Starting a horse for jumping
So, I want to start my ex-racing mare Annie on some jumps. he's built like an english horse and isn't much for my western type of riding, but I don't want to let her just sit in the pasture and get sour. So I figured jumping would be my best bet to get her going on a sport she could accomplish at. She has excellent english movement, and very powerful. I've jumped her on a cross course before and she did beautifully, but that was just for the hell of it and they were only like, a foot tall. Easy course, and I was in my norml western saddle. We only did a few but she was hesitant.
So here's my question: How do I begin her training? She's been over cavaletti's and stuff with perfect results, but I don't want to start on larger jumps until I get some more experienced opinions, and my trainer won't be back for another three weeks! I'd at least like to start conditioning her now. So help would be appreciated. :)
Gridwork. Starting with the standard two trot poles to a crossrail. Then two trot poles to a crossrail, one stride, to a vertical. And so on.
Grab yourself a gridwork book so you know the proper distances. The important thing at this stage is to make sure the horse gets to the right takeoff spot every single time and isn't overfaced. The fences can stay small for a long time and still be challenging.
Start with lots of ground polls, ride around in two point. Get her and yourself use to everything. Since you ride Western have you jumped much before, if not you may benifit from a jumping instructor so you or your horse don't pick up pad habbits, as Mercedes suggested, grid work would be excellent, I to reccomend it and a book so you know the correct distances between jumps. Small courses are also fun and keep your horse entertained while you and your horse are learning, keep the jumps low for a while. When a horse learns to jump it can be a big strain on them.
crossrails crossrails crossrails crossrails! Baby ones. I started Cirrus by lunging him over baby crossrails (6 inches, MAYBE?), so he could figure it out on his own without me on his back. Crossrails are great, because it gets the horse (and rider, for that matter) used to going over the center of the jump. Lunging might be a good option for you if you haven't jumped much. Horses learning to jump should not be jumped by riders learning to jump, at least without the supervision of a trainer. Anyway, once Cirrus stopped knocking the baby jumps over while being lunged, we did it together. Have fun! I LOVE my former racer!!!!
Thanks guys :)
I have done some jumping before in an english saddle, but that was on Jester and I know he's been trained to do this. I got the nasic moves down it's just that she needs to know what to do before I get going on anything too challenging. I'll work on my equitation on Jester and do crossrails with Annie, I think, juding by what you all said ^^
I completely agree with what folks have said in regards to the cross rails. If you feel that she's done enough pole-work, pop over a crossrail here and there (say under 18 inches). Start by trotting over it, just going back and forth from different directions. You may use some trot poles before and/or after the cross rail if you feel she's having trouble with keeping a steady rhythm, but use your judgement. Some horses become more discombobulated by the poles in which case I would not use them. The point is, you want her to have a positive experience and keep things as simple as possible. Once she's trotting over the crossrail and cantering away in a nice steady pace, start cantering to and away from the jump.
Some folks mentioned grid work and to me, this implies gymnastics (i.e. 3 or more jumps in a row) and I absolutely would not do this with a horse JUST learning to jump---it is simply to much for them to process when they're just learning and can result in the experience becoming overwhelming or perhaps causing them to refuse jumps. Now gridwork is WONDERFUL once the horse is confidently jumping lines, as it encourages the horse to take it's time over the fences and jump correctly. However, to start, just keep it simpl and do single jumps (cross rails and perhaps work up to 2'o" verticals) and also incorporate some basic lines (i.e. 2 jumps in a row), where the jumps are at least 5 strides or more away from each other. If you don't know how to space jumps correctly, ask how, as poorly spaced jumps can result in you meeting the jumps at awkward distances and also not allow you and your horse to gain a feel for a proper pace. The rule is to allow 12 ft total for take-off and landing and then 12ft per stride, so a 5 stride line would be 72 ft. If you don't have a measuring tape, the general rule is 1 of your steps is 4ft...usually this is a little bigger step than normal unless you're really tall.
Now 2 other things to keep in mind when starting your horse over fences: There are 2 "sins" a rider can committ when jumping and these are particularly important when your horse is just learning: 1) Never catch your horse in the mouth, i.e. always release your reins over the jump, grab mane if you need to. 2) Never come down on your horse's back over a fence. This requires good leg strength, so work without stirrups on the flat if you have an issue with this and grab mane in the meantime over EVERY fence. Releasing and staying off your horse's back will allow your horse to completely use herself to jump the fence and will encourage good jumping form and confidence which are both so important!
Lastly, one person mentioned to make sure you always come to the jump at the right spot and I'd say the exact opposite. Don't worry about your spots or "distances" at this point. 1) It takes a lot of jumping on your part to develop an eye for distances and you simply may not be able to see or correct distances at this point 2) As a green horse is learning to jump, it's fine if they "miss," they need to learn these lessons so that they learn to find the distances themselves or at a minimum, learn that they can still get over the jump even if they are not at the perfect distance---in other words, stay out of your horse's way and let them learn. What is very important however, if you do miss is to make a concerted effort to not drop back in the saddle or jerk your horse in the mouth when these "misses" occur as that can lead to refusals or lack of confidence on your horse's part.
Poles on the ground while lunging is a great place to start. then move up to crossrails. Even after I was jumping 3' fences I still warmed up and trained with poles on the ground and cross rales. Sticking to some basics always helps the horse and rider. Lots of ground work if you have not road english much. Just go for it and have lots of fun. Go out on trail rides to keep your horse fresh and not arena bound. Happy trails
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