Everything You Need to Know about Show Jumping Gymnastics

Previously we covered the fundamentals of show jumping; today, we’ll be looking show jumping gymnastics and how to implement them.

Written By:

David C
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You may remember that we previously covered the fundamentals of jumping mechanics. In the first part of this series, we focused on building a strong foundation for your horse and improving balance. We also discussed the importance of tailoring grid work for yours and your horses’ needs: exercises that go viral online are not always what you and your horse need. In this second part of the series, we’ll be delving deeper into the world of show jumping gymnastics.

We’ll give you more insight into grid work, related distances, and different setups; introducing elements such as bounces, combinations, and more. We’ll also cover some fundamental aspects to consider when jumping these exercises. After all, knowledge is the best tool to get the most out of it and improve your and your horse’s agility and coordination. So without further ado, let’s jump right in and explore the exciting world of show jumping gymnastics!

Jumping gymnastics fundamentals

The first important thing is to start working from the ground up. Give your horse time to get familiar with the poles, wings, and distances. When you feel the horse goes through the poles on the floor with confidence, it’s time to raise them. Going step by step without rushing is the key to success on this journey. Before going deeper into advanced exercises, let’s check some important fundamentals.

You might be familiar with exercises that begin at the trot while others start at the canter. Each entering gait has different training objectives, as we are about to see.

The role of gaits in show jumping gymnastics

Choosing the proper starting gait for each exercise is crucial. Starting at the trot or the canter sets the stage for specific objectives and benefits.

Exercises that start at the trot 

These exercises help horses and riders develop balance, coordination, and precision. The controlled nature of the trot allows riders to focus on their positions and a secure seat. They also help the horse to engage its hindquarters, round its back, and find a steady rhythm. Besides, riders don’t have to worry about finding the distance to the first obstacle. When the poles are set at the proper distance, riders only have to focus on achieving a quality trot.

Canter exercises 

These exercises are great for developing horses’ forward energy, impulsion, and adjustability.  Fluid canter allows horses to generate power and momentum. Besides, these exercises help riders to maintain a balanced and effective position. They also help them to adapt to the horse’s movements better. Finally, riders go through show jumping courses at the canter. That’s why many of these exercises help to face the difficulties found when competing.

Working with poles at the trot: trotting poles

Riders sometimes underestimate trotting poles. They are beneficial riders and horses of all levels. Trotting poles are valuable training tools in show-jumping gymnastics. They contribute to enhancing the horse’s athleticism and the rider’s refinement. That’s why many exercises start with two or three trotting poles before the first fence.

These simple but effective exercises offer several benefits, including:

Building rhythm and stride control: 

Trotting poles encourage horses to establish a consistent rhythm and improve stride control. As horses trot over the poles, they learn to lengthen or shorten their stride. This improves their adjustability and responsiveness to the rider’s aids.

It’s important that riders have an excellent approach to the poles to help horses to find the right pace. When everything is well set, horses should step between the bars. The distance between the poles may vary, as not all horses have the same size and stride length.

Improving balance and coordination: 

Trotting over the poles helps horses engage their core muscles better and develop good balance. Repeating the exercise improves their coordination. Besides, it helps them shift their center of gravity, which is useful when jumping.

Refining technique and jumping mechanics: 

Trotting poles also help horses improve their jumping technique and form. They encourage the horse to lift its shoulders and engage the hind end, which results in cleaner and more efficient jumping mechanics.

Working with poles at the canter: related distances

Once the foundation is set with trotting poles, the next step is incorporating poles set at related distances. Canter exercises introduce extra challenges. They help horses develop their ability to judge distances, adjust stride length, and keep a consistent rhythm.

Importance of proper spacing

Setting poles at related distances allows horses to practice adjustability. The poles help horses to adjust their stride length, enabling smoother and more accurate approaches. Proper spacing also helps riders know their horses best and improve their timing. 

Practicing with poles on the ground also helps riders know how many strides their horses will take to cover certain distances. Then they will learn how to apply the aids to cover them in more or fewer strides.

What’s next?

When you and your horse master these skills, you can move on to more advanced exercises. For example, incorporating crossrails into the trotting poles and much more. This allows the development of jumping skills, balance, coordination, and precision. Adding crossrails introduces a new dimension of challenge, both for horses and riders. It requires the horse to engage its hindquarters even more, among other things. 

In the next chapter, we will add more elements to the grid, explaining their purpose. These articles will help you master grid jumping and building like a pro. 

These exercises are great for enhancing your show jumping performance. Last but not least, they improve your horse’s athleticism, suppleness, jumping technique, and much more. They’re certainly also great for improving your patience and knowing your horse better!