Emily and Benji Enjoy Jumping Lesson with Paul Barker

TEN-year-old Emily Hope, and her pony Benji were excited and over the moon to win a lesson with international show jumper, Paul Barker, courtesy of his sponsor TopSpec.


Emily is a keen member of the York and Ainsty North Pony Club and has owned Benji for just a year. In that time Emily and the 19-year-old chestnut roan gelding have been part of the successful Junior Mounted Games team which qualified for the Pony Club Mounted Games Zone Finals in Warwick.

Since focusing on mounted games, Emily confessed that they had not done much jumping but was excited to get some top tips from Paul and build their confidence in the show jumping arena, despite the miserable weather.

The lesson took place in the indoor school and started with a good warm up whilst Paul assessed Emily and Benji so that he could give them some things specifically to work on.

As Emily and Benji were quite new to jumping, Paul started with the basic rider position. He noticed Emily tended to lean forward when asking for an upward transition. Paul got Emily to sit tall and use her legs to move Benji forward rather than pushing her hands forwards and losing her contact.

Paul explained to her that in sitting up straight she will help Benji keep his balance and in using her legs he will understand what she is asking him to do. Paul also talked about the position of the rider’s hands with elbows bent to help keep a better contact and control when jumping a course.

Paul soon got Emily and Benji jumping some small fences so they could practice their position over the fence. Paul got Emily to ride Benji forward encouraging him to approach the fence with more energy.

Moving on to a course Paul encouraged Emily to use as much space in the school as she could using the corners to turn and set up for the next fence. In doing this, Paul added that it was really important to start looking for your next fence when jumping the last, giving pony and rider time to get a good approach to the fence.

Emily and Benji practiced lots of different courses which included jumping oxers, a double combination on two strides, a dog leg combination and some planks. By the end of the lesson Emily and Benji’s confidence had improved greatly and the jumps had increased in height.

Said Emily: “I was so excited when I found out I had won a lesson with Paul. It was a really fun lesson and really boosted my confidence. I have lots of things that I can work on at home with Benji and we will definitely be practicing our jumping!”

Paul’s Top Five Tips:

– Sit up straight when asking for an upward transition, using the legs to push forward into the contact.

– Keep arms bent at the elbows and hands relaxed to keep a good contact and keep control.

– When jumping a course always be looking for your next fence to get a good approach.

– Between fences keep a forward canter to keep an even rhythm and balance.

– Use the whole arena to help keep turns balanced, ready to set up for the next fence.