View Full Version : Advice on how to fix ducking?

Feb. 14, 2010, 01:40 AM
I have a BAD habit of ducking over fences. I approach fences thinking "Sit back, sit back, sit back" and manage to stay fairly on the vertical through the approach and then I SLAM closed over the fence. I've done countless gymnastic exercises, bounces, no stirrup work, etc..

Is there anything I could *think* on the approach, or do, that would keep me from ducking so much?

This is a huge problem. I have a saint of a horse that jumps beautifully with my trainer on her, but with me, my overclosing is causing her to rub a LOT and have rails. Its really not her fault since I literally climb up her neck over fences.

Here is a quick video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dK1raCuIpMU

Sorry, its not edited or anything, but gives yall a good idea as to what is going on.

Help would be very appreciated!

Feb. 14, 2010, 02:29 AM
One of the most difficult habits to break as many people with this habit often are babysat by willing horses who allow it.

I always wish I could bring my old young riders horse who would have no part of climbing up the neck and use him as a loaner for why you do not invite your body to jump first or alone ;-)

However he is cantering in green pastures now.

Think of allowing the jump to travel to you with your helmet running on a invisible guideline over you. If you think about keeping the helmet still it can help some riders.

The other thing THAT WOULD help you a lot if the quality of your gaits on approach. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to be calm and wait to your jump when your horse is crawling or being propelled out of turn by a rider pumping to keep him traveling. The horse needs to be more off your aids as I can see it in your body language, you are jumping for him and I can see why. He has trained you perfectly to do it for you.

Take the jump down and get to the point you can have quality trot or canter out of a corner so you do not feel the need to SCREAM jump with your body. The circle you are on seems tight for the level of engagement your horse is willing to carry?

I have a ton more ideas but they will not work until your horse has some sort of step you can work with, he is capable just not asked! Good luck cute horse and capable rider!

Feb. 14, 2010, 02:35 AM
For me, it was all about a new saddle with an extra forward flap. It allowed me to get my leg out in front of me, my butt out behind me and my upper body to stay steady instead of throwing it forward. Maybe MachTwo will chime in on here, but she gave me some really good advice about watching steeplechase jockeys ride and watching how they simply fold over the fence with no big effort- I wish I'd saved the email, her wording was perfect.

Old saddle:


New saddle:

Feb. 14, 2010, 03:52 AM
I have the opposite problem, I stay TOO upright over my jumps, I rode western for a long time and still even when I think I am closing my hip angle enough, I'm not. I've taken the winter off from jumping and am working on getting my hips to relax no matter what I'm doing, it's working well. My sitting trot and canter have come along.

Anyway, besides that ponit, ha.. I will second the saddle, your knee looks very up close to the front of the flap, is it possible it's pushing your leg back, therefore making your upper body come forward? I rode in a saddle for a while that pushed my leg back and it was very hard to stay secure over the fences so I developed bad jumping habits. Upon getting my new saddle (actually two, one for each of my horses) I notice a huge difference, there is really no effort in finding the balance over the jumps because both saddles have that "sweet spot" that being said my event mare's saddle is the one that causes me to stay more upright, and it's an AP, so I am wondering if the seat causes that, where I don't seem to have the problem in my CC.

Blackberry Farm
Feb. 14, 2010, 09:31 AM
I went through ducking and jack-knifing, and made it out alive. Once, a horse I owned got fed up, and I, of course, jumped alone. "He who jumps first, jumps alone." Sure enough, she decided to hit the brakes at a show. (She had always forgiven me! ;) Anyway, I managed to fly over her neck, and the jump, land on my feet, and take a bow! (Yes I did!) So, maybe don't be so serious. That's one thing that helped me. I was riding with a BNT, a family friend, who said,"Good God, you're jumping a little jump. Take it like a little jump!" I realized at 2'9"... Your body can just relax, open, and follow the horse. Also, jumping on a circle and looking at my coach on the last stride helped, as did holding my arms out over crosspoles. Closing my eyes over 18" lines with 2-3 strides between fences helped. These could be modified- like a jump or two on a circle on a line with your coach. Anything to help you feel your horse, not you, bring your hip angle closed- kind of like the mogul skiers on TV-sort of- their knees and hips follow the motion of the hills. I hope that helps.

Feb. 14, 2010, 09:49 AM
If you can bring yourself to do it, try riding bareback over very low obstacles that your horse might or might not jump. You cannot jump for the horse or anticipate what it's going to do.

One thing I've finally learned from experience is that you should never trust what a horse is going to do, so you cannot anticipate and have to ride in the moment.

