In an over-fences class, you should get into two-point position during the initial circle and stay there throughout the entire course. Concentrate on pressing the horse forward with your legs, rather than using your upper-body as a motivator. This way, you can stay still in your upper-body, making the performance look effortless, while using your legs to do all the work.
Be sure not to actively close your upper-body at take-off, but instead, let the horse’s jumping effort—that is, the arch of its back in the air, or “bascule”—close your hip angle for you. Also, if you’re riding a tense horse, don’t let the horse’s anxiety cause you to close your upper-body ahead of the motion, for this will actually make the horse more nervous and quick. Just stay where you are around the rest of the course, letting the horse’s jumping effort close your hip angle ever so slightly in the air.
The stillness of the rider’s upper body is very important to the accuracy of the take-off spot. If a rider notices a few strides from a fence that the take-off is going to be too long, he may lean forward, thinking that this helps the horse lengthen its stride. In truth, only the rider’s eyes have gained ground, so that it appears the horse has lengthened, although the animal is still on the same length stride and is not gaining any more ground than it was before. To get a true lengthening of stride, the rider should keep his body raised into two-point position at the same angle it was at the beginning of the course, then use his legs as a driving aid to lengthen the horse’s stride, only closing the body if he perceives that he must in order to stay in balance with the horse as the stride lengthens.
If you maintain a still upper body in two-point position, you’ll be able to gauge the effectiveness of your legs as a driving aid. If you find that the horse is not responsive enough to the leg aid, add a little spur on the approach. If that is not sufficient, tap the horse on its barrel with your crop on the approach. Once the horse learns that the sequence is leg, spur, stick, it will respond properly to the use of the leg only, knowing that it will be punished if it does not.
Talk to you next week! — AJ