A skinny fence can strike fear into the hearts of some riders, and course builders love to throw in this technical challenge to test how accurate your riding is, along with your ability to keep the horse straight.
Event rider and trainer, Harriet Morris-Baumber is used to negotiating these types of fences when she is competing herself and instructs her clients on the best way to tackle skinny fences, which can be one of the most common causes of a run-out.
Skinny fences come in a variety of forms including a skinny brush, an arrowhead, a narrow fence with a ditch, a skinny after a big parallel, a skinny after a drop fence or an angled skinny and all are designed to catch you out.
Here Harriet offers her top tips to make sure you are on the right side of the flag to successfully clear the narrow obstacle and gallop away, on to the next fence.
Give your horse time to read the question.
Give your horse the maximum amount of time possible to see the fence in front by keeping in a straight line for as long as possible and approach at the appropriate speed.
By riding at a slower speed your horse will have more time to see the fence and you will have more time to react if he strays off course.
Use your legs to keep the horse straight.
As you get closer to the fence, kick with alternate legs to communicate to your horse that you need him to keep going in a straight line. Gripping or squeezing is not as effective as short sharp kicks.
Sometimes a tap on the shoulder with a whip is useful for keeping a horse straight.
“In training I often ride with a whip in each hand, so I have one on either side, helping to keep them straight and thinking forward.” added Harriet.
Keep your hands still and quiet.
A lot of riders make the mistake of desperately trying to keep their horse straight by pulling on one rein more than the other. This just decreases impulsion and confuses the horse.
The reins are ultimately the brakes, so instead of thinking backwards and straight, we need to think forwards and straight, which can only be achieved by using the legs.
“The reins should be doing very little when jumping a skinny fence, only coming into play if your horse becomes tense in the mouth, then you should use the reins to soften the contact whilst maintaining direction with your legs and or whip.” explained Harriet.
No matter what sort of skinny fence you are facing or where the skinny fence is situated on the course, the key is to stick to your system and don’t do anything radical just because it looks like more of a challenge.
Harriet has ridden for Great Britain internationally, winning Bronze at the CIC** European Championships. With an inspirational approach to teaching, she is able to provide training for horses and riders of all levels.
For more information visit www.harriet-morris-baumber.co.uk
Photo Credit; Iain B Photography