British Horse Feeds sponsored showjumper Pippa Allen provides advice on keeping your horse calm and relaxed when working towards jumping a small course in an indoor arena. We follow a lesson Pippa gave to Nicole Wiggins and her horse Robbie.Having competed from a very young age, Pippa 23, has two European Team gold medals under her belt, and has had international success at many prestigious shows including the Royal International Horse Show, Hickstead, Scope, Olympia, Aachen, Hagan and the Horse of the Year Show.
Nicole, 23, from Runcorn in Cheshire, travelled up to Pippa’s yard near Bradford, West Yorkshire, along with her horse Robbie, a six-year-old 17hh Irish Draught.
Having owned Robbie for 18 months, Nicole’s plans for competing him came to an abrupt halt last year when she broke her ankle after falling off him! Nicole has had some issues with Robbie, as being a very big horse and still young, he can nap when out at shows, so having a lesson with Pippa was great for building their confidence as a partnership.
Pippa started off by working on Nicole and Robbie’s flatwork and helping Robbie to relax by doing plenty of circles. She advised Nicole to keep her reins short and her hands up, as Nicole has a tendency to drop her hands when Robbie gets tense.
Once the pair started working in canter, Pippa suggested allowing the canter to extend and allow Robbie freedom on the long side of the arena.
“Let him open up in the canter to loosen him up before shortening the canter again,” Pippa said. “Don’t keep him short all the time as he gets tight in his neck.”
Once Robbie was relaxed and working well, Pippa set out some poles and asked Nicole to count strides between the jumps out loud. Again, they repeated the exercise of collecting Robbie on the short sides of the arena and extending the canter down the long side. Practicing shortening and lengthening the canter over poles is a great way to control the striding before starting to jump, Pippa explained.
Nicole started by jumping a small course at about 60cm, which although jumping clear, she felt Robbie was rushing.
“Give yourself time to get organised around the corners,” said Pippa. “By slowing down on the corners you can gather yourself together if you make a mistake. If Robbie lands on the wrong leg, don’t rush, just trot one stride then change to the correct canter lead and get ready for the next fence.”
In order to allow Nicole to feel more prepared, she asked her to jump an oxer then halt immediately on landing, before cantering away straight away.
After completing this exercise, she explained that by thinking about halting after the jump, Nicole will have more time to organise herself once the fences get bigger.
Nicole and Robbie then jumped the course a few more times at about 80cm, before Pippa put the fences up to around 1 metre, which is the biggest Nicole had jumped on Robbie.
The first attempt was a bit rushed, and Robbie knocked a few poles.
“Don’t change anything,” Pippa instructed. “Just because the fences get bigger doesn’t mean you have to change the way you ride. Go for the same bouncy canter, keep organised and give yourself time to approach the fences correctly.”
Nicole then jumped a foot perfect round with Robbie and was thrilled to jump clear at this height.
Said Nicole: “I’ve learned a lot, especially about lengthening and shortening the canter. Keeping my hands up and holding Robbie together makes such a difference. I’ll definitely be using all the tips the next time we enter a competition.”
Pippa added: “Nicole did really well, especially with such a big horse! She showed real improvement throughout the lesson and I’m sure they will continue to forge a real partnership together.”