Developing your eye for jumping takes practice. But maybe you don’t always want to jump your horse — either your barn doesn’t allow jumping outside of lessons or your horse doesn’t need the extra pounding.
Try jumping ground poles. It’s a lot harder than it looks! This is something we always did when there was no one around and we wanted to practice our jumping skills and not break the rules.
Sometimes if I’m just practicing I’ll set up a whole course using poles. Just because there is no “jump” doesn’t mean it’s easy. You can use ground poles to set up lines that challenge your eye — a long four to a short six; a bending line; a roll back. This is a great way to work on your pace and get your striding down pat. Your canter should be forward but round, not flat and you should be able to meet every fence in stride (no big moves!).
Riding ground pole courses can be especially helpful for horses (or riders) that get anxious or rush. Since there’s no jumping effort, you can concentrate just on the quality of your gait.
It’s also an excellent way to practice your lead changes so that you horse always lands on the correct lead over the pole.