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Whether you plan on riding for amusement or venturing into the show ring, a round flexible horse is essential for safety and comfort reasons. In the show ring, these characteristics are necessary if you plan on taking home any prizes.

First of all, what is a round horse? A round horse is one who brings its knees up around its ears when it jumps, and has a downward U shape made by its back. A round horse can jump easier, turn quicker , and is more comfortable. Unfortunately a round horse also provides more jolt when you jump. If the horse is wearing cleats, it is important to have him wear a chest guard so he doesn’t hit his stomach with his feet. These are virtually the only two side effects to having a round horse.

Horse training defies common sense, the more you try and fix something the worse it gets. It is vital in all aspects of the training to be patient and request rather than demand. So how do you request that your horse become round? Surprisingly the most important aspects of this training regime is not while jumping but on the flat.

In order to have a round horse, he must be flexible. Flexibility comes from bending exercises. Imagine that your arms are made of an elastic band. While on a thirty foot circle, pull towards your hip with your inside arm. Don’t demand, just pull in one swift motion then push back in one swift motion. Every five seconds repeat this motion. Do not pull harder, stiffer, or longer for any reason. If you repeat this during all warm-ups, after about one or two months, the horse will bend and be soft and flexible.

After you have a flexible horse, you need to give him confidence. This confidence comes from him knowing that no matter where he chooses to jump from, you will allow him to take off. Start off at poles, and no matter how close the horse is getting, or how far, don’t interfere. Try to say the alphabet backwards, or count sheep. Just concentrate on keeping the horse straight and consistent. After the horse figures this out, proceed onto jumps.

When the horse is jumping with confidence and very flexible, it is time to practice half-halts. Set up a seven stride line, at about two foot three. Canter the horse at the line, allowing him to pick the distance at the vertical. Two strides after you land from the first jump, tug firmly but solidly at the reins and force him to stop straight in the line. Stay still for five seconds, then allow him to canter up to the oxer. Repeat this process on many different lines.

Once the horse is flexible, confident, and expects to be told to stop in the middle of the line, you can create your round horse. Now it is time to just start jumping, and wait for the roundness to come, the base-work is laid, and all should proceed as needed. Keep practicing the bending, confidence and half-halts, and keep jumping. Your horse will be perfect in no time.