Piggy French helps you create an adjustable canter

This exercise uses two poles on the ground, set out in a straight line on a random distance. 

Piggy French canter poles

There's no need to stride out a distance as you're going to vary your horse's canter stride between each pole.

This exercise is a great and fun way to teach your horse to shorten and lengthen his canter stride. It also helps you keep your horse between hand and leg, while still having a good quality canter, which will improve his balance too. 

Watch Piggy ride this exercise on Cooley Monsoon (who's owned by Jennifer Saunders).

 

Don't miss the latest issue of Your Horse magazine, jam-packed with brilliant training ideas, horse care tips and the latest equestrian gear plus much more. 

Harry Meade helps one reader improve her horse's jumping technique

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Earlier this year, in partnership with feed manufacturer Dodson and Horrell two Your Horse magazine readers won our Goal Getter competition. 

One of winners, Charlotte Witcombe travelled from Southampton to Wiltshire with her horse Princess for their lesson with event rider Harry Meade. 

Harry, Charlotte and Princess at the end of their jumping lesson

Harry, Charlotte and Princess at the end of their jumping lesson

Charlotte has her eyes firmly fixed on qualifying for the 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Cup at Badminton with her horse Princess. 

The focus of their lesson was to help the ex-racehorse make a better shape over her fences. 

Harry uses several different exercises during the lesson to help both horse and rider to concentrate and ride accurately. 

By the end of the lesson there was a clear improvement and Harry's exercises could help your horse too.

Want to learn more about what the exercises Harry suggested? Check out the new issue of Your Horse magazine - on sale Thursday 28 June. 

Get your horse used to water

Help your horse to splash through water with confidence in four easy steps with advice from eventing pro Karen Dixon.

riding in pairs through water

1. Give him confidence with company

If your horse is young or inexperienced, it’s important to go cross-country schooling with a friend on a calm, experienced schoolmaster who’ll be able to give him confidence. Choose your venue carefully – ideally it should have a variety of water jumps to practise over, of varying depths, with inviting slopes in and out that are safe underfoot.

Cross-country schooling is all about building your horse’s confidence, so let him have fun following his more experienced friend into the water for a paddle, then ride out the other side, then turn around and ride back through the water again. Repetition is key to teaching your horse that water’s nothing to be afraid of.

2 Take it slow

Start by walking your horse through the water complex and forget about any jumps that might be there. Once he’s confident at walk – both following a friend through and on his own – move into trot, then try walking in and trotting out, and so on. I always advise riders to stay in walk and trot when they’re introducing their horse to water.

jumping out of water

3 Introduce jumps into water

Once your horse is happy to walk and trot through the water complex on his own, it’s time
to introduce a bit of jumping. While I’m not a huge fan of jumping out of water, I find
it helps to boost a horse’s confidence no end if you can pop out of the water over a little step or jump, then turn around and jump back into the water over the same jump. The fact that he’s already familiar with the fence coming out will mean he’s much more confident going back in over it. Again, do this with the lead of a confident horse at first then try it on your own – and keep it steady. Choose a tiny step or jump you can pop over in walk first, then try it in trot.

Always jump in and out of water on a completely loose rein. Use a neck strap so you’ve got something to hold onto and hang on tight! Horses will often do a really big jump into water, and it’s important you’re not hanging onto their back teeth.

4 Try the seven-day trick!

If your horse has a problem with water, or is naturally suspicious, follow the advice I was once given by a natural horsemanship trainer – and that’s to tackle seven different water fences in seven days. It really works! I had a horse who rammed the brakes on whenever he saw a water jump. Over a week I took him to several different venues – I did two one day and three the next – and within a week his confidence had grown. It’s all about encouraging your horse to perceive water as just another thing he has to deal with.

Jump skinny fences with confidence

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.

jumping a skinny fence

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:

trotting horse thorugh poles

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.

Start small

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.