Gymnastics Grids – What to setup and why?

Gymnastic Grids – what to set up and why !!!
There is a infinite variety of exercises that can be set up but we must first begin with a thorough and informed evaluation of the particular horse/rider combination and their particular needs . What might be of benefit to one combination might be detrimental to another . Our first priority is to build confidence in the horse and the rider . Secondly we want to improve the jumping technique , strength and style of the pair . Lastly we want to insure that they have ample practice in successfully and easily answering the technical and scope questions that will be asked at their competitive level. All of this must be done in a way to insure continued progression and development and not compromise the most favorable end result . The ability to foresee the cumulative effects of exercises , negative or positive , is crucial to the long term progress .

Confidence is rooted in having successfully answered small challenges that have logically and progressively grown into bigger challenges . Each exercise providing the stepping stones to the next skill level. Not only is this crucial in a session to session setting but within each session there should be gradual and selective build up of the effort being asked for . The ground person must be ever so mindful of the effect the exercises are having on the pair and be ready to reevaluate and adjust what is being asked to insure the right result . Watching the riders position , the horses body shape, the placing of the horses feet etc all give the educated observer a indication of which direction to go in next and what to avoid .

Different grid configurations can be used to address a variety of technical jumping skills for the horse and the rider. For example repeated bounces can help a rider learn to be quieter in the upper body and enhance the following ability of the elbow . Low wide oxers help a horse focus on rails and enhance awareness of what the legs should be doing. The distances between the jumps can be varied to achieve compression or extension of the stride . Trot and canter poles can help with stride control, rhythm , balance and developing an eye for seeing a “distance”. Angled poles , arrowheads and pole lanes can help a horse learn to jump and canter straight . A experienced trainer can come up with a grid to help most jumping related problems . Jumping grids is very tiring as the jumping efforts are very concentrated in time and physical effort. There is a very real correlation between how tired a horse is and how much positive effects the exercises will have. A tired horse will start to loose form and confidence rapidly, it is better to stop a little to early than even one repetition to late. How often the grid exercises are done should be dictated according to the overall fitness and training program .
A experienced Instructor or rider should know the technical skills being tested at each level of competition. One can simulate these questions in the form of gymnastic exercises , even Cross Country questions can be practised over close gymnastic approximations in an arena setting without the need for extensive jump building material. The number of “combinations” allowed, the type of jumps, the optimum speed , ‘ bending lines ” etc are all factors that come into course design as you go up the levels . The horse and rider should have the opportunity to practise the skills that they will need on course . While walking a course the rider should be able to recognize the questions being asked and be able t to relate them to the exercises they have mastered at home .

Jumping gymnastic exercises in a crucial part of developing a horse and rider combination that can safely and effectively jump courses at their particular level. It does however take foresight and planning to design a program where the skills being developed are progressive and built on a strong foundation so the pair can achieve their maximum potential. Haphazard choice of exercises is neither productive nor confidence building. It is helpful to have a knowledgable ground person /instructor who can make sure the whole puzzell fits and can design a program that deals with each issue in the right order.

I will be posting a weekly report at the website detailing the grids we did that week and a explanation of what our goals were and how things went with one or two specific horses

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