What are good riding milestones before jumping? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 07-20-2011, 11:12 AM Thread Starter
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What are good riding milestones before jumping?

I don't jump, and my youngest daughter (13) doesn't want to learn. However, suppose my daughter DID want to learn jumping next year? As a Dad, I would be willing for her to learn, but I wouldn't just say, "Let's put out some bales of hay and get started!" At a minimum, it would be, "Take lessons or don't even think about it!"

In March, I posted this thread about injuries (Helmets and injuries - some studies (LONG!)). The studies indicate jumping is much more dangerous than riding flats - apparently at least 10X more dangerous, and maybe much higher (40X). That doesn't mean I think jumping should be banned, or kids not allowed to jump.

But what are some good benchmarks that would help a parent know their kid might be ready to start learning? For some examples (and I have no idea if any of these are relevant):

Sit the trot/canter without stirrups?
Ride solid two point for XX minutes?
Ride bareback?
Post without stirrups?
Steady lower leg?

What sorts of things can you see when someone is riding flats that would indicate the person could start jumping without needless risk?

Also - what level of steadiness would you demand from a horse before you think the horse would be ready to start jumping, say, 18" / 24" / 30"? Or does that question even make sense?

What would you expect from an instructor?
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post #2 of 7 Old 07-20-2011, 11:19 AM
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should i or should i not.........
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post #3 of 7 Old 07-20-2011, 11:34 AM
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Although I have been assured that this is somewhat over the top my last jumping coach required students to be proficient to First Level dressage before we were allowed to tackle fences. As in, he wouldn't take you on as a student if you hadn't proven this ability.

On top of that, I think you need to be capable of balancing independently of tack and horse, this is not necessarily best learned in a lesson environment, I believe that this is best learned by riding *a lot* of stinkers so that when the proverbial hits the fan you are able to recover seamlessly rather than overbalance yourself and/or your mount.

For some this may mean years, for some this may be achieved in less than a year. Personally, I had been riding racehorses for a number of years before I started jumping. Many thrills and spills but it did wonders for an entry into the jumping world. Then to be coached by my coach of choice I had to go off and learn dressage.

I like to know that both horse and rider are proficient in each gait, capable of adjusting speed and tempo as well as schooled in basic lateral movements for the inevitable moments where a turn or approach is miscalculated.

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post #4 of 7 Old 07-20-2011, 11:39 AM
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The best advice I could give you is find a trainer! He or she will know when you daughter is ready to jump. I would suggest starting in 2point over some trot poles and make sure the horse doesn't get excited. Anything without stirrups will help her seat and leg get stronger so those are always good excersises. The other thing you may want to check on is making sure the horse she will be jumping is not a green jumper. It is usually a bad combo to have a green rider and green horse at the same time. If you can find (or maybe your horse is) a been-there-done-that kind of horse, you won't have to worry as much about the tempo coming into the fence. Plus that type of horse will be less likely to stop at the fence. Like I said first though, I would find a good trainer in your area and let them make the call. They have had more experience and will be able to work with your daughter to KNOW she is ready.

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post #5 of 7 Old 07-20-2011, 11:51 AM
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Just wanted to add after re-reading your post that my story isn't relevant to someone looking to start at the start, I was jumping larger fences than crossrails etc.

For a more beginner approach (not trying to sound condescending) I think it would be reasonable to expect solid stirrupless work at all three gaits and the ability to ride on a lunge without using hands. This is important so that the rider doesn't rely on the hands/reins for balance.

Lastly I would want to know that the rider has the presence of mind and ability to control each gait and to slow/speed up at will.

All horses deserve, at least once in their lives, to be loved by a little girl.
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post #6 of 7 Old 07-20-2011, 12:27 PM Thread Starter
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^^ You are not condescending. I doubt my daughter will ever jump - she has a STRONG preference for western saddles, and dislikes my English ones.

I'm more curious from a 'general guidelines' thing. If you met a parent who mentioned his daughter wanted to start jumping, what advice might you give to help him decide if she is ready, or ideas on what she could work on to get ready?

I like the dressage idea. I also like the lunge & stirrup-less requirements. As an outside observer, it seems a solid seat, decent (not perfect) lower leg control, and the emotional maturity to demand excellence from herself would be high on the list. The latter seems to be the most critical, to me - the maturity while riding to know and accept that jumping every fence is not required, and that a horse who could fly around a course on one day might not have any business on it a week later. If my daughter didn't understand it is a partnership when riding, and that the horse has a vote, then I wouldn't want her trying anything more advanced than basic flat work. I spent most of my adult life flying as a WSO/EWO in two seat jets. You don't get old doing that if you don't learn the truth of 'A man has to know his limitations'!

BTW - my daughter DOES understand that it takes two to ride, and that a horse can be 'on' one day and 'off' the next. I have, however, met 'mature' adults who did not...
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post #7 of 7 Old 07-20-2011, 12:38 PM
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I think the emotional maturity point is a salient one. You have to have some ability to 'read' the horse; some do this naturally and effortlessly, some learn this over a period of time. In addition to the milestone type requirements I think it is important to be able to objectively assess if you, as a horse/rider combo *should* be jumping any given obstacle on any given day.

I have done the schooling for numerous green horses over jumps and some days if they aren't listening or in the correct frame of mind then there is no point adding an obstacle into that mix. Take one day at a time. Likewise if the rider is in a distracted/frenetic frame of mind then a light hack is a better option for that day than jumping. As with all aspects of horseriding it is important not to let ego get in the way, although we can all be guilty of that at times, I know I am sometimes

In terms of trainers for beginner jumping lessons, I would want to see how they conduct their lessons and I feel that one on one lessons or perhaps a shared lesson is best. Group lessons for beginners that are learning to jump can be a waste of time at best and a dangerous situation (as the trainer's attention is regularly diverted) at worst.


ETA: I would say work on lots of two point position over poles!

All horses deserve, at least once in their lives, to be loved by a little girl.

Last edited by sarahver; 07-20-2011 at 12:47 PM.
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