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  1. #1
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    Default Difficulty between jump heights?

    For starters I'm not making this thread to brag, I don't show over fences right now (did as a kid) and just do fences in my lessons and on hacks.

    I've heard a lot of chitter chatter on the internet about jump height and how riders who jump 3'3 or 3'6 are more advanced than riders jumping 2'6-3'. It's an interesting and complicated subject.

    What I've always learned (read: had beaten into me by trainers) was that if you can jump 2' you can jump 3'6. In my experience this has been true. Jumping is just flatting with obstacles, and having solid flatwork skills will set you up for jumping success. In other words, if you're struggling to jump a higher fence, it's because something is missing on the flat. Perhaps you don't have impulsion, or have yet to lock down and maintain a good rhythm on a horse. Perhaps your core and balance aren't strong enough.

    It is also true that some people will just get good at throwing themselves over fences at whatever height. All they can do is jump, they can't pull their horse into a frame and collect. On top of that, many riders are limited more by the horses available to them, rather than their actual skill. You'll have incredible riders showing at 3'-3'6 not because they're incapable of higher jumps, they're showing that level because their horse simply cannot jump any higher than that.

    The real question I'm asking here is: do you believe a rider's ability can be judged by how high they jump?

    My personal answer to this is once you reach a certain height, yes, only talented riders and horses will be found in the ring; none of the people jumping GP are amateurs. However in the lower fences it's more about the horse's height and abilities than it is about the rider on top. It's more difficult to jump 3' on a 13.3H pony than it is to do it on a 16.2H TB.

    Ultimately, in my opinion, unless we're comparing Grand Prix level to crossrails, jump height is arbitrary. Jump height can't be used as an objective measure of skill when so many other variables can be responsible at the lower levels. I'd be very interested to hear others thoughts on this.

    Sorry this was so long.



  2. #2
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    Absolutely not. I believe jump height has nothing to do with a rider's ability. I do agree with you about the rider needing to be solid on the flat before jumping. I have ridden English for about two years now and Western for 8 years. My previous trainer had many students go head over heels because they always wanted to "jump higher." They all were classic examples of just "throwing themselves" over the fence, as you said. I only got up to 2 ft max, because that's where I was comfortable with, and now I'm not jumping at all because I chose to go back to flatwork to correct some things with my new trainer. I do believe by practicing flatwork, you become a better rider. You can't jump higher without a good solid foundation.



  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by ladyfreckles View Post
    none of the people jumping GP are amateurs.
    This is incorrect! There are many amateurs doing GP. Tiffany Sullivan co-won a HITS Thermal GP this year - she's an ammy! Check it here: http://www.proequest.com/news/grand-...save-their-hor

    My barnmate is also an amateur, in college, and does GP level riding. Another barnmate is an amateur and is a GP competitor. One day, I would like to move up from the A/Os and compete at larger heights and I sure don't plan on becoming a pro. I think the word would be inexperienced . In our sport, amateur means non-professional, not "newbie" or "inexperienced", which amateur can sometimes mean in certain contexts. So I understand what you're saying.

    I certainly do not think height of jumping means a better or more capable rider. I will take a girl at my barn. Now, I don't mean to pick on her, but I will use her as an example. She has a very fancy horse that has allowed her to really move up to larger jumps. However, she is very unstable on other horses. She knows how to jump her horse, but not other horses. She has no idea of how to collect, extend, find a frame, etc. Some of the other girls at my barn can really ride a horse - they can work horses. They can collect, extend, find a distance when the horse can't see it, and so on. They do a lot of catch riding and a lot of winning on these catch rides. They also work on flatwork almost every day.

    Also - I think flat work is a great indicator of riding ability. Collecting and extending become very important as the jumps go up. Now there are those that race around the A/O jumpers and win - but there are those that know when to switch frames and work around it. I am not personally of the opinion that people should be jumping larger fences without this knowledge, but I'm also not a trainer. Flatwork is really manipulating the horse. Jumping can be as simple as point-and-aim.

    A good horse can make a rider look good, and a good rider can make a green/inexperienced/not as "good" horse look fantastic. I hope this helped answer your question, it sounds like we agree on most things. I do think some riders are absolutely incapable of jumping 3'6". I think it mostly levels off at 3' and 3'3". I think for most horses, they really start to move up and over at 3'6", and then it starts becoming harder for non-pro or non-gifted? talented? experienced? riders to stay with the horse if you know what I mean. But I don't necessarily think the 3'6" rider is better than or worse than the 2'6" rider.


