As a rider for the Dagobertshausen Equestrian Centre in central Germany, 20-year-old Nicola Pohl has received a first-rate education in show jumping sport. While working with renowned trainer Konrad Kugler, Nicola maintains an intensive international competition schedule and spent much of 2016 moving up the rankings at the CSI2* and 3* level.

Whether working at home with a young sale horse or a grand prix veteran, Nicola knows that rhythm and responsiveness are key to any effective horse and rider partnership. Here, she shares one of her favorite jumping exercises to help you develop and improve these skills.

Where did you learn this exercise?

I learned this exercise when I began training with my coach, Konrad Kugler, three years ago. He likes to be really precise with his flat and gymnastics work with the horses, which is important since he builds them up regularly! This exercise is good for every kind of horse—experienced as well as younger, not-so-experienced horses.

Why do you like it?

With this exercise, you can improve yourself and the horse at the same time. I like doing it because I can concentrate on my position while also schooling my eye on the turns and improving my relationship with the horse. For the horse, it is especially good because it teaches them to collect and then open up their stride without losing the rhythm or balance. They also have to concentrate and focus more on the rider, but it also makes them soft—and it’s great for helping their fitness and conditioning at the same time.

I would say the most important thing when doing this exercise is to make sure the horse is listening and responding to what you are asking it to do. Also, it’s best to try and keep the same rhythm all the time (in the turns and on the straight line).

How does it work?

  • Build semi-circle lines of up to six verticals as shown below:

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  • With young horses, sometimes it’s better to use some colorful wing standards so that at the end of the exercise, they jump the “spooky” fences in the same, relaxed way as the others.
  • Decide how many strides you want to have in between the straight line (up the middle center line), the diagonals, and the bending lines. This will often depend on the size of your arena.
  • You can always vary how many strides you are doing in each line you are taking. For example, jump the first vertical out of the right corner to the middle vertical in 6 strides. Then, jump the left vertical and do 5 strides to the middle vertical.
  • The goal should be to be able to ride as many strides as you want without rushing or pulling the horse back, so that it’s all smooth and in one rhythm.

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-Graphics courtesy of Nicola Pohl; photo credit: Lucio Landa courtesy of  Nicola Pohl.