What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- It’s all about the bits ‘inbetween’ the fences
- Think about conditioning – both mentally and physically
- Notice where you & your horse’s strengths and weaknesses apply
- Make each ‘jump day’ count
This is perfect for you if you have “dipped your toe” into the jumping part of horse riding and are loving it! The next question for many riders is ‘how do I go forward from here?’. Many riders want to jump every day, because it is so much fun. We are going to cover this – and more – today.
Creating a training schedule for jumping with your horse is essential if you want to begin seeing progress in this part of your riding. A couple of episodes ago we began the jumping conversation, by focusing on ‘Introducing Jumping to Your Riding”. If you followed my advice and suggestions, you have hopefully made it over your first fence! Don’t worry if it was only 20 cm, it is still a fence. Well done!
But now you need to have something in place to work forward with. This episode will also be helpful if you are jumping with your horse and you want to keep on progressing and working up over bigger fences. It will help you to create a plan going forward.
It’s All About the Bits “In Between’ the Jumps
Contrary to what we all initially think, jumping really depends on what happens between the jumps! A lot of riders don’t want or like to hear this, because, well, that is not the fun part for them. They want to focus on the jumping of the fences themselves.
If you want to be successful in the consistent conditioning and improving of your horse, and your own riding, you need to focus on what is going on between the fences.
If the ‘between the jumps’ part is not correct, you will have limited success over the fences themselves. True, initially this won’t really be obvious; success over small fences is not that difficult. However later as you start building up and the fences start getting higher, the lack of attention to details between the fences will become evident. It will not be so much fun when you struggle to leave all the poles up!
Apply the 80/20 rule. The 20 is the jumping and the 80 is between the fences. The jumping is of course important, but the 80 is just as important to keep things moving forward.
Think About Conditioning – Both Mentally and Physically
Conditioning your horse should be a holistic process, both mental and physical. Everything that you are doing in the arena, will come back to either developing your horse in a positive way for jumping, or un-doing the things you are trying to achieve!
Make sure that everything you are doing is working towards the goal that you have. For example, I see a lot of riders who will trot aimlessly around the arena and then suddenly they decide that because there’s a jump, they will jump it. It is literally a ‘point and go’ reaction to a split second thought they have had.
Firstly, they could not possibly have a whole lot of rhythm in that approach. Secondly, they are training their horse to look at a fence and then proceed to run flat-out at it.
There is a reason that people do opening circles when they go into an arena before they jump the fences. It is to establish things on the flat, the things between the fences, first.
It is difficult at first, but please try not to allow yourself to get all caught up in the jumping only. Focus about establishing everything, the basics, and then work on being able to maintain that as you go through the jumps, or around the course.
Being able to maintain what you have established is important. In doing so, you will condition your horse physically because he must remain balanced. This will require a certain amount of development through his body. But you are also conditioning him mentally to ‘wait’. A lot of horses don’t like to ‘wait’, and this is usually because the rider, at some point, also did not like to ‘wait’!
Make sure you consider this every time you are jumping or preparing to jump. Everything you do is either adding to your horse’s abilities or taking away from it. There is no neutral.
Notice Where You & Your Horse’s Strengths and Weaknesses Apply
This seems pretty simple, however if done correctly, it has the potential to change everything. Learn to notice where your horse’s strengths or weaknesses lie. For example, your horse may be a little loose in front. Or he might not really engage through his back-end so he lacks power over the fence. It could be that he tends to weave a little, so he kind of wanders.
Notice where your horse’s strengths and weaknesses are, so that in going forward you are including work that is developing his strengths as well as improving his weaknesses.
A lot of people just focus on the weaknesses. I urge you not to. Building on his strengths builds confidence. Simply sprinkle the weaknesses in between the strengths in order to work on them. Always try to build your horse’s confidence.
Imagine for a moment something that you are not very good at doing, and you don’t enjoy doing (probably because you aren’t very good at it!) How would you feel if you were forced to continue to do that thing all the time? Not great I’m going to guess! Well, the same principle applies for your horse.
Of course, you are going to have to devote some time to working on the weaker parts of the ride and your performance together. But, rather throw them in as odd little speckles, and in doing so this will build both of your confidence.
This could be your horse favouring approaching on one rein over the other, or landing on one lead over the other. Don’t keep hammering on the bad rein / lead / side. Rather allow the time to slowly but surely work on it, improve it and build it up.
Keep in mind that most of what is going on over the fence, can be directly linked back to what is going on ‘on the ground’. Remember conditioning can be done from the ground, and then later practiced over the fence. Building the muscles, suppleness, accuracy, responsiveness and of course rhythm and relaxation. Start on the flat and then progress to working on those same issues over a fence.
Make Each ‘Jump Day’ Count
Finally, try to restrain yourself from jumping the legs off your horse! I see this happening a lot when riders get into that arena daily and jump and jump and jump. Now, it is important to mention here that riders don’t do this intentionally from a place of ‘overworking’ their horses. Rather from a place of being over enthusiastic about learning to jump and developing their jumping.
If you find that you sometimes get caught up in the ‘jump jump jump’ energy, bring things back to that 80/20 rule I spoke about in the beginning. Apply it to the days of the week you are going to jump. 2 days jumping, 5 days flat work for example. However, in order for this to work, you must make each jump day count.
You must create a plan, an intention, for what you will be working on for those two days. Again, this is going to come back to understanding the strengths and weaknesses. They will help guide you when creating your plan going forward.
Once you have figured out your strengths and the weaknesses, you have created your plan and have scheduled your jump days there is a final step you can take to really 10x the impact of your schooling…
Make Every Single Jump Count
Get really clear on the desired outcome that you are looking for and set the intention for each and every jumping effort.
I also suggest for you, the rider, to try to get onto as many different horses as you can. I realise it is not always possible for everybody. But if you can, do. Being on other horses, is firstly going to open you up to a whole different set of experiences. In fact often it can be quite an eye opener.
You will notice things about yourself in your riding. Sometimes our horses can invite us to ride badly or to ride very well. If a horse is inviting you to ride very well by something that he is doing, then there is the chance that he might just be ‘carrying’ you. By getting on another horse, it will show that up, and you will know what to work on. It could in fact turn out that the ‘weakness’ is something you are doing and needs work, rather than your horse.
Riding other horses will also allow you to develop your eye for seeing a stride more quickly. Knowing where your horse should be taking off for the fence, which will allow you to begin to gauge things a little bit better in your training.
Lastly, riding other horses will build your confidence in your riding abilities. It will allow you to return to your own horse feeling that you are able to manage and cope with a lot more.
Links mentioned in the episode:-