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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by lrp1106 View Post

    I certainly do not think height of jumping means a better or more capable rider. I will take a girl at my barn. Now, I don't mean to pick on her, but I will use her as an example. She has a very fancy horse that has allowed her to really move up to larger jumps. However, she is very unstable on other horses. She knows how to jump her horse, but not other horses. She has no idea of how to collect, extend, find a frame, etc. Some of the other girls at my barn can really ride a horse - they can work horses. They can collect, extend, find a distance when the horse can't see it, and so on. They do a lot of catch riding and a lot of winning on these catch rides. They also work on flatwork almost every day.
    Yup. I know a rider who could not get his used-to-do-1.15m-jumpers (before he bought it) to jump 2'9 consistently/well. He really couldn't 2 point well, couldn't control his horse. He's now leasing an ex-GP horse and I saw a video of him jumping 1.30m. Could he do that on any other horse? No, not at all. Not even close. But that horse knows it's job and takes control and the rider is able to stay on.

    So no, jump height certainly isn't everything. Someone that can do 4' (courses/shows) easily (especially on a less experienced or tougher horse) probably is a pretty good rider. But that doesn't mean that everyone surviving 4' is a good rider.



  5. #5
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    Someone tell me if this makes sense. I think jump height is more indicative of experience level than skill level. A terrible rider who has been doing 3ft for years on an easy horse may still have more success around a 3ft course than, say, a talented dressage rider. So I think experience over a height breeds success over a height, to some extent. A really talented rider who has ridden hard, green horses all their life on the flat and around the 2ft might still not be the person you want jumping 4ft on your horse.

    However, by no means do I think jump height is indicative of talent. I can pilot a horse around a 3'6'' course better than rider who are much better than me. I've just had more experience at the height. Its the same idea as putting miles on a horse - riders need miles as well.

    I definitely do not think a rider's ability is judged by how high they jump. In some circles it may be - where a rider has limitless funds and always (and only) moves up when capable. In other circles (aka mine!) where funds are restricted, worse rider move up because they can afford it. I went from doing the 3'6'' jumpers successfully to riding green horses, and let me tell you what a blow it was to my ego to realize I couldn't get a greenie to canter a circle let alone a jump! Definitely living proof jump height is not indicative of ability.
    Currently blogging for Chronicle of the Horse. Articles can be found here: http://www.chronofhorse.com/category...ryan-lefkowitz



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by lrp1106 View Post
    This is incorrect! There are many amateurs doing GP. Tiffany Sullivan co-won a HITS Thermal GP this year - she's an ammy! Check it here: http://www.proequest.com/news/grand-...save-their-hor

    My barnmate is also an amateur, in college, and does GP level riding. Another barnmate is an amateur and is a GP competitor. One day, I would like to move up from the A/Os and compete at larger heights and I sure don't plan on becoming a pro. I think the word would be inexperienced . In our sport, amateur means non-professional, not "newbie" or "inexperienced", which amateur can sometimes mean in certain contexts. So I understand what you're saying.
    I was using the phrase "he's no amateur" here and had a "d'oh" moment when posting it on a horse forum, haha.

    I certainly do not think height of jumping means a better or more capable rider. I will take a girl at my barn. Now, I don't mean to pick on her, but I will use her as an example. She has a very fancy horse that has allowed her to really move up to larger jumps. However, she is very unstable on other horses. She knows how to jump her horse, but not other horses. She has no idea of how to collect, extend, find a frame, etc. Some of the other girls at my barn can really ride a horse - they can work horses. They can collect, extend, find a distance when the horse can't see it, and so on. They do a lot of catch riding and a lot of winning on these catch rides. They also work on flatwork almost every day.

    Also - I think flat work is a great indicator of riding ability. Collecting and extending become very important as the jumps go up. Now there are those that race around the A/O jumpers and win - but there are those that know when to switch frames and work around it. I am not personally of the opinion that people should be jumping larger fences without this knowledge, but I'm also not a trainer. Flatwork is really manipulating the horse. Jumping can be as simple as point-and-aim.

