Who doesn’t want the best of top international training and instruction in their home ring? We all can just imagine what a little access to the tips and tricks that have brought some of the most accomplished riders and trainers professional success could do for us!

In this excerpt from Grid Pro Quo: 52 Powerful Jumping Exercises from the World’s Top Riders by Margaret Rizzo McKelvy, Captain John Ledingham provides one of his best jumping exercises. Captain Ledingham was a member of the Irish Army Equitation School until his retirement in 2002. He competed in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, three World Championships, three European Championships, and 63 Nations Cups for Ireland. He also was a three-time winner of the Hickstead Derby and the Hickstead Speed Derby, and four-time winner of the Royal Dublin Horse Show Puissance, setting a record of 7 feet 5 inches in 1987! Since his retirement, he has focused on coaching and travels the world teaching…and here, he teaches all of us.


This exercise works on developing better timing for both the horse and rider. The repetitive distances allow for riders to concentrate on their own position and horses to work on their own shape over the jumps.


  • 5 ground poles
  • 5 jump poles
  • 4 planks
  • 5 sets of standards
  • 14 guide poles


  • This exercise requires a lot of materials and space to set up fully.
  • If your arena cannot fit the entire exercise, you can simply use as many combinations as you can fit.
  • The 4 planks will be used as ground poles. If you do not have planks available to you, use 2 ground poles put together to give yourself the width of a plank.
  • After you place all your jumps, put all the poles to the side except for Jump B and your Guide Poles G.


I developed this canter grid to help improve a horse’s timing in combinations. It is of utmost importance that a horse has the ability to shorten and lengthen his stride while not only staying straight, but also pushing off the ground. Regardless of your discipline, this exercise also helps you as a rider work on your own timing. We all know that a proper canter means everything, and whether you’re galloping down to a combination out on cross-country or coming into a triple combination in the jumper ring, this exercise helps you manufacture the right canter.

This exercise also helps the rider work on her own balance over a series of fences. This is so important because when you are in balance, it allows your horse to use his own body efficiently and effectively.


The first thing you will notice is that we’re using planks as our placement poles. I like to place these 8 feet from the fence to make sure that the non-jumping stride is round and gets the horse to an effective takeoff place. The shape of the plank, combined with the distance, stops a horse from taking off too early if he finds the distances a challenge when the jumps get bigger.

To get started, set up your line of fences, but put all your planks and poles to the side, just leaving up your first jump and a chute of standards, along with the Guide Poles G at the very end after Jump F.

This entire exercise is quite long—144 feet in total—which makes it a great exercise to work on straightness. As you work your way through the exercise, make sure you go through the final guide poles every time. You’ll notice that Jump B does not have a placement plank but does have guide poles on the ground. You also have an entrance set of guide poles (Guide Poles A). The distance from Guide Poles A to Jump B can vary based on the dimensions of your arena, but the goal is to place them at a distance that encourages a straight approach to Jump B.

After you’ve warmed up over Jump B a few times, add in Jump C, complete with the plank placement. Continue to build up the rest of the exercise until you have all five verticals

(Jumps B, C, D, E, and F) in place.

As you work your way through the exercise, make good use of your guide poles. You can make them as narrow or wide as necessary. Just make sure they are effective for your particular horse. And if you have a horse that’s a little claustrophobic at first, keep them wide, and then narrow them if needed. One of the keys to this exercise is to always monitor your horse’s reaction to the questions you’re asking him. And for yourself, pay particular attention to your leg position and your ability to recover quickly on landing. Position is everything!

This excerpt from Grid Pro Quo by Margaret Rizzo McKelvy is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books (www.HorseandRiderBooks.com).