Combination fences can be challenging, and require you and your horse to be athletic and adjustable. These fences also allow you to show off your riding skills and your horse’s ability. Lots of practice is necessary to master combinations as they are fast, fun, and can make or break your course.
Grids and Groundwork
Groundwork can be used to teach your horse balance and coordination over jumps in a grid before you place any weight on his back. Either free lunge or put your horse on a long lunge line and ask him to jump through a short grid exercise. Free lunging will be easier as you must have good rope handling skills and timing to lunge over jumps.
Once your horse will canter confidently through a low grid made up of two to four fences, it’s time to tack up and ask for the same exercise while your are on his back. Starting with grids helps your horse to find the correct stride length and take off point without any interference from the rider. While they also allow you as a rider to work on your position without having to think about controlling the horse.
Stride Length and Biomechanics
When landing in the middle of a combination a horse’s forelegs land and take off again before the hind legs ever reach the ground. This period of suspension requires an athletic and careful horse. Many horses will bring their hind legs faster than usual over the first fence in a bounce or combination, this occasionally causes him to hit a rail. Also, distances will seem short when your horse is jumping huge over a fence and will look long if he is just skimming over the top of it.
A horse’s stride will also lengthen when he is moving fast, traveling downhill, feeling fresh, if he doesn’t respect the fences, and when going toward the gate, barn, or other horses. A horse’s stride will shorten when he is moving slower (less impulsion), traveling uphill, in soft ground, is tired or stiff, feels restricted by the rider, or is going away from the gate, barn, or other horses. It is important to account for these changes in speed when on course. When planning ahead you can use these natural tendencies to your advantage.
It is best to watch your horse to know what is normal for him. Have an experienced trainer help you consistently find the correct speed and distance for your horse and the situation. If your are new to the sport it is a good idea to get a confident, athletic horse that will do most of the work for you.
- Being able to length and shorten your horse’s stride is key to jumping a combination of fences well.
- You must guide your horse to a good spot and allow him to confidently jump the first fence.
- The correct speed will cause you to land in the correct place halfway between the two fences in a combination.
- Keep a steady rein contact, while still giving your horse freedom to move his head and neck.
- Maintain a secure, balanced position in the saddle.
- Stay in control, the horse should only speed up and slow down on cue.