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Needs more snap in the knees!

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  • Needs more snap in the knees!

    I posted on the H/J forum to no avail, so bear with the cross-posting!

    I need some advice on exercises that get my horse to snap his knees up. He used to have lovely form, very square, very even and he uses his neck and looks through his knees. Nowadays, he's slower to get them up and out of the way. He still leaves the rails up and is not in danger of flipping by catching a knee, just lazy about it. The laziness is probably that we've been at the BN level for 6 years (only 2 rec) and has figured out he can "vomit" (fav quote of former trainer) over fences without effort and still leave them up. His other fault, which contributes, is that he loves to be on his forehand! We do lots of canter work and transitions, but it is a tendency. He is very much not a fan of jumping "in a frame!" I don't want to jump "huge" fences every week for his joints sake, but I do know he can clear at least 3' easily.

    I have a book of jumping exercises that I will consult as well, just wanted to know from people with experience what has worked for some in the past.

    When I get on home computer I can post some older pictures with some newer to show what I mean!

  • #2
    you don't need to jump in a frame to have great knee snapage! Just watch the hunters. They ride quiet and allow the horse to use itself to it's best potential by not interfering! They have the most lovely bascule of all!

    gymnastics with larger fences. 3' is not big for a horse.
    You are right, I bet he's bored out of his mind.

    I always loved setting several bounces in a row and cantering strongly to the first one and burying my horse at the take off.
    Snap your knees up or else horsie...

    There was a BNR over in Europe that does this on one of his symposium videos...but I forget who it was...
    oh! Ian Spark.
    Last edited by purplnurpl; Oct. 7, 2010, 04:47 PM.
    Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


    • Original Poster

      Bounces were going to be my first line of defense!

      3' just seems huge when you've got local open shows where 2'6" is the "high class"! I remember setting some up at 2'6" and 2'9" at one barn that specializes in beginners, the BO came out like "WHO is jumping THOSE jumps?!?" She found out in was only me (with a person on the ground) and just turned and left.


      • #4
        I know that this is so old school but does anyone still knock their knees? (I think that's what it was called.) Longer than I care to let on, I remember an old trainer using a piece of bamboo on a horse who started hanging a knee. Like your horse, I seem to remember that he once loved it and then got bored. So this old guy took a piece of bamboo, stood on the other side of the fence and when the horse hung his knee, the guy would rap it with the bamboo to make the horse think he had hit the jump so the next time he'd tighten up.
        It worked with him but I don't think I would try it myself. I'd be too afraid of catching the horse at the wrong time and causing him to flip.
        I haven't seen anyone else do this or even heard of anyone else knocking their knees so maybe it was just a trick this old guy had....


        • #5
          Low wide oxers (e.g. 2' tall and 4' wide)

          chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


          • #6
            I like using very high sided cross-rails to get them snapping their knees better! Swedish oxers are also good for this.
            "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"


            • #7
              Of course, make sure there's nothing physically wrong with him first.

              Once that's out of the way, I like bounces and deep distances to help tighten up a front end. Onelove refers to what's commonly called "poleing" as a technique - and while some folks may think it can help with a horse who wants to be a little lazy in front (YMMV), I would not ever suggest it over a small fence or without experienced help as the downsides can be fairly dramatic, including teaching a horse to stop or causing a fall.

              Honestly, from your description what strikes me is that he may just not be that worried about these jumps any more. Many horses may just not see the point of really snapping in front to a 2'6" fence - and the ones who are really good at it may either be (a) substantially limited in scope, or (b) worth quite good money as low level hunters. It's just not that much effort for a horse to cleanly/carefully get over a little fence - and unless it's particularly spooky, many of them won't be that impressed to do much in front. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - unless he's hanging his front end in a way that's dangerous (and which, given the change, would make me think something's physically sore), I'd probably leave him pretty much alone at this level. Better to keep him jumping around happily, work on keeping his balance together, and don't worry if the jump itself is a little less hunter-pretty than to screw something up.
              Last edited by GotSpots; Oct. 7, 2010, 03:17 PM.


              • #8
                What is he and how old is he?

                I agree with purp...gymnastics and bounces (or gymnastics WITH bounces) will help. So will "killer Vs" (placing two rails on the front of a jump to create a V, with the point at the top). BUT, highly likely that he is bored out of his skull and knows he can just galumph over the little fences....especially if he is at all athletic and/or brave. Bigger will probably help. If bigger is unnerving, try making the fences a little more spooky or solid. Coolers, tarps, flowers, fillers, that type of thing. If it makes him go a little more he will probably pull his little knees up a bit more. I know quite a few older, packer types that just don't put much effort into things, especially at home, but snap their knees up away from home when the fences are new and spooky looking.

