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Any ideas for teaching a young horse to jump in good form?

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  • Any ideas for teaching a young horse to jump in good form?

    Ok, all you wise COTH-ers I have an issue I am hoping you can help me with.

    My mare is 4 this year. She is turning out to be quite a brave jumper. We have now attended two jumper schooling shows and she did quite well at both. At the last one, there was a professional photographer, so I got a chance to see my girl jumping for the first time (I am always the one jumping her). Turns out she can be pretty careless with her front legs. I wouldn't be so worried about it if she brought her knees up and hung her lower legs. BUT she often just folds her legs underneath her and hangs her knees.

    I have always been taught that this is a very dangerous habit as a horse can hang a leg and flip over more easily. SO....my question in how do I fix it?

    I have tried BIG cross rails, trotting verticles, and in-and-outs. None of these have worked so far.

    I have been told oxers help, but does anyone know of some gymnastics to use that might help?

    She is young, and I hope that this is something we can overcome since she is in all other regards a wonderful jumper.

    Please help! I am worried that this is unfixable!

  • #2
    Education

    Well you can find out if its fixable by trying to fix it. Jump lots of smaal fences and combinations focusing on the qualitiy of the approach and let her get comfortable with using her body over the fence. As you proceed you may be able to identify specific distances or situations where she is inclined to be careless and use gymnastics to deal with this. If you have a trainer/instructor ask them to help you with it- if not, any eye on the ground is better than none. Its quite normal for the brave baby to hurl itself over a fence in not very good form, but lots of work over small fences usually will help a whole lot. DO NOT MAKE THE FENCES BIG SO SHE'll HAVE TO JUMP BETTER. It's a blind alley.

    Comment


    • #3
      It can be dangerous for an event horse that hangs its legs to be going over solid jumps, however, your horse is FOUR and new to jumping. She is figuring out where her legs go, how long they are, and how to pick them up (her own technique)!
      I set gymnastic line fences at 18' apart. One thing I emphasize to people with young horses is not to get picky (meaning try not to rate them). Let the horse jump the jump and figure it out. If they knock rails, that fine, just let them learn from it. I find that they hang legs at first when they find short distances. When she starts seeing it and learning to rate herself, I am sure she will get it.

      Comment


      • #4
        Gymnastics of any kind will help a lot. Bounces are good with getting them quicker.

        But I am going to disagree a little with lesbrill54. If she is jumping tiny fences (you don't say how big she was jumping at the show), and she is brave and athletic, she just may be cantering over the fences and not putting any effort into it. You may not see much effort until the fences actually encourage her to pick her little knees up. Now, this doesn't mean go make everything 3'6" and see what happens, but it does mean that you can't fairly judge her form or her ability or technique if she's just not trying. Free jumping may give you a better insight into her form.

        Without actually A) seeing a picture of her over a fence and B) actually WATCHING her canter down and jump something, it is hard to know WHAT exactly the problem is (if anything other than she just finds no need in using herself). It may be her canter is weak and she needs to be ridden more forward with more energy. It may be that you are consistently getting to an awkward distance that doesn't help her form, which would go back to making a better canter. It can be all sorts of things. But gymnastics can help a host problems. Get Jimmy's book and start simple. Don't be afraid to challenge her but also be careful not to overface her. It can be a very fine line with babies, but if you pay attention, you'll be able to figure it out.
        Amanda

        Comment


        • #5
          It's almost always a balance issue when horses jump "over their front ends", with their shoulders down and legs dangling. So you have to work on improving the quality of the canter without jumps to help over jumps.

          As for jumping excercises that will help...I would do mostly gridwork with this horse, with the groud rails rolled out in front to the height of the jump to help give her time to rock back and use her shoulders properly. Vary the distances... bounces, one strides, two strides, ect, and make sure that you then leave the horse alone through the grid and let her learn from the gymnastic. When she's good with normal distances, I make them a bit shorter, still with the rolled out ground lines, to help her learn to set herself back on her hocks in the tighter spot.

          Only when that is going well would I go back to single fences and courses. And I would still roll the ground lines out. And placing poles approx 10 feet before and after single jumps will continue to educate her on how to rock back and use her body properly.

          She should then understand how to get herself around the jumps better. You as a rider still have to work on the quality and balance of her canter, and of course making sure that your position and balance are solid so that she can jump her best.

          Good luck!
          http://www.MyVirtualEventingCoach.com

          Comment


          • #6
            I had the same problem with my young horse, so last winter we did tons and tons of gymnastics work. What helped her the most was setting up lines of X oxers (two large X's with a width of about 2 feet between) one stride apart (18'). I then put placement rails in the middle (at 9') that were slightly raised so that she had to keep thinking about her feet even when not jumping.

            The difference in her form this season over last was incredible.

            Also, in my horse's case, she definitely jumps better over larger fences. She gets distracted and silly around little, odd-looking jumps; the bigger ones grab her attention and make her think.

            Comment


            • #7
              Cantering low wide oxers will help too.

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree with Lstevenson. Also, not all horses will jump with their knees to their eyeballs. There are quite a few GP jumpers that tuck their legs tight but do not crank their knees up to their eyes....doesn't mean they are not good jumpers. But you don't want the knees pointing down. If they are tight with their lower legs but pointing their knees are down...I'd look first at their balance...and also at the rider. If you jump ahead...even a hair...you can be causing her to jump over her shoulder more....thus making it more difficult to get her knees up. Get her canter and balance better....and make sure you are not making that problem worse by getting ahead.
                ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  You guys are great!

