I love using gymnastics as it improves a horse’s jumping technique and is good fun for training. Grids and jumping exercises help considerably to develop the right muscles and balance in a horse.
During the week in the arena, I like to have a grid available to jump, as it is a fantastic exercise for both horse and rider. It is important to note that it is preferable to have someone on the ground assisting by increasing the height and adjusting distances for each horse throughout training. The grid also needs to be ‘built’ progressively during the jumping session – mainly for those that are not yet used to jumping grids. For instance, start with only small crosses and poles on the ground, then set verticals, and finally set the oxers once you see that both horse and rider are dealing well with the exercise.
This exercise should only be undertaken by an experienced rider or one under supervision. It should be performed regularly with gradual progression. However, take care not to overtrain your horse on it. For instance, I would recommend working at this exercise once a week and finish as soon as the horse shows improvement (looseness and better technique). Correcting a horse’s jumping technique takes time; do not expect to see radical changes over one or two sessions. From my experience, this exercise has been really great in improving our horse’s technique.
The distance should be approximately 6.50 metres between oxers, with both square oxers being widened gradually while keeping the same 6.50 m distance. A pole should be placed diagonally over the square oxers to cover the ‘widen’.