Learning to Wait for the Jump

Learning to Wait for the Jump

Learning to Wait for the Jump

Learning to Wait for the Jump


What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-

  • Understand why timing matters with regards to confidence
  • Modify your position depending on the jump
  • Working on the ‘wait’
  • Follow, rather than go first

The jump is in sight.  You have choosen your line.  However, as you approach, you notice some anxiety creeping in to your mind regarding timing.  Why?  Because, every now and then, you and your horse just don’t seem to go over that fence together!

Today we are talking timing.  Timing your jumping position when it comes to going over fences.  Specifically, make sure you are not going into your jumping position too early.

Why Your Timing Matters with Regards to Confidence

Arriving at the base of the jump already ahead of the movement has a huge impact confidence, for both horse and rider.  It can quickly erode trust and make both sides feel anxious when they see a jump.  The reasons are different for both horse and rider, so let’s look at them one by one.

We will start with the horse.  Horses, particularly young or green horses rely on the riders guidance and support going over the jump.

This support is just as much an emotional or mental support as well as physically supporting him through the connection and contact.  All parts of your body that are in contact and communicating with the horse.  Your legs, your seat and of course your voice plays a part.  Obviously, the hands and the reins are also a big part. 

When the rider goes into the jumping position too early, the horse can feel let down or dropped.  Couple this with the fact that the rider has probably shot up the horse’s neck, makes it not only unnerving for the horse, but also difficult for them to lift their front end off the ground.  This is potentially further complicated due to a young horse not being developed physically enough to enable them to compensate for the rider fault.  The result is a different negative impact on the horses confidence.

If we flip the coin, and focus on the rider as they approach the jump things are a little different.  An inexperienced rider who goes into their jumping position too early is often paired with a more experienced horse.  As they approach the jump and the rider is too early with their position, many horses see this as an opportunity to duck out the side door!

Unfortunately for the rider in this situation, the force called momentum then usually comes into play!   This only makes the rider more anxious and tense on the next approach, which will only serve to increase the potential for things to go off plan.

Your Position will Depend on the Jump

It is important that you can correctly time your jumping position so that you move over the fence with your horse.  Your position will depend on the jump.  I see many novice riders ‘over doing’ their position over a smaller jump.  They look as though they are jumping 160cm, rather than 60cm!

Keep in mind that your ‘fold’ will depend on the size and the aspects of each individual jump.  The height, the size, where the jump is, whether it is going up or down hill.  It is important to understand that when the jump is small you don’t have to fold as much.  A lot of riders by overdoing the ‘fold’ end up going into their jumping position too early.

Think of it this way; the smaller the fence, the less time in the air.  Meaning the less time you have to fold in and out of your jumping position.  

Rather try to ‘wait’ for the jump and then only do what is necessary, no more, when you get there.

Working on the ‘Wait’

Simply put, you must try to wait for the horse to get to the fence.  It sounds really basic, but for many riders they are so focused on what they should do, that they fail to ride where they actually are at any given moment.

When you are jumping it is very important to try and merge these two things.  Obviously, you are thinking about where you are going to go after the fence, and what is coming up after the next fence – but you also must ride each individual stride getting to the fence.

One of the ways that you can do this is by counting yourself down into the fence.  For example, as you are approaching the fence, pick a spot and decide how many strides you will get between that spot and the fence.  Then count down from that spot – three, two, one.

Doing this will allow you to develop a better eye for where your horse is going to take off.  Also by counting it down “three, two, one” it makes it easier because you know that you must wait for “one” to be done before you go over the fence. 

I normally get my riders to say something as they go over the fence, like “jump” or “land” if we are doing a grid with a couple of fences.  Say anything as you go over the fence – you could even say “now”.  You only allow yourself to go into your jumping position when you are on that word.

Following, Rather than Going First

Another way you can train yourself to wait, is by waiting for the horse’s front end to come up to meet you.  This does take a little more experience.  In an ideal situation, on the approach to the jump you will be out of the way and allowing the horse to take you both to the fence.

Being out of the way means that you will not be perched on his neck!  As the horse goes to take off, his front-end will rise.  This is where you literally wait and then follow him on over.  If you throw all your weight at that front end while he is lifting it, you are making his job incredibly difficult.

Another way to test this timing is to build yourself a couple of grids, starting off with just poles on the ground.  Then as you are trotting or cantering through – perhaps approach it at a trot and pick up canter as you are going through it – allow yourself to fold in and out of a light seat over the poles.

Make sure that you are indeed sitting up in between the poles.  Sometimes when people go into their jumping position too early, they also tend to either stay there too long or they come up too early, and get the whole timing wrong.

Whatever way it is happening with you, you need to work on that timing.  Practicing over ground poles is probably one of the best ways that you and your horse can happily work on this.

Set up a grid of poles, and start working on folding in and out, all the way.  Allowing your knees to be the shock absorbers, all the while keeping that contact and connection with your horse all the way through.

Happy Riding


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