Feb. 14, 2010, 10:07 AM
I read this as duckling, and thought, slow heat and orange sauce. :D

Try jumping through grids with one or both arms behind your back.

You can also crank your stirrups up really short (really short--jockey length) and jump like that. Though painful, it is also good for building strength and balance on hacks.

Feb. 14, 2010, 10:39 AM
Try looking up at a point far away, like the top of the indoor rafters where the meet the wall at the end, or the treeline when you're outside. I do this when we go over ditches to avoid looking down into them, but it helps over normal fences too and opens up your chest and keeps your shoulders more up and back.

Think about sitting in the back seat and remember that so long as your hands are soft, it's better to get left behind a little bit than duck and overjump!

One more thing, your leg doesn't seem to swing, but if you really think about putting your weight in your heels and pushing your lower leg out in front of you about 2 or 3 strides out, that will give you a stable platform and make you feel less like you need to close your upper body to catch up to your jump or make it happen. I almost think about "skiing" with them in front of me, or like my feet are up on the dashboard in front of me.

Feb. 14, 2010, 10:43 AM
The other thing that really helped me was shortening my reins so I didn't have to release big through my arms, which allows me to close ever so slightly over the fence and he guides me to where I need to be.

Feb. 14, 2010, 10:55 AM
I am curious as to why you were taking such a short approach to the jump? The last approach looked like it was off of a 15 meter turn?

If you want to fix you, then you need to set up exercises which will allow you to focus only on your position. Your horse needs to be balanced enough on the approach to carry you through the exercise.

LAZ and some other posters have given you some good suggestions. Setting up a grid with a step rail (7 feet out in front of the cross rail, for a trot) is a good exercise. Tie up your reins and go through with airplane arms. Go through with your eyes shut, while concentrating on "feeling" when your horse is leaving the ground, instead of anticipating. Go through without hands and eyes. Remember to support your core through the approach, take off and landing.

Start by building your grid with a step rail to a cross rail, then add 9 or 10 feet (depending on your horses' jump stride)to another cross rail. After you do those well, add 18 feet to a vertical, which can be made into an oxer, later. It is better to do this exercise at a trot.

Your horse is very cute. I believe that the grid work will benefit both of you, by teaching you to wait with your shoulders and getting him sharper off the ground.

When you start to canter fences, remember to have a good rhythm on the approach. If you are going too slowly, then you will feel like you need to jump for your horse by making a big move at the jump. If your horse is going forward, with push from behind, then he can better carrry you up and over the fence. Try thinking "Prelim dressage canter".

Feb. 14, 2010, 11:04 AM
Years ago when I had a BIG problem with jumping ahead and ducking my trainer had me consciously try to get left behind. You would not imagine how much this excercise helps both your eye and not jumping ahead :)

Feb. 14, 2010, 11:27 AM
I have a tendency to do this on my one horse, because he is much slower off the ground and in the air (bascule and hang time) than my old one who jumped flat and fast. I did it rarely on the old guy, but it generally wasnt a problem for me until I got the young one, and he doesnt have the experience or the will to tolerate it so I have been working on myself since day one with him.

Generally its harder to control your upper body without a strong back and core. I have lost some fitness over the winter and thus lost some control of my upper body.

I do find gridwork helps (the other day I needed a tune up and coach set up a 5 bounce). Jumping singles all the time really sets you up for ducking, you have to make sure you do some tight grids every so often to sharpen up your timing. I am also often jumping in my "safety seat" because this one has a wicked fast change of direction on him. I try to think to myself to do as little with my upper body as possible over the fence (and LOOK UP) and if he gets deep (which he often does) I sit back and slip my reins and then kick him when he lands because his lurching off the ground is not cool. Luckily he couldnt care less if I ride his back over a fence, but my weight on his neck is a big giant no.

Feb. 14, 2010, 04:30 PM
This is all based on my observations from watching your video (cute horse!), so it's worth pretty much what you paid for it :D.

I agree with the poster who asked why you were taking such a short approach to the fence? You are still turning when you get to the jump, so your horse is still crooked, which is why you occasionally have the rail down. Unless you are specifically working on a circling-jumping exercise (in which case you should be cantering a 20 meter circle with the jump included in it, doing 15 meter turns to the fence), you need to have your horse's body straight to the fence - you can angle the jump, but the body needs to be STRAIGHT.

I also think you're working way too hard. Part of the problem could be that you ARE sitting back on the approach to the fence, and your horse's canter is a little underpowered, so you basically feel the need to play "catch up" with your body on the take-off. Then, you open your body way too early on the landing, while your horse is still kicking his hind end over the jump, which results in a back rail. The opening up too soon is self-preservation - I know because I do it, too (for different reasons, possibly, but the end result is the same).

