What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Understand the importance of a solid position to begin with
- Realise that timing is everything when it comes to jumping with your horse
- Feel motivated to learn ‘how’ your horse jumps
- Get started improving your skills over fences today
Do you find that your jumping is a little ‘touch and go’? Some days you are great at staying with your horse over the fence. However those other days are showing up a little too often for you to be truly confident and positive about your jumping.
Staying with your horse while he jumps helps you both to feel confident and relaxed. It allows your horse to use himself fully and correctly. And it allows you to remain balanced and ride a great ‘get away’ from each jump
In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast I want to give you some simple tips and instruction regarding how you can become more ‘hit’ and less ‘miss’ where your jumping in concerned.
I am going to give you a few ideas to work on when you are in the saddle with your horse, along with some that can be done from the comfort of your home.
Your Jumping Position is Constantly Shifting
I want to begin by pointing out something which I feel is pretty obvious, but often overlooked by many riders when it comes to jumping. Your jumping position is not ‘fixed’. There is no ‘plug in and play’ when it comes to your jumping position.
Think about your position when you are walking, trotting or cantering. There are subtle shifts and changes happening all the time.
Every second of each stride involves a slight shift or change in your position in order to remain ‘with the horse’.
While most riders apply this to their riding ‘on the flat’, so many riders approach their jumping position differently. They ‘fix’ themselves in it. Brace themselves for the jump. Often this happens long before the horse has every actually jumped. And they remain motionless there until the horse has all 4 feet safely back on the ground, sometimes a stride or four later!
Developing a Strong Yet Supple Position for Jumping
While there is a ‘position’ for jumping, this in no way means that you must ‘fix’ yourself in this position. The more supple you are, the stronger you are and therefore the more you can move with your horse as he jumps.
Your joints must remain supple enough to make the required small shifts as your horse moves over the jump itself. Simultaneously, your position must remain strong enough to carry your body throughout the movement as well.
Strong, yet supple… We have heard that before when it comes to riding, haven’t we?! However so often it is applied to the horse. I want you to begin applying it to yourself and your abilities in the saddle.
I believe the ‘click your fingers’ rule when it comes to your position applies just as much to jumping as it does to flat work. Basically, at any point before, during or after the jump, if your horse was to magically ‘vanish’ (by someone clicking their fingers) you would land on your feet.
You are responsible for your own balance throughout the jumping effort.
If you are depending on your horse to support or balance you, you have work to do! I suggest working on the flat initially before starting working over jumps.
Timing is Everything when Jumping
As riders, we know that timing is important. It is necessary for clear communication between horse and rider. In jumping timing is also essential to allow your horse to actually use himself correctly over the jump.
One of the most common reasons riders struggle to stay with their horse over a jump is due to ‘ducking’. Ducking basically means that the rider has transitioned into their jumping position before it was necessary to do so. This can be a half a second too early, or two strides too early!
In order for your horse to use himself correctly over fences, you need to get out-of-the-way and allow him to jump!
This means waiting until he begins moving up and over the fence before you follow him there. The important word in that sentence is ‘follow’.
Set Things Up – Then Follow Him Over
Your job is not to jump the jump! Your job is to set things up so that your horse has the best chance of successfully jumping the jump.
I see riders throw themselves at fences (and therefore, their horses necks) as though the further up the neck they can get, the better the jump. The irony is that the opposite is true.
In order for your horse to jump, he has to ‘lift’ his front end. Having all the rider’s weight been flung onto the very thing he is being asked to lift, makes his job so much harder!
Rather think of sitting tall in order to give your horse the space he needs when lifting his front end. As he begins to lift, over the jump, you simply follow. Let your horse come up to you and then follow him over.
Learn How Your Horse Jumps
How much you need to do in order to remain balanced while you follow him will depend on your horse, the jump itself and your abilities as a rider. I think that one of the most basic things you can do as a rider is learn how your horse moves over fences. Study his body. And the great news is, you can do this from the comfort of your couch!
Having a clear picture in your head about how your horse is moving over jumps will allow you to feel more confident about how to best move with him while he jumps.
Look at his body as he approaches the fence. Pay attention to the changes in his overall frame, especially on the final stride as he transitions to actually jumping. Look at how he uses his body over the jump. How he goes from the approach side to the landing side. Pay attention to how he lands, particularly his head and neck at this point. Finally, look at the first few strides after the fence.
If you don’t have the opportunity to study your own horses jumping technique, through videos or photographs, look at other horses.
Go online and find YouTube videos. Watch jumping competitions on the TV or go in person and watch them live. You will begin to see similarities and patterns. Study how the horses use themselves. Understand what helps and what hinders. Then take this knowledge and apply it to your riding and your position over the jump.
Start Working On It Today
Jumping is really just a big canter stride. This is great news if you are feeling less than capable of staying with your horse over each jump. The reason is, you can actually begin working on it while on the flat.
The two point seat or light seat is your friend when it comes to developing suppleness and strength for jumping. Work in it daily when in the arena. Keep in mind that you are responsible for balancing you. Your balance is not your horses concern!
From here, begin working over a single pole. Practice transitioning in and out of a jumping position over the pole. Work on your timing and your strides.
Begin merging what you are feeling through your body in the saddle, with what you know your horse is physically doing underneath you
Once you are confident walking, trotting and cantering over the single pole, you can begin ‘building’ your jump. As your jumping becomes more ‘hits’ than ‘misses’ both you and your horses confidence will grow. So too will both of your enjoyment about jumping.
Learning to stay with your horse over fences is not a difficult task. Consistency is key and, like most things in riding, my number one piece of advice is to start small and get the basics right.
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