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Does it EVER get better?

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  • Does it EVER get better?

    I've been battling my "jumping ahead" tendencies since learning to jump as a Hunter rider 12 years ago. I don't THROW myself anymore; now I'm much more subtle. But I STILL think I know when my horse is going to jump, and I "help" him. Again, less now, but enough, apparently so that I caused him to catch a foot in an oxer in warm up last November, which sent us both tumbling (my coach said I jumped ahead; I did NOT feel it--I felt perfectly in balance...sigh). After a month off, and another month of getting back in shape, we're planning to start the season off at N (we were doing T), and STAYING there until I get better.

    Like I said, I didn't feel it when I did it. But I have felt what it feels like to use the horse's thrust to "fold".

    I had some success doing a grid with no reins.

    I had some success looking at someone off to the side instead of the fence when I jumped.

    All of these were in a clinic setting. I don't have anyone to work with at home.

    I was doing trot sets yesterday, and thought "I'll pop over a small fence at the end, and stay back".

    I didn't. I *felt* myself lean forward. Not out-of-balance lean forward, but more than the horse thrusting me.

    It seems like whenever I feel the horse influencing my movement, like in the clinics, I'm good--but then I go right back to muscle memory/jumping ever so slightly ahead when I get home.

    Is this something that I'll just "get" someday? Or is it (as I fear) something I have to battle the rest of my life? HOW can I get better without someone yelling at me/helping me regularly? How can I (more) consistently trump my muscle memory?? I'm REALLY afraid of hurting my horse again.....I almost decided not to do this anymore, but I love it soooo much....

    Here's a video of my stadium (I do this much more in SJ) from last year's Coconino. I can't stand watching myself, but maybe it'll help.


    (we actually won Senior Training that weekend)

    Here's the second week--I'm probably doing it more here, because I was MISERABLE with allergies at the end of the week. I had kleenex stuffed up my nose, in my pockets (you can see it flying out during SJ!)...and I'm sure I do this worse when I am tired/sick.


    ANY and all advice is welcome. I'm feeling pretty dismal about things right now.
    --Becky in TX
    Clinic Blogs and Rolex Blogs
    She who throws dirt is losing ground.

  • #2
    It gets better. I was "ruined" by three years of riding hunters in college. When I started in eventing I had to "unlearn." Honestly, what did the most for me -- I flipped over my horse's head a couple times. Dang sure I sit back and wait now!

    But have hope, it does get better. Eyes on the ground really really help, though. It doesn't have to be a trainer, maybe a friend who knows what they are looking at? Video is great too.
    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

    Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
    We Are Flying Solo


    • #3
      I don't see jumping ahead at all. You do look like you use the reins for balance sometimes, and high hands. Like me!

      Would vigilant practice with a neck strap help?
      Click here before you buy.


      • #4
        What helps me the most is a ground pole 9' in front of the jump and one 9' after.

        The ground poles help the horse find the right distance and because you can't "help" your horse, it forces you to be "chill" over fences.

        Because you're not trying to figure out the take off spot, you can relax and concentrate on your form over fences.

        It has worked wonders for me and also given me more confidence over fences.


        • #5
          I will tell you where you can find my former event mare- if you lean at all she will stop. I hit the dirt a lot but I learned not to lean
          on a serious note- why can't you just set up those grids at home that worked for you in the clinic? You may not have someone yelling at you but it was the exercise that helped from the sounds of it and not the person correcting you (maybe add doing a small grid with your eyes closed- cannot anticipate if you are not looking). That would seem one of the easier ways to work on creating new muscle memory (which is a b*&^h to unlearn)
          disclaimer- did not watch the video so no idea if you actually lean or not- I am just taking your word for it
          There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)


          • #6
            I don't think you really jump ahead, I would say that it is more you lose your position, which can result in tipping forward. I would work on your leg position, I noticed you stirrups were jammed all the way back to the heal of your boot. Try and keep it on the ball of your feet, with your leg underneath your hip ( I also noticed that it is a little jammed forward). A strong leg position is the base, and without it balance can be difficult. I think working on improving your leg position will help you stay with your horse instead of occasionally being in front or behind him. I think it will also help quiet your position down as a whole, and help you keep your upper body steadier, and thus less distracting to the horse. Which hopefully translates to more clear rounds

            Just a little advice from a show jumpers prospective


            • #7
              First off, this is fixable. I am no trainer but can speak to you from similar experiences. It seems like you are riding in a very deep "chair" style seat, this could make you feel a bit behind the motion. It might be why you feel like you are jumping ahead over fences. Is your saddle an all-purpose? I seriously cannot ride correctly in them due to my conformation and I would be having the same problem you are. This is just an idea, possibly try to borrow another saddle from a friend to see if a regular jump saddle will help. If you are comfortable with what you have there are some really basic things you can work on. Your leg is a bit floppy and it would be easier to keep still if it were more under your body. You also seem to balance on your hands, which says "forward" horse... possibly your "loud" leg is causing the horse to rush, which is causing you to brace? I did not see any jumping ahead, but a rider that needs to work on proper balance. The mixed messages that your body is creating may be creating many of the problems with your horse jumping. However, I see a patient horse and a rider that cares about him/her and does have many good basics. I would suggest trying a new trainer or two, the issues that you have are fixable and you could be seeing progress very quickly with the right help!!! Good luck!


