Jumping exercises with only a few jumps

I board at a dressage barn, so it isn’t surprising there aren’t fields of cross country jumps to school or a variety of show jumps to arrange and rearrange. The barn has two sets of barrels, two sets of standards, and a few ground poles. I’ve built myself four sets of standards, purchased jump cups, and provided half a dozen or so ground poles. 
I’m welcome to set my jumps up in the outdoor arena- in fact, they’re often reset to tiny crossrails when I’m finished so that kids and horses can get some variety in their training. Since I’m the only one that jumps seriously, I’m also the only person who sets and breaks down courses. Because I’m essentially a lazy person, I don’t do a lot of jump moving. It’s time consuming, and I’d rather get straight to riding!
I’m always looking to do more with less, so over the weekend, I spent some time visualizing different jumping exercises before I tacked up Gina. 
You can see three of the four jumps that I had set- the fourth is a vertical off to the right. The barrels are set on a bending line from the unseen jump to the right. The other verticals are set about two strides apart. The verticals are all between 2’6 and 2’9; the barrels are only about 2’3. 
Jump setup
Here are my basic tenets of working with a limited amount of jumps:
  • Verticals are your friend. They can be jumped either direction and I find they’re excellent tools overcome fear or nervousness about height. They look much scarier and larger when they’re airy- without filler. 
  • Clustering jumps is beneficial. I don’t scatter jumps around the arena, as it’s easier to practice the twists and turns necessary in the show jumping arena when the jumps are close together. I set my jumps in the middle of the arena so if I need to make a wide turn, I can do so without feeling like I’m running into the fence.
  • Related distances are key. You can practice counting your strides between fences. You can practice adjusting your horse’s stride. You can practice leg yields by jumping a single element (always the second one- no one wants to teach run outs!). I usually have a 2 or 3 stride set, because the arena isn’t huge. Related distances really give you a lot of bang for your buck!
Onto the exercises.
Figure 1

This is a very easy, straightforward exercise that I use for warm up. It can be ridden either direction (all of these courses can). It’s essentially a big oval and it’s great for feeling a pace and establishing a rhythm.

Figure 2

This exercise gets a little more technical. After the first jump, I have to really get Gina’s attention to execute a good turn to the left. I don’t have a lot of space to cut in the line, so this is where all that dressaging comes in handy. I leg yield a little left to get straight for the jump, then carry on. It doesn’t always go as planned- sometimes that second jump is crooked and ugly, but that’s why we practice!

Figure 3

This course begins by jumping across the first vertical. Gina thought I’d lost my mind and tried to wiggle herself straight, but I firmly applied leg and hand, and we sailed over. (I’m certain she did the horse equivalent of rolling her eyes.) This aligns you nicely for the next jump, which I had set about 4 strides away. That jump is followed by a tight rollback turn, which is great practice.

Figure 4

This course looks harder than it is, I promise. The turns are all fairly easy, except for the last one- like the second course, it requires you to leg yield your horse to get straight to the second element of the combination. This is probably my favorite exercise!

These exercises can easily be stacked on one another to form complete courses- additionally, it’s easy to incorporate another jump somewhere or turn a vertical into a square oxer. 
What kind of jump setup do y’all like? 

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

8 thoughts on “Jumping exercises with only a few jumps”

  1. love these and would absolutely set them up immediately in our arena… if it weren't covered in snow haha. but seriously – this is exactly the situation we work with: limited equipment and small arena. your point about clustering the jumps in the middle makes soooo much sense!

    1. It's also much easier than lugging them all over creation!! My arena has questionable drainage, so sometimes there are big ruts and slippery spots I'd like to avoid. Having all the jumps in one area makes that easier, too.

  2. Fab variety & course options. As for jumps I've always loved starting with a cross or vertical but my fav jumps are always oxers – prob makes me weird but i dunno i loves them

  3. I came to the barn with the same set of everything… And the ground poles are so old and fragile, I've broken one just picking it up. That'll be a project this Spring and I should totally bookmark this!

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