Improve Your Horse's Adjustability Over Fences

This top equitation and jumper trainer's figure-eight exercise will increase adjustability and responsiveness, making for smoother rounds.

Here’s a great warm-up over fences, whether you’re getting ready for a regular jumping session or preparing for my adjustability exercise in the January 2007 issue of Practical Horseman.

| Photos by Nathan Welton

By riding a continuous figure-eight over a “fan” made of two low verticals 36 feet apart on a bending line, you’ll improve the coordination of your inside and outside aids, balance and supple your horse, and fine-tune communication between the two of you.

1. Olivia began the figure-eight pattern by approaching the first fence on her right lead. By not giving a long release, she’s already thinking about having her horse in control for the coming left turn.

2. And as she begins that turn, she is deep in her saddle and already trying to push her horse out into her outside rein so he doesn’t cut in.

3. As she completes the turn and begins her approach to the second jump, she clearly shows that she’s comfortable with her horse’s recovery and rideability by getting light in the saddle.

4. And here’s the payoff for riding the first jump and turn well. As Olivia’s horse prepares to leave the ground, he’s in good balance, which allows her to assume a position and release that are a little more “with” his movement.

5. Now Olivia’s back in closer contact with her saddle as she comes off the second jump and begins the turn to the right. Again, there’s a little curve beginning in her horse’s body which is putting him onto her new outside rein.

Trainer Frank Madden has been a fixture in the winner’s circle at all the major equitation finals for nearly three decades. In 2005 his student Brianne Goutal became the first rider to win every national equitation final. Helping Frank run Beacon Hill Show Stables in Colts Neck, N.J., are his wife, Stacia, Krista Freundlich and Max Amaya.

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