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How important is it that a horse respect smaller fences?

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  • How important is it that a horse respect smaller fences?

    I have a horse that just can't get excited about anything under 2' 6"ish. He will rarely give an effort and I have to use my stick to keep him awake. This includes gymnastics and other more "interesting" questions. What does this say about the horse? Does it matter? I hate even having to warm up over small stuff because he feels terrible. Over bigger fences he perks up and I have way more horse to ride and he uses himself much better. Should I care about his lack of interest/form over the little stuff?
    "look deep into his pedigree. Look for the name of a one-of-a-kind horse who lends to his kin a fierce tenacity, a will of iron, a look of eagles. Look & know that Slew is still very much with us."

  • #2
    i've always heard that no matter the size of the jumps you can do, you should still practice the smaller stuff. i might be wrong but i do believe he should respect them. Need i add he doesn't have to go full force for smaller jumps,?

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    • #3
      I think it is only an issue if they aren't respecting the fences they are competing over. A good, bold, athletic horse often times will act silly or trip over tiny fences (some don't...one of our client's just got a prelim/intermediate horse to do BN/N on, and he has scaled right down to size for her). When we've had horses that are silly over tiny fences, we usually don't waste a whole lot of time with tiny fences...they might jump back and forth over a cross rail, then move on to a vertical that they'll listen to (2'6", 3', whatever), and then move on to the rest of their jump school. No where is it written that you MUST start with tiny fences every time you warm up. Obviously, you don't want to canter down cold to a 4' square oxer, but if your horse respects a 2'6" fence, start there. That isn't that big, and better to have a good ride instead of having a horrible ride over tiny fences...
      Amanda

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      • #4
        Fence Size

        I have had a couple of very well respected and knowledgeable "old Horsemen" tell me that jumping a good horse over too many small fences will teach the horse to jump badly....these discussions came about as we were working with my big dorky 3yr old TB. But I also have listened to them tell stories about in the "day" no one ever showed over less than 3 feet unlike today when the majority seen to show over much lower fences for ever and ever. I admit to be confused as to what is the best track to take, especially with a young, big greenie.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by whoacorwin View Post
          I admit to be confused as to what is the best track to take, especially with a young, big greenie.

          You keep the the jump at a level that is comfortable for them to trot. A single 2'6 fence is a small fence. It might be a good size for little ponies, very very green horses or green riders....but for a decent jumper, I sure would not be surprised if they do not give a lot of effort to jump a fence that size (it doesn't take much effort) and I wouldn't worry about it at all.

          My more experienced horses do not jump many fences that small. My big green youngster also doesn't even jump a lot of fences that small....unless they are in a complicated combination/gymnastic.

          The GP horses that I knew never even took a warm up fence up over anything smaller than 3'. So it is a bit relative. It is not uncommon at all for some horses to jump better or be easier to ride over larger fences.
          ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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          • #6
            Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
            You keep the the jump at a level that is comfortable for them to trot. A single 2'6 fence is a small fence. It might be a good size for little ponies, very very green horses or green riders....but for a decent jumper, I sure would not be surprised if they do not give a lot of effort to jump a fence that size (it doesn't take much effort) and I wouldn't worry about it at all.

            My more experienced horses do not jump many fences that small. My big green youngster also doesn't even jump a lot of fences that small....unless they are in a complicated combination/gymnastic.

            The GP horses that I knew never even took a warm up fence up over anything smaller than 3'. So it is a bit relative. It is not uncommon at all for some horses to jump better or be easier to ride over larger fences.
            This basically sums up what I was trying to put into words earlier, but couldn't say it clearly, so didn't.
            Amanda

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            • #7
              So jump what he feels good over and up to what you compete over plus a bit. I have had super jumpers that were useless over small jumps. I just didn't do them, worked out great. Ride the horse you are on.
              Shop online at
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              • #8
                I had a clinician this summer tell me I would do a lot better and my horse would be a lot happier if I quit annoying him with BN and just moved up. She had us jump an entire N course except the last 1/3 of it we did the training fences. It was awesome.

                But I still can't get past the fact that we come in last in every event we enter so moving up doesn't seem like the right thing (massive time faults trying to keep control and stop him when he charges towards the bigger fences.) It was WAY easier to ride the training fences than the BN ones as he was happy, listened, backed himself off more. But I feel like if the fundamentals were there we would be able to do BN well...

                I'm interested to hear what people say on this topic.

                BTW mine is a 20yo, not a young greenie.

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                • #9
                  Something to consider with a horse of that age - he may do better at a higher level. He may be rushing jumps because he thinks they are nothing. Look at why you are coming in last - is it time penalties? Is your dressage score alright, but you are so busy circling in BN you loose places? How is your stadium? Do you feel out of control there?

                  You may want to try a Novice show and see how that changes his attitude.

