In the beginning stages of my young horses, I start working them over trot poles before I ask them to jump a fence. It’s an easy exercise to help balance, coordinate, concentrate and strengthen their muscles and mental awareness. It also doesn’t pound on their joints. For riders such as myself, it helps me stay in a rhythm.
In early jump training, its important to approach fences in a quiet trot that’s controlled and relaxed. Straightness is really important early on, so I focus on keeping the horse between my leg and hand aids, and will add poles on the ground to help guide the front and back end of the horse.
If everything is flowing along, I’ll start adding some canter fences, as long as the pace stays quiet and steady. Riders need to be careful to not teach the horse to rush at take-off or on landing.
Introduction of friendly and approachable fences will build a youngster’s confidence. Don’t get ahead of yourself in the training and to always read what your horse is telling you. Start off slowly, because it will payoff later.
When schooling over narrow obstacles, begin with a barrel on its side and put poles on each side spaced apart like a ‘V’, so that the poles funnel you to the middle and over the barrel. It is very simple, safe and the horse learns early that they can’t run out. If all your homework is going well, you eventually take the poles away. You can also set the barrel on its end to make the school more technical, but this is only when the horse is confidently accurate.