What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Why the basics still apply
- Why balance is essential; for both you and your horse
- Think of helping your horse, rather than hindering
- How to begin perfecting over small jumps first
Does the thought of jumping with your horse fill you with excitement? Is that excitement mixed with a dash of fear? Like most riders, you probably have thought about jumps and jumping. And yet thoughts of the ‘up and over’ tends to keep you, and them, away from it.
This episode is all about jumps and, more specifically, getting you started over jumps in your riding.
Working over jumps can be beneficial for both you, the rider, and horse. It helps to keep things fresh and interesting. It works both the brain and the body in a slightly different way. But there can be the limiting perception of a ‘barrier to entry’ for many riders. A very high barrier that perhaps you feel that you cannot get over in order to make it happen.
I’m here today to tell you that you can not only get over the barrier, but enjoy yourself along the way as well.
Jumping is really and truly just like riding a very big canter stride. I am basing todays training on the prerequisite that you have a fair working knowledge of the canter; how it works, what’s happening, what you should be doing and what your horse should be doing.
From canter, beginning to jump is simply placing a pole underneath that canter stride. I know this sounds like a very simplified description, but bear with me here. My goal is to lower your anxiety towards jumps and jumping by at least a couple of notches!
The Basics Apply Still – Especially Rhythm & Relaxation
Successful jumping is built on the basics of good flatwork, with principles such as relaxation and rhythm being extremely important when it comes to jumping. One of the most obvious ways riders start off on the wrong track when it comes to working over jumps is the tendency to confuse speed with impulsion. Bounding towards a jump at great speed becomes scary for all involved; the rider, the horse and even the spectators. It is definitely not how it should be done.
Jumping is all about relaxation and rhythm, and that is why you should try to eliminate any anxiety as it shows up.
Balance is Essential; Both You and Your Horse
Start by cantering over a single pole. Focus on your on balance as you do this. Balance between and over the jumps is essential for both you and your horse. Where many riders tend to fall short in the balance department, is that they depend on the horse to balance them.
A good basic jumping position will help you to remain balanced using your own body. You can practice this on the flat, before trying it out over a pole or, later, a fence.
It is important that you keep the weight into your heels, keep your leg underneath you, and you use your bum to basically balance the upper half of your body – a little like a weighing scale effect. Lastly, your horse must be given enough freedom through his head and neck, for him to stretch out and make it over the canter pole, or whatever you are doing.
Allowing does not mean that you throw everything at him and with a ‘best of luck’ attitude. Remember, think about balance here. Your horse also needs to remain in balance. It is no good you being balanced, if your horse is not. Your job as rider is to help your horse remain balanced as well. You can practice all of this while cantering over a single pole on the ground.
Think of Helping Your Horse, Rather than Hindering
This is a largely misunderstood principle in jumping. Many riders, when they start jumping, think only of themselves. They launch themselves forward towards the horse’s head, without a single consideration for how this will feel for their horse.
If you have ever jumped anything yourself (on your two legs) with a backpack on your back, you are going to understand what I mean here. Imagine yourself with your backpack on your back and some things inside. This particular backpack is loose and is moving around – meaning it’s not very secure. Jumping anything in this set of circumstances is hard work!
However, let’s now change that backpack for a more professional type of backpack that hikers would use One that is stabilised at the front as well as the back, where it fits correctly, and is shaped to suit the body of the person wearing it. Everything is snugly packed inside and is not moving around, it is balanced and secure. It now becomes a whole lot easier to jump something, with that on your back. That is how you need to become for your horse.
You need to become balanced and secure over the fence, rather than loose and floppy. I know, simple words – but sometimes simple is easiest to understand!
Your horse needs to lift his front legs to get over the fence. If you launch yourself in the general direction of the horse’s head, you are make it very difficult for your horse to truly lift and use himself correctly.
Resisting the Temptation to Throw Yourself Forward!
Throwing yourself at your horse’s head means you are no longer balancing yourself, simply because your legs are no longer underneath you! Your legs will be left behind in the saddle with the rest of your body on the horse’s neck. Your weight is now being added to his own body weight that he has to lift in order to clear the fence.
I think this happens because a lot of riders want to model their position on top show jumpers. However there is one big difference between a lot of riders and the top showjumpers – the height of the jumps!
You don’t really have to do a whole lot at all going over a small pole, the bigger factor here is that you are remaining balanced. Balanced will help your horse, launching yourself will hinder.
Make Perfect Over Small Jumps First
Finally, I am strongly suggesting that you perfect things over the little jumps, even the pole on the ground, before you start building up. If you can get it right over the smaller ones, you are inevitably going to get it right over the bigger ones.
This way you will also get to build your confidence. In building your confidence, you build the relaxation. When you build the relaxation, you will also find that the rhythm becomes more natural as well.
The result will be an approach that feels good, a correct take off and you and your horse feeling balanced and ‘a team’ as you are going over the fence. Everything is in balance, relaxed and rhythmic. From there you are perfectly poised to either go on to your next fence, or whatever you want to do.
The Benefits of Starting Working Over Jumps
Unfortunately a lot of riders may feel that working over jumps is not for them. However, if shown the value of including this in their schooling, a lot reconsider. Values such as engaging a different sets of muscles within the horse and the rider. Being prepared on the trail or a hack to pop over something you meet.
Jumping also gives you a greater sense of this balance and this communication. It is a real feeling of teamwork between the horse and the rider, that they must work together to get over this obstacle that is in the way.
I suppose the important thing to remember is to take it slow and steady. Work over smaller jumps initially before building to bigger, higher and more complex. This way, you and your horse can successfully work out jumping, and get it working for both of you.
Links mentioned in the episode: