How To Hit The Centre Of A Fence Every Time
Struggling to hit the centre of your fence, when jumping? It's a common mistake riders encounter, putting crucial seconds on the clock, risking faults, and compromising the effectiveness of their jump. However, we're here to make sure you're always on target with advice on how to hit the centre of a fence every time!
Straight From the Get Go…
Focus on straightness from the get go! If you want a straight approach to the jump, make sure your horse has the foundations down first, including rhythm, balance and responsiveness to aids.
Having a horse which is rhythmical and balanced on the flat, before you begin jumping, will assist you on the approach to the jump. A horse which rushes to fences, or is not balanced, may waver and drift on the approach, making it difficult for you to pin-point your point of take-off and where you are aiming for!
Although you may want impulsion and forward-thinking to a jump, slowing down may just be the answer you are looking for. Slowing down will give you time to secure your line and think about your approach. Meanwhile, a slower gait will help your horse to work from behind, not falling on the fore-hand – a fault which often accompanies a speedy gait. Ultimately, slowing will not only assist you hitting the centre the fence, but can be the key to jump success to, as working from behind encourages your horse to engage their back muscles and abdominals, lifting their legs higher in the process, known as ‘bascule’.
If your struggling with speed and tempo on the approach, lay some poles out in front of a fence. This will might help to bring your horse back to you a bit and assist in tempo maintenance. Poles in front of a fence can also work to guide to the centre of a fence.
Practice Makes Perfect
Once you’ve established rhythm, balance, and tempo, working with your jumping equipment can help to tailor your eye to the jump middle.
Many poles come in striped variations, which is great for aim and knowing where the centre of the fence actually is. However, once you hit the competition ground or cross-country field, you may find striped poles become scarce, which is why training yourself to recognise the middle of jumps is key.
Basic training can begin with cross poles, with an even cross lying in the centre of a jump. If you're looking to up the height, simply lie a straight pole across the top!
Once you’re feeling braver, try using an A-frame, otherwise known as a V-poles, to hit the centre of the fence. To do this, set up a straight fence then lie two poles vertical on it. The vertical poles should be wide at the base and narrower at the top, creating a up-side down ‘V’ shape. This will not only get you to the middle of your fence, it will encourage your horse to pick up their front legs – perfect for those horses who can be a little bit lazy.
Once you think you have trained your eye to the middle of fence, make sure to test them out before competing. Try out more difficult approaches to fences, such as dog leg lines. Dog leg lines are broken lines between two fences, requiring a short approach distance. Also try incorporating skinny fences and corners to ensure you have a really handle on your straightness, aim and follow through, as well as being able to cope with 'scarier' objects.
When at competition, it is always important to be one step ahead!
Make sure you have left enough time to walk to course, as this be the difference between make and break. Having a view from an on-foot perspective, without the pressure of competition, can give you the upper hand and make sure you have the low-down on the lines you should be riding to hit the centre of the fence every time.
When on board, always make sure you’re looking ahead. Look ahead when riding circles, turns and to where your next fence is. This will help you navigate the course, so if your on-foot route didn’t go quiet to plan, you can quickly negotiate a new and just as effective route home.
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Journalist and News Reporter, Everything Horse
Reporting on equestrian news stories, Abby also produces a variety of engaging content for the magazine.