We have asked Harriet Nuttall, pro rider and international show jumper to pass on her top tips to answer some of the most common areas riders struggle with when training and competing their own horses. Harriet has represented Great Britain on Nations Cup teams as well as competing individually taking home titles which include the Hickstead Speed Derby.
1. Do you have any tips for straightness coming into a fence?
Harriet says…My tip for straightness would be; don’t forget to use your outside leg around the corner before the fence. Keep your weight slightly in that outside leg. By doing this you are aiming on holding the back legs of the horse in line with the front. Keeping them straight and together on your approach to the fence. Always keep your leg to hand contact and ride positively towards your fence with both inside and outside aids.
2. How can i get my horse more confident over spooky fillers?
This is something all riders have to deal with at some time or another! Over spooky fillers, try and keep your body back and your seat in the saddle when you ride towards the fence. So you are prepared for them to have a really good look. Therefore you are also in the driving seat too, sending them forwards confidently. When the spook comes you need to be in a strong position to ride through it, the confidence will come from the horse because they will trust you more if you are committed. There will be, especially with younger horses, stops to deal with but repetition is the key and confident riding on the approach from the rider all helps.
3. My horse rushes as i ride around a course, how can i keep his rhythm more consistent?
Practice courses at home as much as possible but also ride a soft ‘canter to walk’ transition then ‘walk to canter’ in between each fence where possible. This makes sure that the horse is switched on and listening to the aids you are giving them as well as ensuring that they sit back on their hocks after they land instead of running in front of you. As the horse rushes less and listens to you more you can progress the training to ride less transitions, ultimately riding the complete course with a steady flow.
4. Do you have any exercises i can ride at home that will help my jump off turns?
Harriet says…When warming up ride some direct transitions to make sure that your horse is switched on to your leg aids from the start. Practice around a course of small fences, even three will be enough, that you can jump from both ways and set yourself a course. Around the corners keep your balance to the outside so the horse is balanced. Don’t rush them, just land and turn but use your weight in the outside stirrup. Don’t lean in!
5. What exercises do you suggest for seeing a stride correctly?
The easiest way to get your eye in on a nice stride is to do lots of grids at home. These are also excellent for your horses gymnastic development, straightness, confidence and continuity. Give yourself three canter poles in front of a fence to start with and then build up the grid as you go. By starting with poles and then adding fences in this should teach your eye a nice level stride and rhythm. The rhythm in your canter is really important and poles and grids help with this hugely. Let the fence come to you and don’t rush it.