Bounce that Line! Riding Gymnastics

Riding Level 4: Gymnastics

In the equine world, gymnastics have nothing to do with leotards, balance bars, or vaulting horses.

A crossrail bounce or no-stride. ie, the horse lands and takes off without a canter stride between jumps.

Rather, a gymnastic exercise, sometimes called a grid, is a line of jumps or poles set with one, two, or no strides (a bounce) between them.  Gymnastic lines are wonderful exercises that help improve jumping style for both horse and rider.  For level 4 the requirement is:

11. Gymnastics.  Use of half seat.  Poles & small fences.  Position & planning.  24” max.

Image result for gymnastic grids for horses

The diagram at the left shows a typical grid, similar to the one you will be asked to ride for your assessment.  We usually build up the grid gradually, starting with trot poles to a small cross-rail, then adding a vertical and an oxer.  In this assessment we are not judging your horse's jumping style.  Instead we are looking at your position through the grid, and your ability to set your horse up to jump it well.


Until now you've been tested in full seat and two-point positions.  Half-seat, as it sounds, is somewhere in between the two.  The seat is often just touching or hovering slightly above the saddle.  It is useful when you want to stay a little closer to the tack and rate your horse during a turn or a set up to a jump.  Half-seat moves your weight slightly further back than two-point (galloping) position, and thus allows your horse to lift his neck and forelegs for the jump.  In a low gymnastic such as this, the rider should maintain a steady half-seat throughout the grid, freeing the horse's forehand and floating just above the saddle in a steady and calm manner.  We don't want to see large amounts of 'air' between you and the saddle, nor do we want to see you landing on your horse's back as she lands the jump.

The rider is in half-seat here as the horse makes the first effort of the line.


If you set your horse up correctly for a gymnastic there is not much for you to do during the grid except maintain your light seat and forgiving hand.  Because the jumps come up so quickly there is little or no correction you can make that will improve your horse's way of going once you've entered the grid.  Here are some tips to get the best line possible.

  • Ride a straight and through the centre. A crooked line will change the distance between the jumps and result in an uneven effort, or even a run-out.  Use the marking on the poles or the 'X' of your crossrails and line your horse up to ride a beeline down the middle.
  • Give yourself enough approach.  A common error riders make is cutting the corner on the approach, which sets the horse up for a crooked line.  Make your turn towards the line as far away and as square as possible to give your horse every opportunity for a straight approach.
  • Create a corridor with your legs and hands.  Think of your aids as barriers, stopping your horse from drifting to either side.
  • Know your horse.  If you know your horse tends to drift right, carry your crop in your right hand as incentive to stay straight.
  • Approach calmly.  Maintain your light seat and trust the horse.  If your horse tends to rush don't fight her – allow the mechanics of the grid to teach her to slow down and plan (it will).
  • Plan your ride out.  Many grids are set up to trot in and canter out.  Be sure to ride straight ahead for several strides after the grid (space permitting) before allowing your horse to turn.


Upcoming Classes

Note that Mounted Combat Mastery classes operate on tuition — if you have a tuition package and a Green Spur or a Green Cord you can drop in any time.  You can sign up for all other courses and workshops here.

Youth Riding & Horsemanship

This course for kids aged 6-13 will introduce your child to ponies and horses in safe, fun, and friendly series of six classes taught by Pony Club qualified instructors. Each class contains a riding lesson as well as a horsemanship lesson, where students will learn to handle, groom, and care for ponies and horses. Curriculum follows the Canadian Pony Club D level lessons and will prepare students for testing Academie Duello Mounted Combat Riding 1 or Pony Club D Level after one or more iterations of the course.

Thursdays 4pm – 6pm
11 May – 14 Jun
cost: $300 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Kate Landels

Beginner Riding & Horsemanship

If you’ve never been on a horse, or if it’s been a long time, here’s the place to start.  When you arrive at the barn at 11am, you’ll begin with a horsemanship lesson, familiarizing yourself with the horses and their tack, as well as how to groom, handle and tack them up.  Then you will have a riding lesson, working through the requirements of Riding Level 1 — the prerequisite to most of the fun stuff we do on horseback!

