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Training Exercise with Penny Johnson

This article is from the March 2020 Horse Deals magazine.

Photo: Tom Testone

Photo: Tom Testone

Penny is a full-time eventing coach based in South East Victoria. Partnered with her top horse, BB Boom, Penny is consistently performing at 4* level with 5* in sight.


I introduce this exercise to horses and riders that have already started to master the basics and are already comfortable with grids and courses. I’ve found that turning exercises can be more intense and demanding. This exercise should highlight which lead the horse finds more comfortable and which change they find easier. The aim is to strengthen the horse by keeping the turn concise and the rhythm even, making them as ‘ambidextrous’ as possible.


Two jumps set up at 90° to one another, each is roughly on a 45° angle toward the side of the arena. Each jump is approximately 5-10 metres from the arena side. I like to use a square oxer and a vertical.


After a conventional warm-up, jump each fence individually first, particularly if yourself or the horse is less experienced, so you are comfortable with the placement.


Now we start with either fence, jumping toward the side of the arena continuing in a figure-eight pattern around to the other fence, again jumping toward the side of the arena. The pattern continues. Start on about a 15m diameter line, and to make the exercise more challenging for an experienced combination, the loops can be made smaller to stay on a ‘tighter’ line.

To encourage the horse to change the lead over the fence, the rider needs to keep their position centred and balanced, using their eye to look ahead, which will slightly rotate the rider’s upper body, putting a slight additional weight in the new inside stirrup. The way the exercise is set up, the horse will quickly understand they will land and then head in the opposite direction each time due to the placing close to the edge of the arena.


- Do not lean to either side over the fence, as this will not help the horse maintain their balance

- Be careful the horse doesn’t dip on landing and stays on the line you want (inside leg on!)

- There is no need for the jumps to be high in this exercise, a smaller obstacle is best.

- I’ve found this a useful tool as I bring on a lot of off the track horses who are typically ‘one-sided’. Furthermore, it will save time on course as well as helping keep a more even rhythm and a balanced horse.

Watch Penny ride through the exercise here:

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