    A good horse can make a rider look good, and a good rider can make a green/inexperienced/not as "good" horse look fantastic. I hope this helped answer your question, it sounds like we agree on most things. I do think some riders are absolutely incapable of jumping 3'6". I think it mostly levels off at 3' and 3'3". I think for most horses, they really start to move up and over at 3'6", and then it starts becoming harder for non-pro or non-gifted? talented? experienced? riders to stay with the horse if you know what I mean. But I don't necessarily think the 3'6" rider is better than or worse than the 2'6" rider.
    I agree with this.

    I think one of the reasons it comes up often is a lot of people want the ability to say they're better because they jump 6-12" higher. A lot of young riders are constantly itching to jump higher because they've gotten it into their head that higher means better. It's clear to me after research and a lot of time in the saddle that if you work on collecting, extending and gaining control and confidence on the flat the higher jumps will come on their own.

    I know a rider (she is not at my barn, though I do not wish to speak badly of her) who jumps and wins at 3'6-3'9. She's been riding for longer than I have, but she cannot ride the same horses as me. She knows the mechanics of riding but simply doesn't have the feel to communicate effectively with greenies. I've only flatted green horses so far (unless you count a six year old that's been in training non-stop since he was 3 as green), so I'm one to talk. She has been blessed with the finances to ride expensive, well trained horses. She can ride those horses very well.

    It's an interesting phenomenon to see, though. The way people seem to over-value fence height, it's as if other disciplines don't even exist as a measure of skill.



  7. #7
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    What I've always learned (read: had beaten into me by trainers) was that if you can jump 2' you can jump 3'6.
    What this statement fails to include is that you can successfully jump 2' poorly a lot easier than you can jump 3'6.

    In other words at 2'0 you can have your ass carted around by a kind schoolmaster, you can be a pure passenger who makes more decisions about the earth's gravitational field than you do about the upcoming line... in short, you can make all sorts of poor life decisions (or no decisions at all)... and you really have to be at the far end of the "bad" spectrum for it to be dangerous at 2'0... or 2'6... and to a lesser degree, 3'0. You can even be not very good and beat somebody who is actually very good in this situation.

    The tolerances for such errors become increasingly small as the height goes up, which is why when the fences do go up, people tend to discover they are not nearly as good as they might have thought (or hoped and prayed) they were. Then when you get to the height where pace significantly changes (about 3'6), you get to find out how good you are at seeing things off a different pace... which you could have mastered at a lower height, but...

    So sure, in some theoretical experiment or test tube, I imagine a person who rode 2'0 was so experienced at pace, collection and distance at 2'0, that but for a short learning curve, they could get it. And some naturally gifted riders (few and far between) shoot up through the height/ranks because they got that good at the lower heights that fast... But in the real world it mostly doesn't work like that. Most of us - even with the best of intentions - are a little lazy and if some "meh" decisions/habits work out just fine at X height (and by "meh" I don't mean bad decisions/habits, just not great ones) we tend to keep on doing them until there is a reason to change our ways (i.e., the fences go up).
    Definition of "Horse": a 4 legged mammal looking for an inconvenient place and expensive way to die. Any day they choose not to execute the Master Plan is just more time to perfect it. Be Very Afraid.


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  8. #8
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    I agree that fence height alone is not indicative of ability, but I do think that there are more skills you need to learn to jump a bigger jump. Despite what people say, I firmly believe (from my experience) that you have to ride the bigger jumps very differently from smaller ones. The pace is different, the amount of collection is different, etc., and I have to admit that sometimes I think people who haven't jumped bigger jumps overestimate their ability to get on a horse that's capable of those levels and make it look easy. Cantering down to a 1.40m fence is just not the same as cantering 3 feet or something lower. The margin of error is so much smaller for the higher fences.

    I agree with Rel6 that it can be an indication of experience more than anything else.

    Edited to add that DMK and I must have posted at the same time or very close to it - completely agreed!!
    Last edited by supershorty628; May. 27, 2013 at 08:33 AM.


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  9. #9
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    In some instances, I have found it easier to jump the 3' 3'3" hunters than pre-child/adult height - it can be really hard to get that step at such a low height. This completely depends on the horse though. Just a thought I had.