                  With a young horse, yes, fundamentals are important. With a 20 year old horse - he may have been there done that and just finds the little stuff not to be worth his time. This happens with older horses. My trainer's instructor is like this a little. She is not the easiest Novice ride because she was an Advanced horse before her injury and finds novice to be like galloping ground poles - so why not go full speed at the 'speed bump'?

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                  • #10
                    I have been pondering this as I contemplate putting my prelim horse back to work after an injury rehab. He was very lackadaisacal over small fences -- this got worse as we moved up. Before we did our first prelim, we had a last jump school that basically started out trotting 3', progressed to trotting 4'+ singles, and then on to course work.
                    Anything else was a waste of time at that point.

                    But he can't start out that way now, having not jumped in months.
                    He'll just have to suck it up


                    I would not worry too much about this IF the horse is sharper over fences the size he is competing at.
                    The big man -- my lost prince

                    The little brother, now my main man

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                    • #11
                      It depends on what you mean by respect and what your skills are. If you are a beginning rider then you need lots of small gymnastics and crossrails and a horse that will actually jump them because the smaller bascule will help you learn.

                      If by not respect you mean he hangs his legs and is dangerous then you could get hurt.
                      http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by asterix View Post
                        I have been pondering this as I contemplate putting my prelim horse back to work after an injury rehab. He was very lackadaisacal over small fences -- this got worse as we moved up. Before we did our first prelim, we had a last jump school that basically started out trotting 3', progressed to trotting 4'+ singles, and then on to course work.
                        Anything else was a waste of time at that point.

                        But he can't start out that way now, having not jumped in months.
                        He'll just have to suck it up


                        I would not worry too much about this IF the horse is sharper over fences the size he is competing at.
                        a year or so before I had to retire Buddy, he was getting rehabbed from a minor tendon injury, and the young horse I had entered in an Ian Stark clinic turned up lame the first day. I had Buddy along for the clinic simply to keep him in work in between sessions; decided to try the fences in the BN/Novice division where I had Maddux entered. Talked with Ian that the horse hadn't jumped in 3 months - was schooling prelim fences prior to that, and tended to rush smallish fences - was frankly much happier with stuff 3' up so....

                        Ian kept the fences low as they should have been for that division, but kept Buddy's brain and legs busy by putting rails between bounces from the get-go with him and sometimes adding fences - we also let him stop much earlier in the sessions. Ian even did this out on XC (DH was along for the roller coaster ride in Ian's gator, so he got to be the hauler/maker of the extra xc efforts) just to keep Buddy working and respecting the questions even though they were little fences.

                        Lellie Ward also uses very small fences to school, but puts in lots of turns - sure they hit the fences the first times around, but by the 3rd or 4th go round, even the prelim horses in our groups would be paying close attention to those 2' questions...

                        it can be done
                        ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

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                        • #13
                          Thanks, RFI, that's a great idea. We will certainly do this sort of thing and keep it interesting while it needs to be small; horse is a great jumper and knows his job so we just need to keep him occupied while we "up" the strength and endurance he can put in.

                          XC is really a crapshoot -- he has often started out at his first school of the season as a complete beast (he's normally EXTREMELY polite but he is a Very Big Guy and when he puffs up and tries to run off, it's fairly impressive) out of sheer excitement. So I will probably wait until he is comfortable jumping training height before going out to school -- even though we will start smaller that will give me the option of mixing it up if he's rude.
                          The big man -- my lost prince

                          The little brother, now my main man

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                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by enjoytheride View Post
                            It depends on what you mean by respect and what your skills are. If you are a beginning rider then you need lots of small gymnastics and crossrails and a horse that will actually jump them because the smaller bascule will help you learn.

                            If by not respect you mean he hangs his legs and is dangerous then you could get hurt.
                            Thanks for all your thoughts everyone.

                            I am not green (20 yrs of horseing around) but he is (ottb...4 yrs off track with about a year and a half of training on him now). He had other "issues" that made it necessary to bring him along slowly. We have only started to bump the fences up to 3'+ and I am very happy with how he is jumping those. He is not a super scopey horse but I have been pleasantly surprised with how much better he is over some bigger stuff. He is not a horse that I can drill the hell out of and I am trying to not pound on his legs as I want to see how far he can go but am in no hurry. I love him, he's a keeper. He has become super brave and adjustable and loves to jump just as long as they are not tiny fences. I guess what it is really coming down to is a difference of opinion between my coach and I. She always insists on starting with little tiny sub 2' fences and working up. I feel that every horse only has so many jumps in them so why waste time with little fences where he isn't interested, trying, learning anything or using himself well. She seems to thing we need to "make" him jump better over little fences before moving on. I fail to see the point and doubt that it will happen.
                            "look deep into his pedigree. Look for the name of a one-of-a-kind horse who lends to his kin a fierce tenacity, a will of iron, a look of eagles. Look & know that Slew is still very much with us."

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