Saturdays, 5pm – 7pm
3 Jun – 8 Jul
cost: $300 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Stephanie Laversin

Register here, or bundle with Mounted Combat Fundamentals and save $36.

Riding & Horsemanship Level 2

This course is intended for riders who have taken classes through the program and are comfortable tacking up their own horses.  Riders should arrive at 9:30am, to tack up and warm up their horses before starting their riding lessons at 10am, followed by Horsemanship Level 2 or 3 lessons at 11am.

Saturdays, 5pm – 7pm
3 Jun – 8 Jul
cost: $300 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Stephanie Laversin

Register here, or bundle with Mounted Combat Fundamentals and save $36.

Riding Level 3+

This class is intended for independent riders who have achieved Level 2 or higher.  Riders are expected to be tacked up and warmed up prior to class.  Your own helmets, boots, and half chaps are recommended, as are safety vests for the occasional cross-country class, weather permitting.

Saturdays, 4pm – 5pm
3 Jun – 8 Jul
cost: $200 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Stephanie Laversin

Horsemanship Level 3

These classes cover the material for Horsemanship Level 3, including grooming, tack-fitting, nutrition, farriery, vet & first aid, conditioning, and shipping.  A level 3 assessement is included at the end of the series.  These series are only offered around twice a year, so don’t miss it!  Level 4 classes will begin in June.

Saturdays, 5pm – 6pm
3 Jun – 8 Jul
cost: $100 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Kate Landels

Mounted Combat Playday

Sunday 2pm – 5pm
4 June
cost: $15 + $15 for use of school horse

Come out and practise your mounted games, sparring, and archery in a fun and friendly environment.  Prerequisites are Riding Level 1 for mounted games, Riding 1 + Beginner Horseback Archery for archery, and Green Spur for mounted sparring.

Beginner Horseback Archery

Whether you are an expert rider or archer, or a complete beginner at both, this is your starting point.  You will spend about an hour and a half on the ground learning the techniques of Hungarian archery from the Kassai school.  After that, you will begin shooting from horseback while our handlers lead your mounts past the targets at the walk.  Experienced riders may have the option to try shooting at faster paces without handlers if they are competent and comfortable at the walk.

Sunday 6 Aug, 10am – 1pm
cost: $149 + gst
prerequisites: none

Intermediate Horseback Archery

If you have taken our Beginner course previously and have a minimum of Riding Level 1 or the equivalent this course is for you.  Riders with Level 1 will walk and trot, Level 2 Riders will be able to shoot at the canter.  Last time we practised multiple targets on canter circles — what will we get up to this time?

Sunday 6 Aug, 2pm – 5pm
cost: $75 + gst
prerequisites: Riding Level 1, Beginner Horseback Archery

Mounted Combat Fundamentals

This 6-week series of classes is intended to give you the basics of swordplay from the ground to prepare you for fighting from horseback.  Participants at this level will practise from the ground and the falsemount to achieve the combat skills needed to attain the rank of Green Spur. Students who have their Riding and Horsemanship Level 1 and who attend all five classes can reasonably expect to attain their Green Spur by the end of the series.  Once you have your Green Spur, you can sign up for Intermediate Mounted Combat, and can spar in our regular Playday event, as well as competing in our annual Carosella tournament.

Sundays 1pm – 3pm
16 Jul – 20 Aug
cost: $135 + gst for 6 classes
instructor: Aaron Lamontagne

Register here, or bundle with Riding & Horsemanship and save $36.

Ongoing Mounted Combat Mastery classes

These 2-hour sessions focus on the weapons skills needed to progress from Green to Blue Spur.  Regular tuition includes classes taken entirely from the ground (no riding skills necessary).
Sundays noon – 2pm
cost: 2 hours tuition
instructors:  Jennifer Landels

You can register for classes in person at the front desk, by calling 604 568 9907, or online here.

Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.