This episode is all about helping you to use and make the most of:-
- Ascending oxers
- Square oxers
Have you found yourself, like many riders, initially thinking about all jumps as being equal? Simply obstacles that are in your way when moving from A to B with your horse? It is common to feel this way initially when you begin working over fences.
However, once you can safely navigate a jump or ten, it is important to begin understanding how different jumps ask different questions of both you and your horse. When you begin recognising the difference, you can really begin using small, but different, types of jumps in your schooling to move you both forward.
Jumps can be for All Horses & Disciplines
Even if you ride a ‘flat only’ discipline, small jumps are a great way of keeping both you and your horse ‘fresh’. You can also use this information to ask different questions in your schooling with your horse as well
So even if you chosen or preferred discipline is dressage or trail riding, I really believe that a few poles every now and then can only add to your overall conversation. Of course, using the poles correctly is a huge part of this. I am going to include links other past episodes at the bottom of this blog post where you can get all the help you need to get you safely started over poles and jumps.
Jumps come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I am going to focus on the most common four in this episode. Most jumps you meet will be either one of these or a variation of one of these types of jumps.
I feel, that when schooling, the goal should be to build confidence and correct way of going. In order to do this, it is important that you are building the jumps safely and correctly.
The All Important Ground Pole
I always suggest a ground pole when working with inexperienced horses or riders. It helps both to ‘size the jump up’ correctly. It also leads to fewer mistakes being made, which builds overall confidence.
For you, a correctly placed ground pole will allow your horse to gauge the height of the fence as well as better judge his take off point.
It will also allow you, the rider, to also better judge the approach. And, it can almost always make the jump seem less ‘airy’, which is great for your confidence.
Correct use and placement of the ground pole is vital. As you and your horse become more experienced, you can place the ground pole directly under the front poles or jumping effort.
The ground pole must never be ‘behind’ the jump poles. Or, in the case of an oxer, never behind the front rail or pole. It creates an optical illusion which can lead to accidents and injuries for both horse & rider.
Ground poles can also be used to make the jump a little more inviting for both horse and rider. This is achieved by simply rolling the ground pole out a couple of inches. This will leave it a little in-front of the fence. ‘Couple of inches’ are the important words here! Not too far in front of the fence or the horse can mistake it for a placing pole, which is it not.
With all that being said, let’s take a look at the four basic types of jumps you can use in your schooling.
1. The Cross Pole
The trusty cross pole. Did your first introduction to jumping, like so many other riders, include a pop over one of these? Many riders start out over a cross pole because they build confidence. They create an optical illusion in that they can look lower than what they really are.
However, cross poles can be used in your schooling long after that first introduction over fences. In fact, they have many great benefits for both you and your horse, and I would strongly suggest including them into your schooling on a regular basis.
Why I Suggest Cross Poles for Your Horse
For horses, cross poles are inviting. They help centre the horse over the fence due to their shape and build. Cross poles are usually easy to judge the height of. Also, they can be easy to judge distance from, which will often build confidence in a green horse.
Cross poles also teach horses to be more ‘tidy’ and careful over the fences. In fact, they can often help improve a loose front end, the front legs, if they are used consistently and correctly.
Keeping in mind that cross poles can be as low as 6 inches or 15 cm and as high as your jump uprights will go, they are also incredibly versatile. They can be made wider or more narrow without having to worry too much about pole lengths, which also helps if you worry about not having enough equipment.
Cross Poles for You, the Rider
The plain and simple fact of the matter is that cross poles build confidence in riders. They look ‘filled’, which makes them feel more friendly on the approach. Also, cross poles can often seem a lot smaller than they are. Most riders measure them by the centre of the X. However, the horse will have to jump higher than this in order to fit through the centre of the X.
Cross poles also have the added benefit of helping you to stay straight on your approach, over the fence and then after the fence as well. When you are trying to remember a lot of different things initially, this can be a great help for many riders; and their horses.
2. The Upright
The upright, or ‘straight pole’ is usually the next type of jump that many riders will graduate on to. It can look a little intimidating sometimes because, if it only consists of a single horizontal pole and a ground pole it can be a little ‘airy’.
For this reason, I strongly suggest either having a small filler under the jumping pole or two poles and a ground pole in each upright effort.
An upright can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and, generally speaking, can ask some great questions of both horse and rider when they begin to get a little higher. However, they don’t have to be high to be beneficial in your schooling.
