all around critique on my jumper
Okay guys, here's Jackson, let's rip him apart :lol: it's been awhile since I posted here, anyway.
Back story on him: he was trained to be an all around pleasure horse under English and Western tack. Did drill team and lots of trail riding through the mountains. I liked that he was dependable on the trails, had excellent manners, and was super attracted to his free jump (there's a picture of it in my barn, it's from a couple years ago).
We had a couple bumps but he's turned into a very capable jumper, competitive at 2'9, schooling to 3'3, and hoping to be competitive in 3'0 by the end of the summer. The biggest hitch we've had conformation wise is with his super long back, he can have some trouble 'getting' what we want from him, but once he knows what we want and is sufficiently stretched and warmed up it hasn't proven a problem around tight turns, corners and bends.
I'm proud of him for standing square :lol: he was a bit offended he couldn't look at the camera for every picture, though. I'll add some jumping pictures to the next post, from an old thread of mine. I'd also like to know what you think of him weight / condition wise. He lost a lot of condition over the winter because I really didn't have time to ride, now we're working on building up muscle again. He's very fit though, my coach calls him a 'lean five' and says she wouldn't want to see him much heavier.
He is loooong in the coupling and very down hill. His point of shoulder is ok but his shoulder is steep. His bone is adequate.. would like a little more.. and he is camped under and a bit straight thru the hocks.
How does all this translate into jumping form? He lacks scope. He is tight with his front end and clearly a careful jumper. I am not sure how experienced he is based on these photos. He almost looks like he would do better with lower fences and more flat work.. more jumping gymnastics (which never hurt).
The adequate angle at the point of shoulder allows him to get his knees up. The are very up in the second photo. The steep shoulder restricts him from using his neck. the long coupling and long back cause him to jump a bit flat and further restrict his scope.. So what we have here is a willing jumper who is doing his best to compensate for the physics of his body which hold him back. There may also be an issue in training of too much too soon from the way he places his back feet and his over all look in the air.
When a horse jumps he needs to be built so the angles of his body can open and close easily. If the angles are "wrong" anywhere, from the top of his ears to the back feet, he has to compensate "somehow" and that compensation typically limits the horse's ability to jump higher or to do a course where the distances are difficult.
In this horse he has lots of power behind so he can heave himself up over the fence. He desires to be careful so he folds in front well. But, when he folds in front he physically cannot get his head down and use his front end effectively.. it is simple physics from the limitation of his shoulder. He is weak through the coupling and very long.. so even if he could lower his head and use his front end better over a jump this size, it is very difficult for him to raise his back and round. The result is a stiffish, flat jump.
He could be helped by taking him back to lower fences and jumping gymnastics. The lower fences would allow him to use himself more and, while he will never have huge scope, might let him improve that. His lack of scope is certainly not from the rider being on his mouth.. a little more contact in the air might help him too by steadying him. I suspect she is there guiding him and then throws contact away over the fence as he stiffly rocks back and takes the jump with his head up and his back flat.
Another thing that would help him is hill work and lots of cavaletti to build his abdominal muscles and help him raise his back.
He is a nice willing horse. Clearly he is.. so training to help him will teach a lot not only to the horse but to the rider. Here are two photos. In one you can see how the horse is raising his back and lowering his head building the right muscles. In the other is a set up on a circle. The height is about right in both photos.
Really NICE horse. He is trying so very hard. Help him compensate for his imperfections. He will get better.
Another thought.. looking at his front feet.. he looks to need a trim. His body score is fine. Perfect I think.
Thank you such an in depth critique, Elana.
He is very long, his back is something I'm obsessive about to keep him sound and feeling good because of it. I have been noticing now that I'm taking pictures that he looks very downhill, funny because it's not something I notice at ALL when I'm just looking at him.
I'll say now that the photos aren't a great example of either of our jumping experience, that was probably the first ride back jumping bigger fences after a long break due to anxiety on my behalf. He has done a LOT of work with lower fences and grids but I developed a nasty habit of dropping him at the base and throwing my contact up his neck, he's a very very honest jumper and saved my butt a couple of times. They were taken about four months ago and I have been working on maintaining contact over the jumps, and you're right it helps him a lot.
It's funny you mention his scope, I've worked with a few trainers who have said that despite some of his flaws he is a very scopey horse once he starts using his body correctly, and so far it's proven to be true. I've had another rider on him doing courses at 3'6 with absolutely no problem, but he isn't an easy ride and definitely requires a rider who will help him achieve a good round. When I brought him home there were lots of holes in his training and we spent close to two years bringing him along and teaching him how to use his body. He did have trouble with distances and collecting his step, so we've worked very very hard on making him adjustable to be able to GET the tough distances on course.
And I'm happy to hear that his body score is okay, he's very hard to keep weight on in the winter, unfortunately but this year he looked pretty good throughout, he just lost quite a bit of muscling.
Love to see better photos of this horse over fences with a tighter rider (stirrups a hole shorter might help you a bit.. and if shorter is not enough leg then small spurs will help) and more understanding contact with the horse's mouth.
Sounds like you are learning a LOT with this horse (which is always good).
This horse reminds me heavily of my gelding, who also happens to be an awesome jumper [I'm told he's competed at 4' in his younger days], very careful, very scopey, very willing and often a little TOO eager - and yes, like yours, NOT an easy ride!
Mostly it's in the shoulder and the back length. Monty has an upright shoulder and a VERY long back too. I've jumped him 1m10 high, and the higher you jump him the better he uses himself [he tends to jump flat over the "little" stuff, but once you get up to the bigger stuff, especially big spreads, he jumps with a nice bascule]. The biggest oxer I've jumped him over was 1m high, 1m40 wide... I consider that bigger than 1m10 high, 95cm wide, which is the highest.
Sadly my boy's knees have given up on him [VERY similar conformation through the knees - slightly over] and I'm looking at retiring him from jumping altogether, but he's coming up on 18, and he's been heavily used for most of his life from quite a young age. He had a four year break, but the damage would have already been done by that time [the break was from age 10 to age 14].
I suspect the first joint on your horse to go will be his knees and then possibly his hocks, but that's only from personal experience - all horses are different. I've had one that had the "dodgy" joint hold up for YEARS after a seemingly normal joint went arthritic. And while all horses have some low degree of arthritis by their late teens, some of the soundest horses I've ever seen [into their late twenties and early thirties!!] are some of the ones with the worst legs. It's an indicator :)
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