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Angilina 09-24-2008 03:27 PM

Starting a mare over jumps
My newest and youngest, Harper, loves to jump. I was taking my gelding over some small ones (just to keep how to do it fresh in his mind) about a month ago. We were wrapping up and walking off, and Harper had been watching him jump the whole time. As I took him over to the water trough, I saw her sniffing the pole, then running around on the same circle I took my gelding on and doing a gorgeous jump (with a slightly sloppy landing) over it. She stopped, looked back at it, and did it again, tail raised and throwing her head like she'd never had this much fun in her life.

I've started longing her over 12" jumps and she really likes it because she can jump them when I ask but being 17.2hh can still walk over them.. But, being the poster-horse for ADD, I always have to remind her to look where she's going. As she approaches the small jump at a walk she is looking everywhere but where she's going. Trees, bunnies, that cool looking cloud, oh look a squirrel! Then she trips straight over the thing. She is the youngest horse I've ever had except for my 3 1/2 month old filly, and I swear the filly has a greater attention span.

She isn't rideable at the moment (abuse case, has to figure out what the heck her back end is for, but this is helping a TON) so I am longing her over them. Other than the ADD, she trains very fast and enjoys working over poles.

How do I know when to move up the height? By how much? How do I keep her attention on the jump without having to yell "Look where you're going!" "Watch it, line up!" every single time? Or pulling on her head to make her look forward? A friend of mine suggested mule-type blinders. I didn't think it was the greatest idea, but what do you think?

Thanks so much! If there's anything I left out, just ask.

steph 09-24-2008 05:28 PM

LOL! That's pretty much the funniest/coolest thing I've ever heard! I wish it was that easy to get some of the other horses to jump....

I think you're doing it right. Really, trial and error is key. Everything depends on the horse. If she's fairly confident ( I'm going to go out on a limb...not a very big limb if she jumped of her own accord...and assume she is) about jumping and seems to enjoy it, I would do this:

Go over the height she's currently at a couple of times, to make sure she remembers, then raise a hole on the standards. She will either jump it like nothing has changed, or knock the pole down. If she knocks the pole down, but doesn't really seem too torn up about it, I would replace the pole and try again. She will eventually figure out to pick her legs up a little higher, or she will figure out that if she gets distracted, she hits a pole. If knocking the pole down diminishes her confidence IN ANY WAY AT ALL then you go back to what she knows she can jump, then put her away for the day and try again tomorrow. The key is to make sure she stays confident and enjoys jumping. A timid or scared horse isn't as much fun to jump, IMO.

As for her hind - have you tried hills? That's what we're doing to teach my friend's arabian to use his butt...

And now the ADD - how old is she? This is also a key question for whether she should be jumping or not. I generally don't feel comfortable really trying to teach a horse to jump (this doesn't include playing around over jumps with a lead line, which I've done with a 2 year old pony) until 4 or 5 (a personal preference, and when the bones stop growing, and after I started riding and we're at a certain riding level, etc). But her ADD should diminish in time (with age), the more you jump her, the better she should do, and it will be easier to keep her focused on a jump with you on her back.

Angilina 09-24-2008 10:18 PM

She is 6 years old. I'm going as slow with her as she'll let me (she wants to go a lot faster and progress a lot more than I'm letting her) because she, before now, has never jumped over anything. She's a neglect/abuse case I rescued, and she's surprising me more every day. She's a former performance show mare, even won 2 y/o high point champion, and was sored. She still has pretty bad scars on the backs of her hooves and part of her frog is missing on one forehoof.

I started this with the purpose of letting her have a bit of fun while building up her hind end. Actually, she runs up a small embankment when she longes. I make sure of it. It's on the off side of the jump, directly across the circle so it doesn't get in her way. It's just about the only hill on our land, the only other one is so gently sloping it doesn't even really count as a hill.

I tried the jump thing you suggested, and she did amazing! Her only issue is that she drags her rear off (back right) hoof for some reason. Any suggestions on how to help with that? She has done it for a bit, no injury, just won't pick it up.

Thanks so very much!

drop_your_reins 09-25-2008 01:28 AM

To help her build her hind you can work with her on the ground (just in a halter) and have her back and side pass. Backing gets frustrating for practically every horse on the planet because its not instinctive and rarely if at all used in the wild, so I would start with a couple steps and praise her. If she backs willingly, then ask more from her. Again sidepassing is not instinctive, but will help build muscle, I would just start with the basics on that. (You said she was a former show mare, she may already have a lot of this from her basic training)

If you do any long lining, you can ask her to trot down a long side, turn on the forehand, trot back, turn on the forehand, etc. That will also help her build her hind muscles and help with self carriage.
If she already likes jumping, you can throw cavelletis or ground poles into the mix.

