Take a look at any event course nowadays and you’ll notice that skinny fences are a recurring theme. The nemesis of many riders, it can seem tricky to prepare for them on the cross-country if you don’t have access to a course of rustic fences at home. However, with arena eventing in full swing for the winter season, it’s as useful as ever to boost your confidence over these fences, and there are ways of doing so regardless of your set up.

Event rider Ibby Macpherson is a firm believer in making the most of what you have to train your horse.

“You don’t need a full-blown course to practise the skills you need for cross country,” she says. “You can recreate elements that you’ll see on a course in your school.”

Master the skinny fence

“I use bales of shavings at home,” explains Ibby. “But you can use barrels or blocks – anything you have around the yard.

“With younger or inexperienced horses, I’ll start with the shavings as a filler to a jump so they get used to seeing them. I’ll put several bales under a fence, then start the exercise in a steady trot as this gives the horse time to think about what he’s doing.

“Once they’re happy jumping this, I’ll take it step by step so that the jump gradually gets narrower until my horse is jumping just a single bale or two together.”

How to ride it

Set it up: Put an upright fence down one side of your arena with the bales of shavings (or barrels or blocks) acting as fillers.

How to ride it

  1. Go large in trot, looking ahead for your jump.
  2. Come off the track and, still in trot, ride straight toward the jump.
  3. Jump the fence and change the rein, remaining in trot.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
  5. Once you’re happy with how he’s going, repeat the exercise in canter.

The next level:

  1. Once your horse is comfortable with the fillers, take the poles away and use V-shaped guides on top of your shavings bales to keep him central.
  2. Gradually remove the bales of shavings until you’re left with two.
  3. Remove the wings.
  4. Remove the guide poles.

Meet the expert: Ibby Macpherson is an international event rider based in Northamptonshire.

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