To ensure you’re brimming with confidence every time you jump, rider and trainer, Karen Dixon is on-hand to offer some handy tips.
Leaving the ground on top of a four-legged beast with a mind of his own is a frightening prospect and it’s bound to send you into a bit of a spin. “I know that jumping is a daunting prospect for a lot of riders, particularly the under confident ones,” says Karen. “But it’s easy to bring the fun-factor back into jumping with some simple exercises.”
Here are Karen’s key jumping confidence exercises:
Perfect your position
In order to feel as confident as possible when jumping you must first ensure you have a secure, balanced seat and jumping position. To achieve this, stand up out of your saddle and shift your weight into your heels - remember not to grip with your knees. When you come to a fence, tip your shoulders forwards in front of the vertical and be sure not to let your legs slip back as this will unbalance you. It’s a good idea to practise this on the flat before you start over fences. A few circuits in walk, trot and canter in the jumping position during every ride is a great way to perfect it. Riding over poles will help to replicate the feeling of jumping without actually having to do it, which allows you to concentrate more on the quality of your position rather than the fence, which can be a real confidence booster.
Desensitise him to prevent spooks
Rider frighteners and bright, spooky fillers are part and parcel of most cross-country and show jumping courses, so you need to ensure your horse is desensitised to all possibilities before you hit the track. Getting your horse out hacking or riding him around spooky objects in his arena or schooling area is a fantastic way to get him used to things and ensure he’s prepared for every eventuality. Scatter your fillers around your arena and warm your horse up around them. The more he sees different spooky objects in random places, the less reactive he’ll be to them.
Build confidence over solid fences
Fear and apprehension around fixed fences isn’t uncommon, but cross-country can be one of the most fun and exhilarating rides of your life if you’re able to conquer it. I always recommend going along to a training session or hiring out a cross-country course with an experienced friend. Following a more confident rider over a fence is the ideal way to build your confidence. Start small at first before working you way up to the larger rider frightener fences. You can even have your instructor on hand to offer guidance and support from the ground.
Using a neck strap will give you added security and prevent you from sending nervous signals to your horse down the reins. Consider investing in one today and use it until you feel more confident.
More about our expert
Karen Dixon is a four-time Olympic event rider who competes, trains, rides and produces young horses. She also retrains ex-racers from her yard in County Durham.
Confidence-building cross-country training exercises that you can do at home, with 2007 Burghley champion William Fox-Pitt.
How do you ensure you are well prepared before you go cross-country? One of Britain’s most talented event riders William Fox-Pitt explains the importance of good preparation before you go competing – with exercises and advice on how to build confidence and suppleness. Riding his world-famous 16-year-old event horse Moon Man, William passes on his expert training tips in this inspiring demo.
This was filmed at Your Horse Live 2007. To see what’s on at this year’s Your Horse Live, click here…
International eventer, John-Paul Sheffield, reveals his top exercises to beat common jumping problems…
Why the problem?
You and your horse may have problems with run outs and refusals because…
• You’re approaching the jump too fast or too slow and not in rhythm.
• There’s not enough contact/support from the rider.
• You’re not riding the horse between leg and hand.
• The approach isn’t straight.
• The horse/rider isn’t confident jumping at that level.
How to help…
• Keep your basic pole exercise but place two poles on each side of the jump. Place the poles at the very edge nearest the wing on each side, leaving as much jump in the middle as possible, so not to put off your horse isn’t put off. The poles need to be straight, not at an angle, to invite your horse in and funnel him into the jump.
• Make sure you keep your line straight into the jump and support your horse with your seat and legs. Don’t drop your contact and look up and ahead. Be confident that you’re going to go straight over the jump. The poles help guide your horse into the jump and prevent him thinking he can run out.
TIP: Give yourself confidence by training at a higher level at home but jumping a bit smaller at an event. For example, get used to jumping 80cms at home, but enter a 50cms competition. Jumping smaller gives you confidence.