I know this isn't really what you were asking, but I think your original question was pretty much answered :)

As for her attention span, some horses are just like that. You said she was abused so I'm not sure if this would be the best choice, but carrying a whip or a lunge whip definitely helps with attention, you don't even have to lash it for my filly and she's all about doing her job (where as without it, she's the typical mind-wandering three year old). I'm not sure how she was abused so it may be a non issue, but you can reintroduce the whip as a good thing before actually using it for work. (Get a bag of treats, the first day just have her look at it, maybe smell it if she isn't petrified and praise her.. the next day the same thing, maybe touch her if she seems comfortable.. keeping touching her with the whip all over to desensitize her until she realizes that its not there to hurt her. With my filly it took about a week or so, but she was never abused.. Go at whatever pace is comfortable for her)

If the whip isn't an option, I would try a plastic bag or or paper bag you can use to shake a little and make noise.. I'm not sure how it'll pan out, she may just end up looking at the bag instead of paying attention. :P (I use a plastic bag attatched to the end of my lunge whip so it makes a little noise when I lash it) Maybe try lunging her with it first and have the bag behind her as you would a whip...

Otherwise talking to her/clucking/kissing is probably the best you can do, other than varying the routine. Maybe try doing only a couple jumps in a row with her, then some groundwork (like backing or sidepassing), change direction, jumps, groundwork, etc. So that she's not sure what's coming next. Varying the routine (yet keeping the fundamentals the same) is important in training, so they stay engaged mentally. (Just like some high schools rotate their schedules so a different class is first every morning, the same principle is applied there)

Good luck, she sounds like a very sweet mare, and sorry for the length.. I go off on tangents :)

Angilina 09-25-2008 01:55 AM

I do use a longe whip with her. She was never longed with her abusive owners, I taught her from the start, and she does great. She has absolutely no vices whatsoever other than being over-affectionate, if you can call that a vice ;-) She doesn't recognize treats, again with the old owners. I've tried watermelon, bananna, every type of horse treat you can buy, carrots, apples of every kind, she won't have any of it. She's one one of those dream horses that only has that one vice, you're not sure what it is yet, but you know it's out there and will hit at the exact moment you need it least.

I've been doing ground poles and small logs, and walking with her a lot up the road to see the goats (17.2hh mare and she thinks she is one), just giving her something different to do. She just learns so fast I have trouble keeping up!

BTW: Check for her in my "barn" profile thing in about half an hour. I'll have the pic of her I took the day I got her on there. I haven't gotten any decent pics since then because I cannot convince her to stand still, she wants to eat the camera or lick me.

Thanks to you both! Any advice, however odd, is greatly appreciated ;-)

luvs2ride1979 09-25-2008 01:04 PM

How old is she? Horses younger than 4 yrs old should not go over fences. A 4 yr old can lunge over fences a couple days a week, not too many fences, but you shouldn't start a horse over fences under saddle until 5 yrs old, ESPECIALLY larger horses. The bigger the horse, the longer it takes for those bones to mature and harden. A normal horse's hocks close at 4.5-5.5 yrs old (growth plates in the hocks), and jumping is very hard on the hocks.

Angilina 09-25-2008 03:40 PM

She is 6, and the vet has checked her out OK for all of this.

Angel_Leaguer 09-25-2008 04:33 PM

glad to hear everything is going good!!! as far as not accepting treats I dont hand feed my young mare treats either. i dont want her to get pushy, I also dont allow her to try to eat her grain or hay until I have put it down for her. When i first bought her she was very pushy about feeding and somehow she managed to bite me... so maybe that is how she was taught. I only give treats in the pail with the grain. Let us know how everything progresses!!!

luvs2ride1979 09-25-2008 06:08 PM


Originally Posted by Angilina
She is 6, and the vet has checked her out OK for all of this.

Gottcha, sorry, I missed that post. Good to hear you cleared her with the vet! 6 is a good age to start jumping training. To help her enjoy it more, build up her fitness level. If you have access to trails, do lots of trail riding over varied terrain. In the arena work her over ground poles at the walk and trot, moving up to raised caveletties (sp?) at the trot. This will help her learn to control her legs better, improve her coordination, and increase her muscle tone/fitness.

When working over fences, work small, use a ground rail before take off, and don't over-jump her. Just do a few rounds over a fence or two after some flat work warm-up, then go back to flat work. Don't jump every ride.

As far as treats, I treat mine often. I teach my horses to take treats respectfully. They are also not allowed to eat until I have backed off their food. I use a handy Dressage whip to teach this in the beginning. For treats, I work with them haltered first, with the aid of my whip if needed. All of my horses are very respectful when it comes to food and treats, and will even back off their food if I need into their buckets for whatever reason. I use treats and food as just one more training opportunity :wink:.

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