  10. #10
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    A horse does not even actually jump- push off and get all 4 feet off the ground at the same time in a bascule then land on the forelegs and bring the hind up and under to resume the canter- until somewhere around 2'6" or 2'9", maybe 3' for a big horse.

    So, no, I don't think anybody, horse or rider, who can jump 2' can jump a course at 3'6" with equal skill. They are quite different in skill set- spread, pace and the fact mistakes in pace or track equal stops the lower heights allow you to get away with.

    I will grant you height does not define ones overall abilities as an effective rider, people can suck and be aboard bad horses but their numbers dwindle dramatically as the height and pace get less forgiving- around 3' 3" in the Hunters and 1.2m or so in Jumpers.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMK View Post
    So sure, in some theoretical experiment or test tube, I imagine a person who rode 2'0 was so experienced at pace, collection and distance at 2'0, that but for a short learning curve, they could get it. And some naturally gifted riders (few and far between) shoot up through the height/ranks because they got that good at the lower heights that fast... But in the real world it mostly doesn't work like that. Most of us - even with the best of intentions - are a little lazy and if some "meh" decisions/habits work out just fine at X height (and by "meh" I don't mean bad decisions/habits, just not great ones) we tend to keep on doing them until there is a reason to change our ways (i.e., the fences go up).
    While I agree with everything you said, I think it also depends on training methods.

    For example, some trainers will not allow students to jump until they have mastered flatwork and can maneuver a horse around the flat in all sorts of situations. In theory these students should easily move up the ranks in jumping, because they know how to manipulate a horse. All that's left is jump position and distance. As the jumps get higher, and the pace begins to change, they will adjust far more quickly than someone who did not have a solid foundation and instead learned distances really well but not how to really manipulate a horse.

    Of course, there are some people who are just not good over fences. And many of them don't want to be because they'd rather be flatting.

    The bad habits part you mentioned really resonated with me. I thrive best under a challenge--this was the case in the classroom as well, not just on horseback--and sometimes if I'm doing something that doesn't require absolute precision I get lazy and sloppy. My instructor increased fence height and found that my performance did not decrease, not even at 3'. Instead what happened was that as the fence height went up, I began focusing more on straightness and looking the right way since I had to. Note though, that I understand the mechanics of keeping a horse straight and gaining impulsion. I understand the aids. However, my bad habits and laziness get in the way of me applying them. Increasing the fence height for someone who does not understand the aids is extremely risky.

    Another way to add challenge is to have more complicated jump courses in lessons. So, while the height may only be 2'-2'6, there are more turns and less time to think in between jumps. Doing gymnastics is another good way to add a challenge.

    It strikes me as odd. I have gone to local shows and seen riders who are running around the ring at 3' with hollow horses, just barely doing the course, but not doing it effectively. Many of them still place. IMO they need to dial it back a notch and work on flat work. It's one of the reasons I feel strongly about not using jump height as a measure of skill. If someone came up to me and said "I can jump 3'3" I wouldn't consider it a measure of their skill, for example. I'd rather see them ride. I jumped 3'6 the other day but I'm totally mediocre as a rider.

    What the overall consensus in this thread appears to be is that while yes, jumping higher does require more skill, jump height alone is not the best way to measure a person's skill.



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ladyfreckles View Post
    It's an interesting and complicated subject.

    What I've always learned (read: had beaten into me by trainers) was that if you can jump 2' you can jump 3'6. In my experience this has been true.





    I completely disagree with this statement. Maybe if every trainer held every student back from jumping until they were fully accomplished on the flat, it might ring sort of true, but then there wouldn't be a lot of students around to teach, because they would get bored and quit. Heck, I might not be jumping and I have been showing my horse in the 3'3" AO Hunters. My perceived cutoff of "separating the men from the boys" comes over 3 ft, when the horse is starting to have to jump and have some talent. I feel like most average talent level horses can get you safely from one side of a 3 ft. fence to the other no matter what horrible thing you do to it. I've tested this theory on way too many occasions! Above 3 ft. you start to need a horse with a bit more talent than average to pull off a Hunter round and to deal with mistakes of an amateur. I have always feared that above 3 feet, I could get my horse into trouble she might not be able to get us out of, so to jump over 3 ft., you need a horse talented enough to deal with that and hopefully, a rider less likely to get to those places. My particular horse, has shown, so far, that she is able to get us out of any trouble I have gotten us in at 3'3", which is the only reason we are showing there. I do think the move from 2 ft. to 2'6" is smaller than the move from 2'6" to 3 ft. and way smaller than the move from 3 ft. to 3'6", even though they are both just 6 inches. At the Hunter shows the move up in height, generally, also brings a move up in distance between the jumps and width of fences and filler, as well.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by lrp1106 View Post
    In some instances, I have found it easier to jump the 3' 3'3" hunters than pre-child/adult height - it can be really hard to get that step at such a low height. This completely depends on the horse though. Just a thought I had.
    I agree completely. I've ridden some horses that were easier to ride as the fences got bigger. Something about how they were more careful about picking up their legs and treating the fence with more respect.