Uprights for Your Horse
Building two or three low uprights around the arena and using them as a ‘track’ is a fantastic way to work on rhythm and balance between fences. Even jumps of 60cm will ask questions and require accuracy in order to get right.
Uprights also begin transferring the responsibility of remaining straight before, over and after the fence to the horse and rider team. They do not ‘help’ or assist you to remain centred, so better planning is essential if they are to be jumped correctly.
You can also play around with your ground pole when working over uprights. The closer it is to being underneath the jump, the more difficult the question you are asking. Remember to begin by making things as inviting as possible, and then building from there.
Successful jumping is all about building confidence, for both you the rider and your horse
Uprights for The Rider
As I mentioned before, I feel that uprights are more of a mindset shift for riders, rather than being a bigger or different type of fence. They can look open or airy, but they can also be made to look inviting and welcoming.
Start with the welcoming looking uprights! Build slowly and remember to try to keep your horse straight all the way through
This is where your ability to ride a line will start to be tested. Can you remain in rhythm and balance, while following through on your line before, over and after the jump? Are you able to successfully string two or three fences together and do the same thing?
If you keep the fences at 60cm or 70cm, you can pop them quite a few times without worrying about overdoing it on your horses legs and joints. Build the fences on schooling movements and keep a check on how well everything is being maintained all the way through.
Finally, use the smaller cross poles and uprights to master your position over the smaller fences. Practice doing what is necessary and trying to tune in your eye and your position to what is necessary for the fence.
3. The Ascending Oxer
Oxers are when there is more than one pole at the top of the fence for the horse to jump over. They require a second set of wings or jumping uprights in order to make and they can vary hugely in how ‘wide’ and ‘high’ they are.
An ascending oxer is a nice way to introduce both horse and rider to oxers. You can build one by making the front pole lower than the back pole. It must never be the other way around. It creates a more inviting jump for both horse and rider because it follows the natural jumping effort the horse makes as he goes over the fence.
Ascending oxers can be made even more inviting by rolling the ground pole out a few inches in front of the front pole of the actual fence. This gives a staircase effect to the jump
Ascending Oxers for Your Horse
Oxers begin asking questions of your horses jumping ability. There is more ‘stretch’ involved, meaning more athletic ability required. It is also important to focus on allowing your horse to really focus on how well he is jumping the fence.
This is also where you are beginning to ask more questions of your horses actual jumping technique. Ascending oxers are particularly good for encouraging your horse to use his hind quarters over the fence.
Ascending Oxers for You, the Rider
As well as being more inviting, ascending oxers help riders begin to get over any fears they may have of jumping wider fences. I strongly suggest starting off with the two poles being very close together and then making the fence gradually wider over time.
Your horses ability to correctly use himself over an oxer will be directly related to your ability to support and control yourself over the oxer!
Can you remain balanced while he makes that slightly greater jumping effort? Are you waiting for him to actually jump before following him over the fence? How about if you are staying with him over the fence?
Riders who fall behind over the fence often contribute to horses clipping a pole with their back hooves… Practicing staying with your horse over smaller, low ascending oxers will help you when the fences do eventually get bigger and wider
4. The Square Oxer
Square oxers or ‘parallels’ can often be a large question for a lot of riders when they first begin jumping them. Having the back and the front rail the same height as each other can make the fence seem more formidable and challenging.
However, if you have been perfecting your technique over smaller and simpler jumps, square oxers should not be too much of a challenge for either horse or rider.
It is very similar to the ascending oxer with what you are ‘testing’ or asking questions about. Having the fence more ‘square’ or table like will also require your horse to be quick with his front legs. This is as well as athletic and clean with his hind end.
As always, the fence can be made seem more friendly if some fillers or more poles are added to the front. And the ground pole can also be adjusted out initially to make it seem less ‘table’ like.
Including Simple Jumps & Grids in Your Schooling Plan
I really and truly believe there are so many benefits for all horse and rider combinations when working over jumps. If you are a little anxious about getting started with your jumping, I have an episode HERE to help get you started.
Also, if you are a little bewildered as to what to do, exercise wise, I have an excellent resource for you. We have a whole collection of premium trainings on jumping and grid work waiting for you inside of Daily Strides Premium. They will take you step by step through setting up specific schooling exercises to get results with your horse. You can find out more HERE
Links mentioned in the episode:-