are bound both by upright wings and by nothing at all, i.e. on buckets or blocks, as they’re two different problems.
Develop straightness for skinnies
Straightness and focus also have a big part to play with this type of fence, so it’s important not to rely on extra wings or guide poles to keep you straight. You need to be working on how you develop your own riding to keep a horse straight from the word go.
One way to develop straightness at home is by using tramlines. Try this simple exercise:
Whether you have access to an arena, or prefer to school in your paddock, place two trot poles, spaced 1yd apart in an area where your horse can’t rely on a fence or a hedge to keep him straight.
On a left rein, go large in trot. You need to be ready to come off the track when you’re in line with the centre of your tramlines, so start looking where you need to go early, preferably in the corner before the turn.
Go at your own pace to begin with, working your way up to canter as you get more confident. Repeat the exercise on both reins equally.
Once you’re confident that you can hold your line, introduce your skinny fence. Keep it small to start with and you can even leave your tramlines in place (although a little wider than 1yd apart). It’s also wise to widen your tramline at the end furthest away from the jump. This creates a channel into the fence.
Jump through one or two times and be sure to look straight ahead, maintaining an equal and balanced position. It’s also important to apply equal pressure with your legs to ask your horse to go forwards but to stay straight.
As you grow in confidence ask a friend to widen your tramline poles gradually until they’re no longer needed.
If your horse is unsure of the skinny fence, approach in trot to begin with – this will give him more time to work out what he’s being asked to do.