Take the Plunge! WARider November Lockdown Riding Challenge

Hello and welcome to this week’s WARider Challenge. This week’s exercise is called Take the Plunge – Plunge meaning to jump or dive quickly and energetically, and of course, being a Wild Atlantic Rider, I had to have a little play on some water words!

This exercise is designed to get you thinking on your feet, really planning your approaches, your get aways and introduce the idea of turn backs and tighter lines for a jump off situation.

Amateur eventers Ailbhe McGrath and Raphi are back to show us how the pole lay out can be used to practice control by practicing their upward and downward canter transitions and 10 metre circles. I’m also very happy to introduce you to Sarah and Johnny from @madfortheride, who are both amateur eventers and aspiring Mongol Derby riders for 2021. Johnny rides his 5 year old mare, Rose, while Sarah rides her hunter, Nemo, and both display how the sequence of jumps can be ridden in the videos below.

Johnny and Rose also display how this exercise is a good introduction for a young horse to “turing away” from the perceived or obvious direction of the jump, which you might spot in the video below.

(Correction: For some reason, I thought Johnny’s mare was called Molly – why? I’ve no idea, but the text on the video is incorrect, she is, indeed, called Rose… and I am.. an idiot!)

The Exercises

The illustration of both exercises allows for 6 jumps/poles. However, the amount of space available to you will determine the number of jumps you can fit in. It can be ridden with 3 or more jumps. Ailbhe has 6 poles in her display, Johnny and Sarah have 5 jumps in the lay out.

I would normally set the jumps up so that the corner of jump 3 and jump 4 meet on or near the centre line to ensure enough space for the exercise. Jumps 1 and 6 will be on the inside of the 3/4 line track, depending on the width and size of your arena. Again, you will know what works best for the arena you have to work in.
Be sure to allow yourself at least the space of a 15-metre circle after each fence. I used to do it in less than 15 metres but I think it’s sensible to allow yourself the room for an extra stride.

Warm Up

As a build up to this exercise, I would suggest working on 20, 15 and 10 metre circles in trot. I used to like leg yielding on a circle in and out from 10 to 20 metres. You should also work on 20 and 15 metre circles in canter. Depending on where you and your horse are at in your level of training, you could work on leg yielding 20 to 10 metre circles in canter as well. This is strenuous work for both you and your horse, so be sure not to over do it, and allow for breaks and stretches.

To get familiar with the area you will be riding to and away from, I would ride these warm up circles in the corners of the fences (like an imaginary box) so that you get a feel for where their turns will be.

Try troting the exercise over the poles on the ground as well, to get a feel for the size of each circle and turn back. Then progress to cantering over the poles, and then jumps if you wish.

Exercise One – The Cross Stitch

Exercise one looks like a cross stitch pattern. You’ll be riding 3/4 circles back to each fence.
Depending on the level of horse and rider, the diameter of the circles can be anything between 15 and 10 meters, depending on how much of challenge you want to set yourself (can do it on your heels if you want to really have a go of it!) You are essentially turning away after each jump which is something we don’t naturally do as we normally have a flow towards the direction the jumps face (hope that makes sense). 

Ailbhe and Raphi demonstrate how to ride the pattern using poles on the ground. You’ll see from the video at the end of the post how they incorporate canter to walk and walk to canter transitions before and after the pole.

Olympic Rings

Exercise 2 is like the Olympic Rings! It’s like riding continuous figures of 8 in canter. You should be thinking “outside line, inside line, outside line, inside line” and riding 3/4 circles away from each jump. 

If you canter the exercises over poles on the ground or once you have ridden it over some small cross poles you can then begin to play with the exercises a little. If thinking of a jump off scenario, you can challenge yourself as much as you want by riding tighter turns, angled approaches and smaller circles etc. 

So for a little inspiration and visualisation of how the exercise riders, Sarah, Johnny and Ailbhe sent me on some clips and I have put them together in the video below for you.

Special thanks to Ailbhe, Johnny and Sarah who took the time out this week to give the exercise a try and for sending me on their clips. Your help is very much appreciated – seeing as I have 3 horses and none of which are able to jump at the moment!

I really hope you enjoy this week’s challenge. It’s a simple layout that can create many different opportunities – go and have some fun with it! I’m looking forward to seeing how you get on and how you approach each exercise.

As always, if you decide to give it a go I’d love to hear your feedback and see what you got up to. Best of luck and enjoy your weekend riding challenge!

Cat x


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