Our “Back To School Squares” event is one of my favourites. Coming at the end of the summer series, these tests challenge the rider just that tiny bit more – transitions at the markers instead of between the markers for example.
Additionally, the tests include some jump position across all the levels. Jump position – known sometimes as ‘two-point’ (because the rider has only two points of contact – i.e. each foot in the stirrups) – is an essential part of riding over jumps. Done correctly, it enables the rider to keep in balance with the horse, and so allow the horse to jump freely. It can also be a great way to warm up a horse, particularly in canter – with an experienced rider up and out of the saddle in a balanced ‘light seat’ / ‘two-point’ position, the horse is free to use their back muscles uninhibited. (Note that the novice rider must build up to this by developing their two-point in walk and trot, as when they come up and forward out of the saddle they are more vulnerable should the horse spook or buck.)
As well as benefiting the horse, jump position is also a fantastic exercise for the rider to develop their balance and security, and that’s why it is used in the Back To School Square tests. A rider who is able to school – including changing between gaits and riding over poles – in jump position shows a strength, balance and security that benefits both them and their horse.
Have a look at our earlier #trainingtip for a simple exercise you can do at home to improve your jump position!
In the Back To School Squares tests, we have a square of four poles around X (see diagram below) and these are used for the rider to ride over in their jump position. This becomes a perfect test of their accuracy and straightness – planning their turn and line to an obstacle, and holding it straight even whilst they go into jump position and over the pole/fence. These are essential basic skills for jumping – in fact, I’d go as far as to question if a rider cannot do this exercise well over simple poles on the flat, should they really be jumping at all? Try the exercise and see – what do you think?
Even if as a rider you have no intention of jumping (it’s rarely something MiniD enjoys) practising jump position is still a valuable balance exercise. It is easy to spot the riders who have perfected it: their lower leg remains secure and still, they have a strong safe ‘heels down’ position, and have good balance and control of their upper body and hands. These are all elements of safe and correct riding that enables the pony underneath them to perform to the best of his ability. So whether you jump or not, practice your jump position – it has so many benefits for both you and your pony!
Next week I will discuss some further schooling ideas you can use with your square of poles around X – it is one of my very favourite pole layouts because it is simple to set up and doesn’t require a lot of poles, but there are still a lot of exercises you can do with it to add interest to a schooling session and benefit both rider and pony.