When you begin jumping, don’t abandon your flatwork. Continue to make it part of your daily routine. Jumping is not something you should do every day; in fact, my horses do very little jumping between showing—but flatwork and trail riding are an effective combination for every day.
My own riding routine includes doing all my favorite flatwork exercises almost every day. I don’t do them in the same order (that would bore my horses as much as it would me!), but in different sequences and combinations that keep us fresh and enjoying our work. Use your own imagination to mix up the work you do to hone basic skills. If you identify a weak point, of course you’ll have to spend more time on it, but don’t drill and drill. Spend five or ten minutes on the problem, then switch to something your horse does well and enjoys, and then come back to the problem area after the two of you are refreshed and his self-confidence is restored.
Remember, the sign of a great rider—and a good trainer—is a happy horse. Don’t just ask yourself, “How can I get this across?” Ask instead, “How can we accomplish what we need to in a way that’s entertaining for both of us?” The more “feeling” a rider you become, the more instinctive will be your ability to answer that question. One of my favorite sayings is: “Ask for a lot, be happy with a little, and reward often.”
Anne Kursinski’s Riding & Jumping Clinic by Anne Kursinski with Miranda Lorraine gives you step-by-step descriptions of 20 exercises to improve your position, your “feel,” and your overall understanding of how to master a jump course.