A turn on course can either make or break a winning round. In fact, winning rounds are often won in the turns. That’s why it's so crucial for any rider to master their technique when it comes to riding a turn and specifically through flatwork. Twenty-eight-year-old Swiss Olympic Show Jumper, Martin Fuchs, shares his advice, strategies and techniques for more balanced, efficient turns for all types of jumping courses.
The Most Underrated Flat Work Exercise: Shoulder-In
Martin's favorite exercise for better turns is (you guessed it) the shoulder-in. Having the ability to control your horse's shoulder is the number one factor in creating balanced, effective turns and it’s important to learn exactly how to perform a proper shoulder-in for maximum results. Learning how to do a shoulder-in on a circle will also contribute to better turns on course. Practice definitely makes perfect when it comes to this exercise, but it will help you learn to control each part of your horse's body through the turn.
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Pirouettes - Not Just for Dressage
After swinging too wide in a turn in an important class in Aachen, Germany, Martin went back to the basics: the canter pirouette. Learning a step by step approach in a beginner-friendly way will install hind end balance and self-carriage which is crucial in performing powerful turns. Not only does the pirouette teach the rider how to control their horse's shoulder while maintaining power behind, but it also builds upon the skills learned in the shoulder-in exercise.
Flatwork Over Cavaletti
When wanting to incorporate your flatwork over fences for the first time, it’s a great idea to start over small jumps or cavaletti. Using the skills learned in the flatwork exercises and applying them to jumping the cavaletti in a circle will force you to practice controlling your horse’s shoulder while maintaining the balance and impulsion through the hind end. In his Equestrian Masterclass, Martin gives you modifications to make the exercise easier or more difficult making the exercise traversable among different levels and disciplines. Throughout the exercise, using your outside rein and legs as your primary aids and having your inside rein soft is imperative. Maintaining weight and impulsion on the hind end while guiding the shoulder and practicing looking around and through the turn is advised as well.
Putting It All Together
Taking the skills you’ve built through flatwork and cavaletti exercise and using them on course can be a bit intimidating at first, but exciting. By now you have utilized the tools you need on the flat in order to achieve success over fences for more balanced, efficient and powerful turns. You’ll also learn how to plan better for more effective tracks. When applying these skills over fences, remember that smarter riding typically beats faster riding. Staying consistent on a well planned track can mean the difference between first and last. With all of the skills learned in the shoulder in and canter pirouette coming into play while on course,you will be mastering those turns in no time, just as Martin did with his best horse Clooney, rocketing him to the #1 FEI ranking. You got this!
Feature photo by Kate Metzner for NoelleFloyd.com