                If he is up there in years, he may be feel some miles. Wouldn't hurt to have a little bit of a lameness eval. Not that he's LAME but he may just feel a little stiff and not have the oomph he once did.

                Do NOT pole your horse...very cruel, especially on an honest horse.


                • Original Poster

                  I think the "polling" would not be great to try out as my guy has some previous confidence issues that we've worked with. Start small and simple and build from there, do NOT start over anything with a flower box!

                  Exhibit A: Flowers

                  Exhibit B: Boring

                  Soundness is fine. I had the works done last year before a WS position, xrays, flexion and chiro. I've noticed this has not been a sudden change which would lead me to believe a pain somewhere.

                  I think I may just bump him up to Novice next year, I know he can do the heights and put in a good dressage test, it's the decorations/trappy jumps that get the eyes bulging. I'm thinking some low key h/j shows over the winter too, as long as the finances hold.

                  PS: Thanks Brant for awesome pictures, I just have to narrow it down from 8 pictures to 2!


                  • #10
                    I really wouldn't worry about that second picture. That is just a timing thing.....the horse is just cantering over the fence and that shot is a second early. It is really hard to get good timing of pictures over little fences.

                    If he is leaving the fences up...i wouldn't stress about it. He looks a bit heavy or loaded in his shoulders....so I would be more focused on getting a more up hill canter. But honestly...I wouldn't be stressing about trying to get him sharper jumping over this sized fence. He looks fine.
                    ** 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

                      This guy is only 11 and I've had him 6 years, don't think old age is getting him yet! Other commitments and $$ have kept me from going onto bigger and better events. Goober is a TB, unraced, but does have some hock fusion going on so I just keep him moving and long warm ups/cool downs (joint supps have done nothing, even Cosequin). Other than that he doesn't have stiffness/soundness issues (knock on wood).

                      Maybe I'm just picky now that I've got him to complete a xc AND stadium, I feel I need something to "work" on... The uphill canter is our ongoing battle, he would lovelovelove to canter with his head between his knees!

                      I guess we'll stick to our trot-canter, canter-trot transitions and start messing around with bounces and gymnastics again now that we'll be mostly inside for winter! He is very athletic, he's the only horse I know that can spook mid air over a fence at another fence! Also, during our one xc school I got him over some Novice fences and he seemed to perk right up. Ditto with a lesson when we headed over a coop after some pretty basic jumps, he really tucked and rounded up, impressed my trainer somewhat!


                      • #12
                        If you can do walk-canter--walk transitions those are even better. I used to also do walk-canter-walk-counter canter--walk. Doing a transition every 10-12 strides.

                        Also work on changing the canter within the gate. So on a circle...forward 10 strides, collect 10 strides....be accurate.

                        Lots and lots of exercises you can do to improve the canter beyond just basic transitions. Good luck with him!
                        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                        • #13
                          You've gotten great suggestions. Steep x-rails and low WIDE oxers were my jumper trainer's favorites. We also didn't jump the young ones at 2'6" for more than a few months- because it bored the snot out of the athletic ones and created bad habits. Once they got the basics, they jumped much less often (maybe once every two weeks), but over more substantial fences.


                          • #14
                            While burying a certain type of horse may make them pull up their socks and try harder, so to speak, I know this does NOT work on a horse that can have confidence issues.

                            I have a younger horse who used to jump the standards and his legs would be up and out of the way like crazy. But partly due to this overjumping and catapulting, we have stayed at Novice for awhile now working on consistency and rideablity. This is a horse that has never met a fence, nor wall, nor stall door he found too high. He is now over the whole "omg jump, fling!" thing and more "meh" about the smaller fences. But, as he doesnt have a ton of miles, he doesnt do well with being put in tighter spots to make him work harder. Burying him scares him and thats when he can drop his knees even more because he starts to jump really sticky waiting to see if I mess him up again.

                            Make sure you arent getting ahead or folding too fast in the air now that you trust him more, this can squish knees. Make sure he is coming off the ground quick and sharp. Other than that, bounces, high Xs, a grid with one high fence at the end (takes some of the far out of the huge fence for you, if its in a grid you dont have to worry about the distance so much, just yourself). I like a low x to a low vertical to a big vertical set on ones, maybe a 2 to the last. Maybe spice things up with some angles to make him think. A lot of athletic horses have sloppy legs at smaller heights, because they can. Snappy knees doesnt equal scope, and many horses who scope out at 3' or so have lovely form over tiny fences because they *have* to try every time.


                            • #15
                              If you are not doing hunters, why do you need him to "snap his knees"?

                              I would focus your effort on getting him off the forehand.

                              chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).