We are less than 2 months away from our first show as a hunter. These were taken about a month ago. We started riding in draw reins to help his form and he needs them less now than when we started.
I'd like to just not be a distraction, I'm not going for any Eq prizes. I know my release is a little short because my trainer was asking me not to release very bit, but other than that are there any pointers?
I've never done the critique thing, so please be gentle! I'm not going to say what we are working on because I want to have unbiased thoughts!
My 2 closest friends are hunters and I competed in hunters for 2 years before moving to jumpers, which I have done for 4. You are too tense and his form on the back side is not good. Over jumps I like the angle of his knees but they are super close together. This is an issue your horse has to work out by himself. Ideal form is seeing only 2 legs of your horse, mouth closed with a nice extended neck, and slightly loose reins. A tight grip would tell the judge your horse isnt doing his job alone, and make sure you rest your hand and let your body go forward on the back side of the jump to complete your horses downward movement. I would recommend watching Tracy Finny's hunter rounds. Relax and make it look easy, that's the key :)
I agree with the others that the horse looks a little "up" and tense.
His form with his front end is good, but his hind end is loose and trailing.
Because of the lack of release, and the general tension, he is jumping very flat, even hollow; more like an equitation horse than a hunter.
I am not a big fan of jumping with draw reins, and I'm a little concerned that you want to do hunters but are schoolinog a horse in a figure 8 noseband and drawreins, neither of which are allowed in hunters.
An ideal hunter would hold a steady rhythym in the canter on a light passive contact all the way to the base of the fence, pat the ground as the rider softens contact in the take off stride, and drape itself over the fence in a symmetrical round arc, with knees up, even and square, head and neck stretched forward and his withers as the highest point on his body. That's not what's happening here.
I would agree with the half halting all the way to the fence on a jumper or event horse, but not on a hunter - the ideal is to set the pace and balance in your opening hunter circle and maintain it around course with minimal or no adjustments. If you nrrf yo half halt in the hunter ring, they need to be no more than a 4 on a scale of 1 - 10 and invisible to observers.
I like your position in the air VERY much. Good solid lower leg, correct base of support, right over the middle of the horse, flat back and eyes up. If you had a more generous release, it would a very pretty picture!
Of the set, the third photo is the best and the most hunter like.
If I where coaching you, for the next two months we'd working on getting him to stretch forward and down with his head and neck and use his back on the flat, and maintaining a relaxed, steady rhythm at the canter. I'd have you canter a lot of poles on the ground and courses of poles until he developed a "this is no big deal" attitude.
I would also build a lot of low grids and gymnastics and have you ride through them on absolutely loose reins 1.) so he would start using himself better and 2.) he learns to back himself off of the fences on his own. He's a horse I would like to set up tight distances in a grid and sort of kick him through on loose rein until he figures out life is easier if he shortens and balances up his canter by himself rather than burying himself to the base and jumping from way deep.
Good luck, and I would love to know how it goes. He seems to be a challenging project, but it looks like his heart is in the right place and that he wants to please
Agreed, you are both tense. Don't think that constructive criticism should consider your feelings. The judge will do that to you, so if you intend to show you want to toughen up. You ALSO want to enter classes below the level that you and your horse are working on, so you can "show off" what you have mastered. Many people don't do that and are dissapointed. They set themselves up for loss and failure and give up showing. First, You both need more hours jumping. I would suggest ground poles and you both working on approach. You should ride over the poles in 2-point. Take the time to set up jump courses with just poles on the ground, SECURED, of course so that that won't roll. Second, the draw reins while jumping bothers me. If you must I would use a running martingale. Third, I LIKE your deep heels, and your athleticism. Fourth, warm your horse up on the ground over cavaletti or anything that won't get in the lunge line before you ride. Get him bored with it, and that will help to see what kind of jumper he really is.
Thanks for the feedback. He is extremely green so, yes obviously, we are working towards more long and low. We are getting better. I know figure-8s are allowed. We had been doing jumpers and are now changing to hunters so I haven't gotten a plain noseband yet. I plan on getting one and a standing martingale soon. I'll try to work some of your suggestions into our program! Thanks!
The horse doesnt need long and low, that does nothing; if it did make the horse better on the bit you would have the draw reins on the horse.
Lets go back to the beginning: why the d.r.? Because the horse is likely too high/hollow. Why? It's about acceptance of the bit, choosing to work into the hand. That will allow a better meeting of the fence at a proper distance.
WHen d.r. Are applied the hind legs are often out behind/pushing the load. Then the forelegs will not be tighter/closed. And the back will be hollowed. Not the optimal posture over a fence. And it will make 'following' the bascule (aka automatic release) more difficult. And if the rider uses the de jour crest releases, the horse will either have a limited ability to follow the bascule, or will be too out of the saddle/forward in the bascule (hence not the same as the horse). A horse should not jump flat whether hunter or eq (as it would show improper technique).
What makes for a great eq rider (come trainer for hunters)? The ability to ride a horse to a correct take off, and great timing with bit acceptance/relaxation. That means trotting caveletti, it means developing proper bit acceptance (NOT low/closed/loose reins/etc), it means time with in and outs/etc.
I agree that one should have a steady rhythym in the canter in which the horse is meeting the hand (it is not as much passive contact as the horse meeting the hand, but trusting the hand). The rider sustains the contact with the mouth as the horse uses its neck as part of the bascule, if they drop it, it will be a rough landing stride (rider ahead of horse). The horse MUST take off and land the same distance from the fence. If the horse is 'high headed' ask why? It is either too low first, or worried about the contact, that is the job of the trainer/teacher to repair over time.
Halt halts are for rebalancing, folding the hind legs, lifting and arcing the neck as a result. If the horse is instead too quick, that is a different problem. That is more the posture of the rider, the tension of the horse. It might mean going back to trotting fences, walking, basic bit acceptance on the flat, etc etc.
It is not as simple as just following more over the apex of the fence, but in a total different approach in the first place starting with work on the flat.