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BLOG: Showjumper Jacqui Ridley shares her latest training tips

Numero Uno x Nimmerdor 7 year old mare and Jacqui Ridley - Photo Credit: Sandra Longis

My Numero Uno x Nimmerdor 7 year old mare.

© Sandra Longis


By Jacqui Ridley

Now all the equestrian facilities at Trois Brioux are virtually finished it’s time to get down to the real business of training horses and getting out to competitions.  I currently have 4 horses in my team: My 10 year old Lord Z/ Concorde gelding (Gordon),  a 7 year old Numero Uno/Nimmedor mare (Uno), a 5 year old Ustinov/Wolfgang mare (Usti) and a client’s 7 year old Selle Francais mare. 


The team looking very comfortable in their new digs - Photo Jacqui Ridley

The team looking very comfortable in their new digs.

© Jacqui Ridley


Jacqui Ridley and 5 year old; Ustinov x Wolfgang mare in the young horse classes - Photo Credit: Sandra Longis

My 5 year old Ustinov x Wolfgang mare in the young horse classes.

© Sandra Longis

It’s been an amazing year for French showjumping: Gold medals in Rio and more recently a full French podium in the Emirates Gold Cup CSI 5*at the Longines Masters in Los Angeles with the French (Kevin Staut, Simon Delestre and Julien Epaillard) riding fast and accurate rounds. 

French rider Paul Miran recently visited the chateau and I grasped the opportunity to have 3 days of intensive coaching with him. Paul has worked extensively with some of the best showjumping yards in France and Switzerland and has a wealth of knowledge, an awesome array of training techniques as well as an excellent eye. He recently had great success at Fontainebleau with a 7 year old he has trained and competed, which has now been sold to America.  I was keen to soak up all he had to offer!

Paul’s training focuses on producing the American style of riding we see when watching riders such as Katie Prudent, Reed Kessler and Beezie Madden where the rider is light in the seat with elegant shoulders, head up and the horse travelling forward in ‘equilibrium’. 
Paul focused on a number of exercises which really worked well with each of our horses and I feel this style of training is helping to lift their performance significantly. I would like to use this blog to share some of the exercises. Many of the exercises use cavalettis which give a better feel, more like a jump than poles, without putting the strain and stress on the horse that bigger jumps cause. All these exercises aim at improving your horse’s suppleness and flexibility and work towards helping them function their body properly over the fence.


A tough day in the office; training at home on the grass with the young horses - Photo Jacqui Ridley

A tough day in the office; training at home on the grass with the young horses.

© Jacqui Ridley


Exercise 1 (lines and curves)

Starting with my 7 year old mare Uno, my focus was to shorten the rein, raise her poll to put more weight on her hind end and keep her in equilibrium. If you watch top riders Penelope Leprevost and Katie Prudent you will see that they spend a lot of time ‘off’ the horses back ‘in suspension’ in 2 point position with upright shoulders and head looking up and out - which allows the horse’s back to function more effectively.

Setting up the cavaletti in this formation (below) gives you a number of options to progress through. Initially ride the straight centre line, then progress to turning right or left over the 3rd element and riding around to the start again. When you’ve mastered turning right and left over the 3rd element try turning tighter and riding back through the centre line.

With this exercise, come around the corner leading into it in 2 point position (suspension), out of the saddle with the horse in equilibrium and the same weight on the shoulders and the hind end. Then 3 or 4 strides out from the first cavaletti go into 3 point position keeping the same contact and weight in each rein. Aim at maintaining the rhythm, with your horse staying supple and relaxed. Make sure you are always looking at the next cavaletti. Remember to keep your horse straight (the hind legs following the same path as the front legs even on the curves).


Jumping exercise - Jacqui Ridley

Exercise 1.


Exercise 2 – Riding a Line, 3 – Canter Poles with a Vertical and 4 – Bounce Grid - Jacqui Ridley

Exercise 2, riding a line; Exercise 3, canter poles with a vertical; and Exercise 4, bounce grid.


Start with Exercise 2 coming down the centre line. Practice varying the number of strides - 5,6 or 7 - while keeping the same rhythm and contact. Also making sure you stay with the horse at all times and the horse is listening and waiting for you.

Exercise 3 is using canter poles on the ground with a small vertical followed by three canter poles on the ground. Again approach this exercise in suspension and once you are 3 or 4 stride out from the first canter poles you can take a light seat.

Exercise 4 can start off simply with small elements and progress to height appropriate to your level of training.



Exercise 5

This final progression ties all that you’ve focused on and mastered in the previous exercises. Again the heights of each element can vary depending on the training level that you and your horse are at. Start small and master the lines while maintaining rhythm and the same tension in your contact and staying with your horse. Remember to keep looking at the next element.


Jumping exercise 5 - Jacqui Ridley

Exercise 5.


When you incorporate gymnastic exercises like these always be mindful of your horse' s level of training and ability. Start with basics and gradually build them up when you and your horse are working confidently. Take the time for fitness and strength to develop so that injuries are avoided. As with any training schedule it's important to plan and structure your training appropriately.

Following these super training sessions with Paul my horses all had a very successful show south of Paris, with Gordie jumping clear in the Grand Prix.  They were really relaxed and using their bodies better whilst jumping and all stepped up a level.


Gordon VD Riloo jumping clear in the GP at Liverdy en Brie - Photo Jacqui Ridley

Gordon VD Riloo jumping clear in the GP at Liverdy en Brie.

© Jacqui Ridley


Meanwhile Autumn has truly set in and the weather is much cooler already.  The chateau grounds have taken on a whole new beauty with Autumn colours but sadly the days are getting shorter. There is still so much to be done around the place but thankfully I think we are now able to really concentrate on training and competing. I’m very excited to say that the website is now officially up and running so please jump on over and take a look at:


Until next time I hope some of you enjoy the training ideas I’ve shared!


Riding through the sunflower fields before winter arrives - Photo Jacqui Ridley

Riding through the sunflower fields before winter arrives.

© Jacqui Ridley




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