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Technical teaching a young horse to jump question

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    Technical teaching a young horse to jump question

    A friend and I were having this discussion yesterday - bless her heart, she asks me questions even though I still can't ride my way out of a paper bag without a map, and someone holding my hand! I didn't have the answers for her, so I thought I'd throw it out to the much wiser and more experienced folks here.

    Here is her question:

    My horse is too obedient and adjustable. She will add up 5 strides or leave long based on just my body language. The problem is, I don't always get it right. And I'm worried I'm teaching her to rely on me. She's too obedient. So today I tried to just canter and not say anything and of course she missed a lot and made mistakes and I'm not sure she learned.

    Does staying the same mean keeping the quality canter and ignoring the distance? Does it mean stopping riding 3 strides out and letting her adjust? What does it mean? How do I teach her to have an eye? I can't have her relying on me. I WILL make mistakes.

    Do I create a canter, keep it the same, and stay still, but what if she lengthens 3 strides out -? Is that her adjusting or do I need to keep the canter and half halt that?

    That's where I'm feeling really confused.

    Can y'all help with some advice?

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    I've always felt responsible for the basic amount of forward for the jump in question, but from the last three strides out I just stay out of the horse's brain, and way using my body once airborne to plan the next course of action. If the horse lengthens three strides out, then they lengthen three strides out.

    BUT, long before I deal with single obstacles I have spent a good deal of time on gymnastics, with that horse, not to mention those innocent trees lying on the ground on hacks.

    The rider's job is to control their body language before they start jumping. Flat work, flat work, flat work.
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

    Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


      I agree, gymnastics are the place to teach this. I can't honestly say I've ever had this problem, but I've always brought my horses along by myself and they've learned quickly that they are better athletes than me.


        Free jumping. There is no rider to even get in the way or accidentally influence the horse. There is no question in the horse's mind that they have to figure it out on their own. I used to do it weekly when I was starting young horses. It's so cool to watch them figure it out!



          I think of it as find the canter, face the jump, apply leg, and as you approach the fence the horse will see the spot. Your job the last 3 strides is to ride in conformity with the horse’s decision. So if she lengthens, you help her, and if she shortens, you help her do that too. It should gel, you both should be seeing the same spots. When in doubt, add leg.

          If the horse isn’t making any decisions, stop jumping and start doing lots of ground pole work and gymnastics. You grab mane and let the horse work through it. This way, you can practice staying out of the way, and your horse can gain autonomy and confidence. It may take awhile for both horse and rider to learn/unlearn things.


            Has your friend tried closing her eyes the last few strides to see if the horse misses then?


              My lesson horse is super adjustable, and if riders overthink the ride, they can really get him in a bad spot. If they do nothing, he seems confused, and doesn't take over to get in better because he just isn't "on". What works with him is to get a good pace by sending him forward and then bringing him back a notch before making the approach, counting a rhythm, and looking at the land of the jump (not at the jump itself). The horse should lengthen or shorten within the same rhythm. If a rider has gotten too deep in their own heads, I find jumping on a circle/arc helps. Something about long/straight approaches gets in people's heads, particularly on a very adjustable horse.
              Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                Lots of solid advice so far. I suggest an exercise that might help. Get her to establish a rythmical, forward canter and COUNT (one o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock, four o'clock) as she goes along until it is good. And then to keep counting as she pops over a low fence. No interference with the horse, no attempt to correct mistakes, just rythmn and forward (which is why you use tiny jumps) no matter what the horse does. As they learn to jump in rhythmn and out of a stride, then add in another jump, then another, a few turns - all the time focused on rythmn. This will help the horse learn to find its feet and build confidence in its rider. This will help the rider learn to trust her horse and feel. Counting aloud helps distract her from worrying something will go wrong and - the best bit - the horse will come to find a correct take off spot without too much human interference.
                "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


                  The confusion probably comes from the fact that it all “depends”. It depends on if you are just at home schooling...or at a show or prepping for a show. It depends on how good of rider you are too and it really depends on the horse. But need to educate your horse on jumping from different distances and having responsibility for the jump too. I don’t think you can ever go wrong on getting a good canter. No, you don’t want them to lengthen their stride to a long distance...and ideally, you keep the canter consistent. But as a rider, you need to ask appropriate questions for the horse...jumps small enough that they can get out of trouble. I personally focus on quality of canter and straightness with younger horses....then making sure that *I* am not getting ahead or micromanaging the distance. Which is very hard when I can see a distance and see that it isn’t doesn’t need to be perfect as long as they have enough canter. But keeping a good canter, straight to the fence and teaching the horse how to jump out the variety of distances that come up and staying out of their way!
                  ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                    Original Poster

                    Thank you guys! I know that she has come and read responses and was able to have a bit of a breakthrough with her mare this past weekend.

                    As always, I appreciate the experience of the hive mind on COTH!
                    I have Higher Standards you? Find us on FB!
                    Higher Standards Custom Leather Care -- Handcrafted Saddle Soap