Whether you enjoy jumping or not, the fact of the matter remains… When approached correctly and consistently, jumping can greatly benefit both horses and riders in a long-term training program. Even if there is no intention of actually ‘jumping’ competitively. And this is true regardless of discipline, training level, and experience.
When introduced the right way, and then strategically used jumping is a great way to add diversity to the training – and physically and mentally develop the team.
So, here are three simple ways you can get started and begin using jumping this week in your current training program with your horse. And, keep in mind, nothing has to be ‘higher’ or ‘bigger’ than 30cm (12 inches), deal? ;)
Exercise 1 – Pole on the Ground
This is exactly how it sounds, a simple pole on the ground between two uprights or ‘wings’. Now, if you don’t have any fancy uprights, you can use pot plants or something else to create the ‘wing’ for your ‘jump’. Poles on the ground are a great way to include jumping in your horse’s training – without the risk of injuries. They also allow both you and your horse to develop your abilities and confidence before tackling a ‘pole off the ground’! ;)
Focus on the line you take and make sure it remains straight before, over, and after the pole. Pay attention to the rhythm on the approach and the get away from the pole as well.
The line is important as this will begin to ‘train’ both of your eyes to ‘see a line’. And the ability to ‘ride a line’ is vital in all forms and disciplines when training horses and riders. Notice the turn onto the line; are you overshooting it, or maybe undershooting it? And what about the getaway from the jump? By consistently using jumping in your horse’s training you will develop greater rhythm and flow to your overall ride.
Work over your pole on the ground in walk, trot, and canter. Then begin to add more poles to your ‘track’. Test your ability to stay on the track and maintain rhythm between the poles.
Exercise 2 – Working Over a Cross Pole
Who doesn’t love a nice cross pole?! They are so helpful, inviting, and friendly to both the horse and rider. Cross poles come in all sizes. From the center of the jump (the cross) being just 15cm (6 inches) in height, to the center being closer to 90cm in height (3 feet). Regardless of size, most of the benefits remain the same, which is what makes this a super addition when including jumping in your horse’s training.
A crosspole will help to develop you and your horses straightness further by inviting you both to the centre of the jump.
When you couple this with your training over the poles on the ground, it will allow you and your horse to really being developing strength and suppleness. Cross poles also ‘seem’ smaller or lower than uprights. It makes me laugh how often a rider will happily jump a 45cm (18 inches) cross pole, but balk at riding an upright of the same height! Looks can truly be deceptive when it comes to cross poles, which is why they are great for building confidence.
Focus on establishing a rhythm before the approach, such as on a 20m circle. Then work on maintaining that rhythm as you ride the straight line to your crosspole.
Then work on your straightness after the fence. And finally, transition onto another 20m circle – this one on the other side of your jump. The goal will be to keep the same rhythm and forwardness throughout the exercise. Simple and can be worked over quite a few times without the risk of injury, and effective :)
Exercise 3 – Adding Another Fence
Have you ever noticed how your interactions with your relations, in general, can often encourage (force) you into growing and developing as a person?! True story! Well, jumps that are related to each other can do a similar thing for you and your horse. They encourage you to take what you have and what you can do and then develop it further.
The key to safely adding another fence when using jumping in your horse’s training is to figure out what your horse is comfortable with right now. How much ground does he comfortably cover each canter stride…?
Comfortable is a keyword here. Yes, later in your training you can use distances that don’t quite suit your horse to ask him to lengthen or shorten. However, when you are just getting started with introducing jumping to your horse’s training, it is vital that your horse decides the distances.
Again, start with a cross pole to a single pole on the ground. Find out what distance really feels comfortable for your horse. Then begin to build the pole on the ground into another cross pole. Once you and your horse are happily and comfortably jumping the two fences, you can begin to refine what you are doing. The options are endless here. And the key is to build slowly.
Try Some Jumping in Your Horse’s Training
So, regardless of what your chosen discipline is, working over small fences can really help both horse and rider improve their connection and their training. From developing more feel for timing, to actually trusting each other more, riding over fences can be an amazing experience for all involved.