The skinny on jumping narrow fences – By our Head Trainer, Jenny Richardson BHSAI
Many guests come to Castle Leslie Estate to hone their riding skills over tricky fences – the kind that you may not have at home, or that you need some assistance with! A good example is the narrow fence; which can be anything from 3-6 feet wide!
These fences can be more troublesome to jump, as they do invite the horse to take the easier option and run out, or go straight past them! Riders can often get more tense or worried because of this, which can then transmit a potential problem to the horse.
The best way to introduce narrow fences is to place two wings in the arena, no more than six feet apart, with sloping ‘V’ poles on the ground to guide you in, and start by simply trotting the horse through this gap. Straightness is very important; be sure to use your arena wisely, with your approach very central and straight – the horse must not be allowed to drift, or to fall in or out.
The next stage is to place your stile pole on the floor in the gap between the wings, and repeat the exercise in trot and canter. If your horse tends to drift, you can always raise one or both of the guide poles using blocks or wings, bringing them into a tunnel as required.
Then we need to raise the pole to a small upright, ideally with a ground line, and to approach in trot, as this gives him more time to assess his task, and ultimately you will have more control. Slowly increase the height of the fence and your pace to a steady canter, and finally introduce various fillers.
You can progress to having one half of a pair of fillers set up by itself, and accustom him to jumping it, first with guide poles and then without. Once you feel happy without guide poles, move on to some practise over some cross-country skinnies.
Approach and speed
Your approach and speed is paramount; you often need to slow your pace down and get a collected canter in order to be able to keep your line straight and central. Achieving this at high speeds is very difficult, and needs time to perfect, so take your time and never panic about the height, as long as it is within your capability as a combination. It is your job to present the horse at the fence, and it is then his job to jump it.
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