Funny you should post this, because I just came back from a fantastic lesson with my coach and we worked on staying with the horse over the fences, over a line of gymnastics.

I'd focus on keeping the canter very bouncy and round, but DON'T be tempted to ride every stride, or you'll end up pumping with your body in an attempt to keep your slightly lazy pony in front of you. You should be able to just SIT there and let them canter, and they should stay in the same canter you put them in until you tell them otherwise. I was working way too hard in the canter and was exhausted, while my horse remained quite fresh - it should be the other way 'round! Once you get that lovely, bouncy canter with you doing minimal, you can canter to the fence, in a half-seat, but you don't have to "sit back" (especially over a simple vertical in a flat arena!) - just stay in a light three-point, keeping your shoulders slightly forward, and using your leg to press your pony on on take-off, and then just press your knuckles into his neck and concentrate on keeping weight in your feet and your legs at the girth (slightly in front of you), and on the landing side, RIDE THE NECK DOWN. Obviously, you don't want to collapse on the landing, but keeping your upper body a little more closed will give your horse time to kick his hind end clear of the fence. This will keep you from snapping open too early and help your horse clear the jump behind.

Other than that, your leg is very, very good and steady, and you do a nice job of keeping your hips back at the apex of the jump! I think once you get your horse in front of your leg, and stay with him a little more on the approach (don't get behind him by sitting down and back too much), you'll find that you end up doing less overall and you'll have fewer rails behind.

I know that there are two camps of people - those who preach "sit back and down", and those who advocate staying a bit more forward on the approach, but I am one of those people who, if I sit back and down, I end up feeling like I have to play "catch up" over the fence with my upper body, so I fling it forward and closed, and then to compensate, open up too early. There is a time and a place for me to sit back and down (downhill to a jump, a spooky fence, etc.) but when I'm schooling, I concentrate more on staying with my horse. Maybe you're one of those people, too?

Feb. 14, 2010, 08:59 PM
The video doesn't play well for me but my hunch is that your problem isn't the ducking as much as it is that you are not waiting with your upper body. If you are already folding when the horse thrusts you forward you get launched further up the neck.

Generally when I think of ducking I think of a rider not only up the neck but also leaning to one side or the other. I can't tell from the camera angle if that's the case, but if it is jump without the stirrup on the side you lean toward. Once you remove the support that allows you to be unbalanced you'll probably only duck once. :wink:

If it is a case of not waiting with your upper body I too am a big fan of setting a low X then attempting to intentionally get left behind. It's very difficult to do when you usually fold to soon, but often what happens is that the first attempt or so to get left behind often results instead in excellent timing. Sometimes just getting your body to do it right once and you can feel it can help you find that place again.

I think Wofford calls it making the "opposite mistake" and it's a cool trick when you're having trouble with a physical body thing.

Feb. 15, 2010, 12:44 PM
"I know that there are two camps of people - those who preach "sit back and down", and those who advocate staying a bit more forward on the approach, but I am one of those people who, if I sit back and down, I end up feeling like I have to play "catch up" over the fence with my upper body, so I fling it forward and closed, and then to compensate, open up too early. There is a time and a place for me to sit back and down (downhill to a jump, a spooky fence, etc.) but when I'm schooling, I concentrate more on staying with my horse. Maybe you're one of those people, too?"

I totally agree with this.. I was just telling my trainer that during my lesson yesterday. I put it as "the more I think SIT BACK on the approach, the more I feel like I SLAM closed over the fence" - I feel like I have more space / ground to cover!

Feb. 15, 2010, 12:46 PM
And I do agree that the saddle could be a factor. Sigh. I have the most beautiful Bates saddle.. but I'm thinking I might need something with a more forward flap. That is terribly depressing!

Feb. 15, 2010, 12:48 PM
The intentionally getting left behind thing also seems like a winner. I'm a very "mental" person in that I need to think about specific little tricks, as opposed to just thinking "Dont jump ahead!" - ha, what does THAT mean? I need to think "push your legs forward, and try to get left behind" to fake myself out... :lol:

Feb. 15, 2010, 02:22 PM
I need to think about specific little tricks, as opposed to just thinking "Dont jump ahead!" - ha, what does THAT mean?
When ever you are doing "mental talk" in an attempt to get your body to do something NEVER use the word "don't." Always think in a positive form--in other words tell yourself what TO do not what NOT to do. The brain has to work harder at translating a double negative into a positive. (This is also really good advice for anyone talking with toddlers whose langauge skills aren't developed yet!)

