Having some issues with flatwork and jumping.
I'm having two problems. The first is happening on several of the horses I ride, so it's probably something I'm doing wrong. Whenever I am riding on the rail, the horse wants to drop their shoulder and drift off the rail. I can keep them on the rail with the outside rein, but then they're bent to the outside and that's not what I want either. I've tried using an indirect inside rein but that doesn't seem to help much, mostly it just makes them mad. I also try to hold them on the rail with my inside leg which helps a little, but they're still bent to the outside. I'm probably not giving these signals as clear or well as I'd like, so I am trying to improve my leg strength and quiet hands. But other an that, is there anything else I should be doing?
The other problem I'm having is with the pony I'm working with right now. He's doing really great, learns everything quickly and is very willing. But when he gets even a slightly short distance on any jump over 2 feet he knocks it down. When he gets a really short distance it's understandable, but he'll knock them down even if its just a little close. I'm wondering if there's any exercises I could do to teach him to pick his feet up when he gets close like that? I was thinking some sort of gymnastics set just a little small for him. I'm not trying to teach him to chip jumps, but his owner wants to sell him and he doesn't really have hunter type movement so I think he'd do best as a pony jumper. He's very brave and he has the scope to do the height, but he won't really do well as a jumper if he's going to knock down a jump when he misses a distance. I'm not too concerned about this, he hasn't been jumping that long and has made huge improvement since he started, so I'm sure he'll work through this eventually. I'd just like to help him get there.
For your first problem: If this is happening with multiple different horses, chances are you are consistently mistakenly telling them that that is what you want them to do. For instance, if you are leaning too much to the outside (which I'm presuming is what's happening here) the horse you are on will shift to stay balanced beneath you. Try shifting your weight so that you are sitting evenly on your horse, with equal weight in each stirrups. Practicing riding with no stirrups is a great exercise to help with this since it's hard to stay on if you are not balanced and thus the problem will most likely correct itself with practice. No stirrups work can be tedious at first but it will definitely pay off.
For your second problem: Make sure you're giving a generous release. If you hold him back he won't be able to stretch over the jump. Also sit tall in a full seat during the approach. Leaning too far forwards will mess up his distance.
To get him to pick up his feet more, work on trotting poles, first flat on the ground and then slightly raised. An exercise I like to do is resting a pole on the bottom of two standards like a very low jump, then trotting over it while posting the entire way (no 2-point; it's not a jump!). At first he may try to jump it and/or knock it but the more you practice the better he'll get. Eventually he'll learn to pick up his feet and trot over it. Also work on grids and canter poles.
Most importantly, practice will make perfect. If he's still young he has a ways to go and is still learning to pay attention to his feet. The more consistently you work with him, the better he'll get.
For your first issue, it's probably a communication issue between some of the horses you ride and yourself. It sounds like you are using much more outside hand pressure than inside leg pressure, which would make a horse flex to the outside. If you can make both the leg pressure and hand pressure the same, this would help. You can also give a slight bump with your heel when you feel a horse start to drift torwards the middle of the ring.
For the jumping, I would do lots of trot poles. I find it helpful to put 4 poles around a 15m circle. At trot, my horse should be able to take each of those poles in stride, short, or long without any change in the quality or speed of his trot. Do the same thing at canter. Make it challenging by asking him to spiral so you take one pole on the outside of the pole, the next the inside of the pole, then the center of the pole, etc...this will make him think more and be able to comfortably take the ground pole short, long or in stride. Also, try to ensure that you aren't interfering with him. If you are approaching a fence and you lunge your upper body at it, your pony will drop his landing gear (front legs) and knock the poles. If you teach your pony to jump up and into your hands, you will have a rounder jump.
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