Ready to spice things up this winter training season? Do you want to use being stuck in the arena as an opportunity to fine tune your riding? In this series, we are revisiting some of our favorite Grid Pro Quo articles from Eventing USA to help you use the off-season to your advantage and keep you and your horse in tip-top shape for when it's time to get back out there. Click here to check out other past Grid Pro Quo exercises!
While I love traditional trot grids, I like this “fives” exercise because of everything it does for the rider. First off, unlike traditional trot grids where the jumps slow the horses down, this grid teaches the rider how to create the half-halt themselves. Second, as some other professionals have mentioned in previous columns, it is always good to practice canter grids since all of your coursework in competition is done at the canter.
Finally, I have found this exercise to really help boost the rider’s confidence. When you are looking down this long line of fences, it can look imposing, but after you break the exercise down and take it one jump at a time, it is quite doable. Then, when you have successfully completed the exercise, you look back and feel good about what you have accomplished.
This exercise is best to set up outside in an open field. If you do not have enough space, you can do this exercise with a minimum of three fences.
You want to start this exercise with a simple cross-rail as the first fence. The height can vary depending on your comfort level, but I would not make it any bigger than 2’6” to start. You will want to trot in and halt before you reach the midway point to your next fence, which you can mark off with a line in the sand or a cone set off to the side. This may seem impossible at first, but realize that you have a full two strides to create this halt. While you cannot take your time necessarily, you can land quietly and then sit down in the saddle and quietly ask for the halt. If your horse blows through your halt transition, rein back until you are where you want to be. Repeat this exercise until you are easily halting before the midway point; for some horses this will only take one or two repetitions, for other horses you will have to repeat this starting exercise six or more times. Only then should you add in the second fence, and here is where it is really up to you what you set up.
If you are a more novice rider, then you can set up another cross-rail for your next fence. If you are a more experienced rider, you can change the first fence to a vertical and then continue on with verticals. The point is that this exercise is not about the fences themselves, but what happens in between the fences. Therefore, if you are most comfortable with cross-rails, then set up all cross-rails. If you are most comfortable over 3’6” verticals, then set that up.
As you are going through the beginning portions of this exercise, you are waiting to feel your horse prepare for the halt on his or her own. After you set up your second fence, come through another time or two and halt after the first fence. Oftentimes a horse will see a jump in front of them and make a move towards it, so you want to make sure that your horse waits for you after each fence. This might mean that you have to wait a moment or two until your horse is standing stock still and takes a breath. Once your horse prepares himself to halt after the first fence, you can land, half-halt, and continue on to the next fence. If your horse ever lands and does not respond to your half-halt, halt and repeat until he is listening again. Remember that at first you are doing this all at the trot, regardless of fence height.
You can start cantering into the exercise once you are quietly jumping the first two fences, but the same rules apply: If your horse lands and runs through your half-halt, simply halt. If your horse does not halt until you are past the midway point, then rein back to that point. It is important to never get impatient with your horse through this exercise. Most good horses want to go to their next fence with or without you, so it can be confusing for them at first to now be asked to halt before their next fence. Keep it simple and explain the exercise to them. Even if you need to break it down and just canter over a pole on the ground and then halt, go ahead and do that. I would rather riders take that time than fight with their horses through the exercise.
Once you are cantering through the first two fences, you can go ahead and add in the remaining ones. The hope is that your new and improved half-halt will continue to work after each fence. If it ever does not work, throw in a halt and trot or canter off to your next jump. By the end of this exercise you will find yourself riding very quietly—but still very forward—to the fences. Your horse will learn to not rush between fences but to instead wait for your cue.
The first time you do this exercise, the simple five strides between each set of fences will be all you do. If you want a bigger challenge for the future, you can play with the striding between the fences. I typically do not try to put more than six strides between each jump, but for added complexity, you can put five strides between the first two jumps, then six strides between the next set, then back to five strides, etc.
The best part of this exercise is that you now have a new tool for use in competition. Riders will realize that they are not helpless while on course, and they can be effective between fences.
A lifelong horseman, Danny Warrington started his career in the steeplechasing world before switching his focus to eventing. Known for his ability to bring out the best in the more troubled and difficult horses, Danny is a popular trainer and instructor who travels throughout the country teaching. Together with his wife Keli, they founded LandSafe Equestrian, which instructs riders how to fall safely.
Nestled in the heart of St. Louis County is Queeny Park, the former estate of the late Mr. and Mrs. Edgar M. Queeny. This gorgeous public park features trails, playgrounds, tennis courts, a dog park, and so much more. On any given day you can find cyclists, walkers, families, and more enjoying the sprawling grounds of Queeny Park, but once a year eventers take over as the park hosts the Queeny Park Horse Trials. It is not uncommon for park visitors to watch from a safe distance as horses gallop across the grounds at Queeny Park, making it an event that truly anyone in the community can enjoy. This family-friendly staple in the St. Louis equestrian community has run for over 40 years, offering eventers in Area IV and beyond the opportunity to enjoy the park's ample space and terrain during the weekend-long event.
Where can you find fierce competition at every level, an overwhelming team atmosphere, and tons of spirit? The USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships of course! The 2022 Championships get underway tonight at 6:00 p.m. EST with the Opening Ceremony and Senior Awards Presentation, and official competition kicks off first thing Saturday morning. A total of 87 championship competitors will be representing 12 schools and make up 22 championship teams which will compete over the course of the weekend at the Chattahoochee Hills Horse Trials.
Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is pleased to welcome back longtime sponsor, FITS Riding, Ltd. for 2022. They are returning as a ‘Bronze Sponsor of the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (AEC)’, a ‘Contributing Sponsor of the USEA Adult Team Championships (ATC)’, a ‘Contributing Sponsor of the USEA Classic Series’, and a ‘Contributing Sponsor of the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships.’ As a sponsor of these USEA programs, FITS will generously provide gift certificates as prizes for the Intercollegiate championship competitors, AEC and ATC competitors, and Classic Series winners.