Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New South Wales, Australia
A really important part of jumping is rhythm. Consider the jump as being just a really big canter stride. So your canter needs to be great. Sure you can pop over little jumps at a trot - but that only works for the lowest levels.
I recommend you work on your canter, know that you can slow it down, speed it up, and maintain a rhythm at those speeds. Then put poles maybe four or five strides apart and canter over them. Practice having the right amount of strides, practice fitting in an extra stride, and doing it in one stride less.
When you are confident with the poles, and can maintain your rhythm turn one of them into a small cross rail. Again practice cantering through them, sometimes with the pole first, sometimes the jump. Then move to two small jumps, practice your rhythm. Try adding an extra stride, or taking away an extra one. Once you can do them in a line try putting another at an angle so you work on a curve keeping your rhythm. Then you can add more jumps and work on grids.
In many ways, I think height is the least important aspect of jumping. People go on about how high they jump but its quality of the ride, and the jump, that is eventually going to determine your success. If you can ride a 1ft jump course very well, with correct striding, rhythm, position etc. then you're doing much better than if you could just jump a couple of 2 ft jumps. When you get higher their are differences in jumping different heights, but what happens in between jumps is important.
Pretty much anyone can point a horse at a jump and get over it, its the other stuff that needs lots of work. Once you have your rhythm down pat there will be no reason for you to be stiff and nervous because you will know what to expect, because that is what a rhythm is, its constant and its continuing. Don't be hasty to jump higher, perfect everything else first and height will come easy.