The Young and Future Event Horse article series is being provided through a partnership between Mythic Landing Enterprises, LLC. and the USEA.
Gridwork is an absolutely fabulous tool to integrate into your young event horse’s weekly routine as it effectively teaches them where their feet are and how to use their bodies correctly without a lot of interference from the rider.
Madeline Backus likes to incorporate a fairly basic grid into her routine for her young horses just beginning their career. The full grid is four trot poles to a bounce, one stride to a vertical, and one stride to an oxer. There’s a lot you can do here! Start with just the trot poles, encouraging straightness and balance and gradually work your way up to setting up the bounce, which can just be cross-rails the first few times through.
“It’s really important to take your time and not rush to add to the grid just because you can. Repeat the same exercise until your horse completely understands the question before you build up the next piece. It’s totally fine to just do the trot poles one day, and build up to the bounce the next,” Backus mentions.
Incorporating this grid over several weeks allows your young horse to learn, and realize that jumping isn’t a stressful experience and there’s truly nothing to be worried about. Young horses can sometimes get excited about jumping and rush the fences while they’re first learning. The trot poles followed by the bounce helps to back them off just enough where they actually need to think about what they’re doing. This type of thinking is critical as your horse progresses to coursework.
Madeline most often uses this next grid with horses that are getting ready to go Training level. And if you have an especially lofty jumper that needs to be a little more efficient with their jump, this grid is definitely for you!
“I used this grid all the time with Ari (P.S. Arianna) in the beginning of her career because she would jump everything so extravagantly. This helped her become more tidy.” To start, set up a small crossrail, 19’ to a square oxer with no ground line, 19’ to another small crossrail. “I really like this grid because the horse has to jump in over the cross rail to a tight one stride to the oxer where they have to jump up and out, but land and be catty enough to get to the next crossrail on a shorter stride,” describes Backus.
The first couple of times through, don’t be surprised if your horse jumps really big over the oxer and has to put in a bit of a chip spot at the second crossrail. They’ll quickly figure out that they need to be quick off their feet without the rider having to make a correction for them. As a rider, really try to not help your horse through the grid, let them figure it out 100 percent on their own.
This is an important concept for a horse aimed at the upper levels. Conserving energy over the jumps only helps as the courses get longer and the fences get bigger so they can still have some gas left in the tank as they finish cross-country.
About Madeline Backus
Madeline Backus is an established event rider that has experience bringing up young horses from starter events to the upper levels. She recently completed her first Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event with her mare, P.S. Arianna, who she brought up from Beginner Novice all the way through the four-star level. After spending two years as a working student for Jessica and Missy Ransehousen, Madeline stepped out on her own where she now trains out of Stud Equestrian Center in Colorado in the summer and Florida in the winter. To learn more about Madeline and her program, please visit her website.