              • #8
                I too am not really seeing a chronic jumping ahead problem. For a former hunter rider you've done an amazing job getting rid of any hunter perch that lays the upper body over the crest! I would have never guessed a hunter past from looking at your video.

                I agree with DW on the high hands and using the reins for balance some which would be best addressed by strengthening your lower leg a la Slam Dunk's post.

                But over all, much more to like than dislike!


                • #9
                  I don't see a jumping ahead problem as much as a standing in the stirrup problem.

                  I actually think you ride quite nicely myself. I would like to see you have a tighter leg position, and it seems you use your hands a bit more then I would like. But overall, I think a majority would like to be as nice as you are in the saddle.

                  IF you really feel like you need to follow better, get rid of the stirrups. I really think that would help, then just set up some small grids, and go through with no stirrups if you are strong enough.

                  It is very hard to break any habit, especially long standing one's. Hope this helps. Nice horse, nice rider.
                  May the sun shine on you daily, and your worries be gone with the wind.


                  • #10
                    Taking a different direction sometimes really helps me progress -- and to take a break from focusing on the "problems."

                    When you mix it up a bit - sometimes you get break throughs. One of my favorite ways of getting out of a rut - its to change horses for a ride or two (unless you already are jumping with a few different horses). Thankfully, I have a barn where several school horses are available. No everyone has this option.

                    When the horse I ride changes -- sometimes its the perfect way to just get back to focusing on basics. You will start to concentrate on the HORSE and how you need to adjust, instead of whatever needs fixing in YOU.

                    Ruts are the worst, but you are progressing and will get there!


                    • #11
                      I just actually watched the video and I don't see you jumping ahead that much. I agree with other posters - I see you needing to lower your hands (I have the same habit from a horse who would tend to lean and pull) and quiet both them and your leg a bit and some standing in the stirrups, but it was not a terrible round at all! Cut yourself some slack!
                      Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                      Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                      We Are Flying Solo


                      • #12
                        Yeah...a less than genuine, saint of a horse will teach you...the hard way, but you'll learn! I had that horse. He helped me a lot (eventually) but I was picking myself up out of the dirt a lot, shed some tears of frustration, and really was miserable for awhile.

                        Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. Get really focused on your rhythm. Count it (1,2,3,4,1,3,4), and REALLY figure out how to MAINTAIN it. I see what you are feeling (it IS subtle, but I see it), and it seems like when you lose the rhythm, he want to "help" him with your shoulders. So, learn to feel when your rhythm changes then FIX it! It helps. I know that feeling (I get it too). The rhythm just kind of dies and what was there suddenly isn't. You can work on the RHYTHM part of it with poles on the ground and small jumps...canter around in a rhythm and just keep it the same...don't do anything other than maintain the rhythm.As you get a little better, you can try a bigger rhythm, or a quieter rhythm, and play like that...but KEEP THE RHYTHM you set. The one GOOD thing from the hunter world to remember- relentless pursuit of RHYTHM!!!

                        Also, where do you look when you approach a fence? I think we're all taught initially to look past the fence so we don't look down. It seems like those of us who get a bunch of bad hunter training never learn anything else. If you're looking way up, look at your jump...look at the top rail. This makes a HUGE difference, because you actually SEE where you are coming to! I was reminded of this quite soundly today. I got over ambitious on another issue, and looked PAST my jump before we were set...and I TOTALLY blew the distance we were coming to. Lots of big pats for my tolerant horse. I brought my eye back to the top rail, and, lo and behold, never missed.

                        So, RHYTHM, and look at the top rail. And patience!


                        • #13
                          I am a hunter and started eventing this year...I have had serious issues jumping ahead because I still do hunters. However my "Event" horse is a hunter, so he doesn't mind when i throw my body around.

                          I do think your leg looks pretty loose and strengthening that will really help your balance. I don't think you are jumping ahead. I think working on your leg, core, and hand will greatly help your balance and therefore help your position over fences.

                          You don't ride like a hunter, so if you are very against the very thought, good job haha!


                          • #14
                            I also don't see the jumping ahead problem but like yellowbritches said I think fixing your canter will allow you to relax. Your trying to override the rhythm instead of just relaxing into it. It's either a rushed flat canter or a bit dead and you end up dying at the base.

                            I would actually recommend more of a 3pt position since your horse seems very honest (LOVE him!) and it will allow you to sink down and keep your leg under you while keeping you from getting behind the motion. I like to think "land over my feet" to remind myself to keep my leg under me.

