Skinny and angled fences are a feature on most cross country courses and are designed to test both horse and rider, so they’re always going to be a challenge. Your horse needs to learn how to negotiate this type of fence with confidence, so training at home is a must before you head off to try them for real. Arena schooling is great for this as it allows you to build up slowly and also go back a step if needed. Eventing guru Richard Waygood shows you stress-free ways to tackle them.

Three rules for the right line

Jumping skinnies successfully is all about riding the right line. Richard’s three rules for getting this right every time are:

  1. Put your horse in the correct way of going for the jump you’re tackling.
  2. You decide on the right line to take, not your horse.
  3. You must sit in balance and keep your weight through your heels, with light hands.

Exercise 1: Polework to start

Trotting poles are a good place to start as it gives you time to assess your horse’s attitude and rideability, and it makes a great warm-up exercise too.

Make sure you warm up in walk, trot and canter before starting going over the poles.

Set it up: Six poles need to be set out. Put four out at trot distance and the other two at end end perpendicular to the last poles parallel to the arena fence.

How to ride it:

  1. To start with, trot through the four poles. Let you horse lower their head a little, but you need to look up into the distance to stay straight.
  2. Change the rein and trot through the other way.
  3. Next, enter the grid by riding over the side pole on the way in and then straight up.
  4. Once through the grid, ride a teardrop shape and enter the grid again by coming over the vertical pole at the other end.
  5. If you finding your horse bowling on through the poles, use a half-halt to bring them back.

Exercise 2: Skinny means skinny

Setting out the fences together clearly indicates to your horse where they’re heading and stops them from ducking out.

Set it up: Put up a skinny fence with a filler. Place a pole either side to act as tramlines, and another skinny filler either side of the poles.

  1. To begin with, you will jump the fillers either side of the skinny fence. This gives your horse more room because they don’t have wings.
  2. Approach in trot, keeping your eyes up, hands low and staying balanced. Use a little counter flexion as needed to keep your horse straight.
  3. As they land, ride forward in a straight line and don’t let them turn until you want them to. This tells your horse you’re in control – this is the time they need to listen to you for instructions.
  4. Once you’re feeling confident, you can approach in canter, and then give the central skinny fence a go.

Meet the expert: Richard Waygood MBE is the technical director and eventing performance manager at British Equestrian. He has been involved with supporting 23 championship medals, including leading the GB dressage team to Olympic success at London 2012 and Rio 2016 in his role as performance manager/ chef d’équipe.

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