International eventer, John-Paul Sheffield, reveals his top tips to jump clear.

So why does your horse knock a jumping pole? Well it might be because:

Your horse rushes into the fence and jumps flat, so he doesn’t produce a bascule shape over the fence
His rhythm is not controlled
You’re not riding straight into the fence

How to help…
When a horse jumps flat, he’s more likely to knock poles because he’s not using his body properly to arch over the fence. Rhythm and straightness both play a huge part in attaining a good jump, but this simple exercise will encourage your horse to fold his front legs up over the fence.

Use V poles on the jump. Place two poles at an angle, so the tips rest on the top pole of the jump (see pic) and the other end angles out.
“When using V poles, I don’t like the angle to be too narrow, because I think horses can find it off-putting and may refuse,” said John-Paul.

The shape of the poles encourages the horse to bring his front end up more and round his body over the fence. The narrower the angle, the bigger your horse should jump.

Another way to encourage the bascule is, when jumping a spread, to place a pole diagonally across the top of the fence. The idea is the horse is encouraged to look down slightly at the pole as he jumps, thus rounding his back, over the fence.

TIP: Use fillers to get your horse looking at the fence, so he respects it. Also moving the last canter pole slightly closer to the jump, will shorten your horse’s distance to the jump, which means he needs to be more gymnastic, in order to get clear it. This can encourage him to lift more over the fence and avoid knocked poles.