                            Your perhaps using your reins for balance because you are so focused on keeping him up in the canter meaning keeping his balance up? On the flat I would go back to just adjusting the canter by raising your shoulder so you don't have to use your hands. If your like me and you have super short arms you can't always have perfectly bent elbows so you have to compromise a bit. When your reins get long and your hands get high you tend to get behind the motion..yep ask me how I know that Being a bit more in a 3pt position allows you to keep your reins shorter and elbows in front of the body.

                            Really focus on keeping the canter uphill and bouncy instead of fast and flat or dead. In some of your turns it looks like you cut the corner and didn't quite establish the canter coming out of the turn so you ended up at the fence with a dead canter causing you to have a yucky jump.

                            Sometimes the more I get on myself about my position the worse it gets. When I just think about my canter then boom my position falls into place.


                            • #15
                              Congrats on all of your achievements! You and your pony look great!! have you tried the look at the instructor trick? Great exercise for me when I was "getting in my own way". On the way to the jump, instead of looking at the jump, about 4-5 strides out look at you instructor, placed conveniently to the side of the jump. Viola...........your instincts are way better than you think, horse leaves from good spot every time and rider stays with horse

                              Just a thought..........you look way better than you think you do!


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                                I don't see jumping ahead at all. You do look like you use the reins for balance sometimes, and high hands. Like me!
                                I must agree. I think you actually got left behind more than you jumped ahead. And the jumping ahead was a result of the lack of impulsion, and overall lack of rhythm, in the canter. Worry less about the distance and more about the canter. Always remember to push through those corners, it helps correct the canter and makes it easier to adjust the canter you have to the next fence.


                                • #17
                                  I also don't see you jumping ahead. You do balance off your reins, probably because your horse gets a bit strong. It looks like you are trying to slow him down by pulling back and that means that sometimes you get a bit close to the fence because you are losing impulsion. I think that means you feel a bit awkward over those fences.

                                  I have a horse that can get quick and one of the hardest things for me to learn (still learning) has been to stay off his mouth and use my upper body and my legs to keep him quiet.

                                  I always jump with a neck strap and when I'm schooling my trainer will have me scratch his neck as we come into a fence. What has helped me is trotting a lot of fences, riding him on as loose a rein as possible and if I need to balance myself, pulling on the neck strap.

                                  Your lower leg does a bit loose but I think that if you find a way to ride into the fence more softly and balancing yourself, that will happen less.

                                  I also had the chance to ride a horse that would stop if you so much as thought about getting ahead. I didn't have to hit the dirt all that many times before I learned to not get ahead.
                                  Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                  EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                                  • #18
                                    here is what happens when you jump ahead.


                                    If that doesn't cure you - I don't know what will - by the way I landed underneath where he was going - thank goodness he jumped sideways - but his back left landed straight on my calf snapping my tibia in half.


                                    • #19
                                      I agree with those who say you aren't jumping ahead but instead balancing off your horses mouth. A bigger sin in my book but can be fixed. You need to lose how to release over the fence while holding your own position. A lunge line lesson over a small cross rail with no reins would be where I would start. You have the basics, you just need to add in the strength.
                                      McDowell Racing Stables

                                      Home Away From Home


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Wow. Thanks, everyone--I really needed this (and OUCH, Bravestrom!!).

                                        I actually watched my videos before I posted this, and was terribly depressed: I DO have floppy legs, my corners were two wheels, I overuse my upper body, I'm not "in harmony" with my horse, and I'm HUGE. How does that poor horse DO it?

                                        It's so hard for me to see past the "holy sh$$, who's the cow on that poor horse?!". I REALLY, really want to do this sport and do it well. I do yoga and pilates every night, but sit on my rear most of the day working when I'm not riding or hauling kids around.

                                        My horse is a saint--he's a slug at home (unless we're doing canter/gallop sets in the cotton fields), but he "keys up" at an event--so I have a TOTALLY different horse at an event than I do at home, one I only get to practice riding at the events, it seems.

                                        I love the advice about rhythm (JW is my hero), and I DO count, but I feel like I'm counting what is there, rather than MAKING the rhythm. I think I'm afraid I'll make him have the wrong rhythm, or I'm not sure I can make the up rhythm without all of the rein-pulling and leg wagging.

                                        I've never used a neck strap--my horse "taught" me to have contact, because I used to do the hands on the neck release with no contact, and he would STOP. When I contact, he would go. But I do think I overuse it now. So how do you use a neck strap? I know it's a stirrup leather around the neck...but that's the extent of my knowledge.

                                        I do two point canter/gallop stuff at least 2 times a week.....but I guess it's not doing much for my legs. How do I learn to have them under me and still? AND to keep my body still? It's funny; I practice thinking I'm doing these things, but then see a picture or video, and I'm not.

                                        Sorry to clog this up. I'm having one of those "I'm a crappy mom/prof/horse rider/researcher/" etc. times. I don't feel like I'm doing anything well, and I care about ALL of it, so it's very frustrating. But I'm also whining, and you all were great to indulge me. Thanks for all the great advice!
                                        --Becky in TX
                                        Clinic Blogs and Rolex Blogs
                                        She who throws dirt is losing ground.