So instead of thinking, "don't jump ahead" think "wait with my shoulder."

Also I don't like thinking about "sitting back" but much prefer "sitting UP" or even better "stretching up." Your body can still be slightly bent forward or even in a 2-point while stretching up. The other thing to think about is trying to feel your hips move first as the horse thrust you forward instead of feeling it in your upper body.

While your doing the low cross rails the other thing to try is to approach the jump in 2-point and not ever changing you position--you rarely ever need more fold than what you have in a 2-point, certainly not below 3 feet. Instead of working on waiting you can think about being still and maintaining the position you have. The other exercise I thought of is a low series of double bounces (3 jumps with two bounce in between.) You can do one bounce up the neck but then the second one will catch up to you. Think about maintaining that 2-point and being still all the way through the exercise while the horse moves underneath you. Remember these exercises are designed to make you feel the correct sensation. So really think about what it feels like and when its right take a second to close your eyes and replay that good sensation!

Feb. 15, 2010, 08:25 PM
I think "stay back, go in slo mo". When nothing else goes wrong and I have the moment to think it, it works.

Feb. 15, 2010, 09:12 PM
Have you tried doing a line of bounces with your hands on your head, on your hips or one behind your back. I find this excersize is sure to slow down your body.

Feb. 16, 2010, 06:50 PM
In all seriousness, do you have access to a small or medium pony? There's nothing better to cure jumping ahead or ducking than jumping a small around a solid 2'3. If you jump up the neck or duck, you'll propel yourself right off because their necks are so short.

Without access to a small/med pony:

Watching your video...the exercise is so muddled in both execution and its inherent nature that it would be hard to even work on your position. The horse looks green or something...fixing problems is much more doable on even a somewhat made horse.


I would first set bounces - starting with one and building to a line of 4 or 5. Same concept as with a pony - due to the nature of a bounce, you MUST wait or get smacked in the face with the neck as the horse's neck comes up.

Secondly, I would set you a long line of raised cavaletti and have you approach in jumping position. A correct jumping position has all lower joints that move like hinges, absorbing shock of movement. Your body should feel like a spring, opening and closing with the movement of the horse and it should be quiet.

Thirdly I would have you canter poles on the ground on a large circle. If you throw yourself at a fence, likely you will throw yourself at a pole, and this will make you feel even more ridiculous as it is but a pole, 3 inches high. WAIT...close your eyes...sing a song...do whatever you need to do to just sit there and let the horse move you.

Fourthly I would set a LONG gymnastic - ie. bounce to a one to a one to a one and make you approach in two point and close your eyes, focusing on not moving. Don't move, be moved by the horse.

Last, while some old funky saddles can certainly impact rider position, most decent saddles should not impact your position to the degree of your problem. Slight issues, yes. Vomiting on the neck, no. :lol: Work on YOU first, then tweak the saddle later if needed.

I used to blame all my positional errors on the saddle. Then I when I rode tons of horses in tons of saddles I found that when *I* am correct, it doesn't matter what saddle I ride in. Some facilitate a certain position, yes, but as long as it is a decent saddle will not be the cause of a problem.

I have ridden in a lot of Bates and they are well balanced saddles. I would not suggest by any means switching from a Bates unless it sincerely doesn't fit you or the horse. The Bates is one of the best balanced positions for a classic position.

Although if you really want to get tight and correct, buy an old Hermes Steinkraus or PDN with no padding or blocks. I bought one to fit a horse and WOW has it strengthened my position. There's nothing but me keeping me in the saddle! :yes:

Feb. 18, 2010, 01:37 PM
Jump out of a sitting trot. This will help you learn to wait with your upper body.

Plenty of time for you to think about keeping your body up and open.

And no cheating at the last minute, you or horse. ;) Trot and trot only, please. Just sit, sit, sit: chilly.

And do NOT make the last minute big move. Just keep sitting and let the horse do the work.

Feb. 19, 2010, 12:59 PM
one more thing to try... grab a big chunk of mane with both hands, and as you feel the horse leave the ground try to push your body AWAY from your hands. You will still be holding the mane, and so long as you have a secure lower leg you won't get left.

Also helps to think of making your body a big sail opening- try to catch as much of the air by keeping your chest open and back as you can as your "sail" inflates when the horse leaves the ground.

Feb. 21, 2010, 12:13 PM
I read this as duckling, and thought, slow heat and orange sauce. :D

Try jumping through grids with one or both arms behind your back.

^ This^^ Especially a series of about 3 bounces to an in/out.

You can even change arm position over the jumps...on hips for first two, out to the side for one, behind back for one.