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by SnicklefritzG View Post
    I agree completely. I've ridden some horses that were easier to ride as the fences got bigger. Something about how they were more careful about picking up their legs and treating the fence with more respect.
    My trainer, who is very reluctant to move people up, just recently moved a child up from only showing the 2', 2'3" classes on my horse, to doing 2'6", because she thought it was actually safer, because my horse was just cantering the tiny fences and not paying any attention to them and she was afraid she might trip. Not that 2'6" requires any significant effort, but she at least sees it as an obstacle that she needs to raise her feet for.


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  15. #15
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    Yes and no. A rider that can ride the actual mechanics of a 2' jump, on a packer, can ride a bigger fence the same way. A course and setting up to jump is totally different.

    Many years ago, my nephew spent a few days a week during the summer with me. He had taken about 10 lessons at a riding school. That summer, I taught him on my packer, and he was doing a bit of 2' jumping by the end of the summer. One day, we played higher and higher, but it was in a grid, that my horse had done many times before. He jumped that day a bit over 5', and did great. Could he jump a single 3'6" fence, nope. I wouldn't have even tried.



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by ladyfreckles View Post
    and sometimes if I'm doing something that doesn't require absolute precision I get lazy and sloppy.
    This is called "human nature" which is why, even with the best training on the planet, MOST students are going to advance further/learn better if they progress past their skill/comfort zone so they see the value of those past lessons. There's probably a reason why most of us learned to jump 3'6 by doing it badly in the beginning, and it wasn't because we didn't have the basics drilled into us.

    (for any internet fruitbats, this isn't the same as saying don't bother with the basics, but rather you can't keep perfecting elementary school work over and over, sooner or later you need to go fail at some middle school work in order to continually challenge yourself and become better at whatever you are doing)
    Definition of "Horse": a 4 legged mammal looking for an inconvenient place and expensive way to die. Any day they choose not to execute the Master Plan is just more time to perfect it. Be Very Afraid.


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  17. #17
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    With all things horsey, it depends.
    I would consider a nice eq round more experienced than a standard outside, inside outside ride at the same height. The height of the fences under 4' isn't really the determining factor, it's the negotiations in between that separate the men from the boys.
    Over 4' the jump itself changes. The launch and land feels different, the airtime feels like forever. Plus the courses are complex. A rider who can do a tricky 4' round with grace and ease deserves a tip of the hat.
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    I agree that jump height isn't everything and has a great deal to do with one's horse.

    But the margin for error is so much smaller with a large jump, that you can't simply say that if you can jump 2' well you can jump 3'6". The stakes are so different - if I miss at 2'6", my horse chips, launches, or even swims over the fence. Chances are I make it to the other side in one piece. As the fences get higher that just simply isn't true any more. The same distance at 2'6" that my horse will shark his head at me in disgust after he saves my butt --> at 3'6" that distace becomes dangerous and the chances increase that one of us isn't walking away unharmed.



  19. #19
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    do you believe a rider's ability can be judged by how high they jump?

    No. Not all horses can jump 3'6". Not all horses "should" be jumping 3'6" and not all riders "should" be jumping 3'6" either.

    RIDER # 1 - Bad gappy distance just about every jump, pulling on the mouth because their balance is bad, but since they just jumped 3'6" do they have more ability than RIDER # 2?

    RIDER # 2 - a 2'6" rider, gets every distance, has a good eye, balanced and soft over the jump, quiet hand and leg. Horse is happy has a better ability to ride than rider # 1.
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