                  Thanks everyone!

                  Next to my trusty Jimmy Woffard bible, you are all my second go-to for great advice when I run into a problem I can't figure through myself.

                  To answer some questions, and reinforce some insights that you had:

                  We are not jumping over 2'3", I don't want to destroy her willingness to jump by overfacing her before she comfortable jumping well.

                  YES! We are having issues with the quality of her canter. I know that this is not helping us with our approaches, and now I see that it is affecting the quality of her jump as well. The problem is that she is lazy, and getting her in front of my leg has been a challenge. I am currently working like crazy to get her MOVING FORWARD at the canter, not faster, but with impulsion. Loads of walk-canter transitions to get her tushy underneath her.

                  Any more ideas for improving the canter?

                  PS I don't think I am guilty of jumping ahead with any regularity (I mean no one is perfect ALL the time, right? ) although I won't discount that idea either. I will be certain to sit up and wait, and to not rate her.

                  Thanks so much!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    go back to just trotting fences until your canter on the flat is better. You want to be careful in your effort to get her in front of your leg...you are not running her onto her forehand.

                    And the getting ahead is tough without someone (like Jimmy) watching. I mean a HAIR ahead can affect a horse's balance....especially a green horse.


                    ETA: She's also 4....give it time. The canter will often improve and then get crappy and then improve....as they are growing. Some times the best thing you can do is just wait for her to grow up a bit more. Hack out a lot....walking out on hills. Don't drill too much. If by this time next year....it is still not a great canter...then I would really start working on it. Canter transitions...especially walk/canter. I did a lot of canter/counter canter....with walk transitions between the two on one horse who got very heavy on his forhand. But those are not things I would be doing with a 4 year old.
                    Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Oct. 9, 2009, 01:52 PM.
                    ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      To improve the quality of canter on the flat - do spiral circles, easy on them at first, the horse can get sore if too much too fast, build the muscle, the carrying power slowly. Also trot and canter up and down hills. Up the hill will help forwardness! Same as riding out will help too. Gallop out in a field on a big circle then collect using a smaller circle. Sit up and back to collect to teach the horse to rock it's balance back and respond to your seat, no pulling with your hands. Good luck, let us know what ends up working for you.
                      Don't let anyone tell you that your ideas or dreams are foolish. There is a millionaire walking around who invented the pool noodle.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        let go of her mouth.
                        Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                        Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          All the above, also, have you let her experience jumping without a rider? It's not too hard to set up a "jump chute" in a regular arena, with a helper or two is best - just gradually build an easy gymnastic i.e. X-rail one stride vertical, two stride Oxer, and send her through. If you take your time, read her well she should enjoy it and it will give her a chance to experiment jumping without worrying about a rider.

                          Also it's fun

                          Note my Prelim mare was never really high with her knees, but she was so careful and had such an athletic bascule, I still think of her as the safest jumper I've ridden yet.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            i second the low wide oxers. we have a 4 year old at the barn that is very brave and usually jumps clean, but she does not have classical style by any means. we started doing the low wide oxers (per the Jimmy Wofford bible) and it does wonders for her form. Its about the only thing that really makes her actually try.

                            that said, you don't want to do this too much with the youngsters. i've heard it can be kind hard on their joints.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Another exercise that I havent seen mentioned yet is a vertical with a 'V' of rails set on the takeoff side..... wide at the ground, ascending to a point at the center of the jump rail.... can be helpful for getting them to think about their front end in front of the jump. And it can help make them pay attention to a smaller jump so you can ride them forward to it without having to rate them....

                              Jennifer
                              Third Charm Event Team

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                All of the above, especially hill work to improve the canter--once she's stronger behind it'll be easier for her to push.
                                Also, for improving her front end, I add v-poles on verticals or oxers in a gymnastic line. Don't put the points too close together, you're not trying to create an arrowhead (she's too young for that), but if the poles are resting on the rail about 2 1/2 feet apart and the ends on the ground are about as far apart as the standards, this will encourage her to bring her knees up more. Blyth Tait's Cross Country Clinic book illustrates this really well.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Pippa Funnel has a great book called "Training the Young Horse". My daughter uses lots of her exercises to teach young ones how to jump.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Many good ideas here, a couple of things I will add. Is this horse "Chipping" at the fence? if so that could be a lot of the problem, likely caused by balance issues at the canter. I would work on trotting in and then cantering preset lines/gymnastics to help her to learn how to jump properly from a canter once she is IN the gymnastic. The good news is often a young horse does overcome this to SOME dgree, but rarely do they end up being knee yankers (although I do know of a few that when it clicked they were pretty awesome). THe bad news is that soem never overcome this, their conformation, for wahtever reason (often a straight/stepp shoulder) makes it impossible for them to get their knees up. Try and realistically assess her conformation to determine if you are asking things of her that she simply isn't capable of. Continuing to jump a horse that cannot properly use their knees is at best dangerous to you and her from a jumping standpoint, and horses that continue to jump like this often end up with soft tissue injuries and ringbone type changes from the vertical impact their legs and joints are taking from the imporper jump. In that case, a new career would be the best advice
                                    www.shawneeacres.net

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by shawneeAcres View Post
                                      The good news is often a young horse does overcome this to SOME dgree, but rarely do they end up being knee yankers (although I do know of a few that when it clicked they were pretty awesome). THe bad news is that soem never overcome this, their conformation, for wahtever reason (often a straight/stepp shoulder) makes it impossible for them to get their knees up.
                                      I disagree in part. I had one, green broke, that we brought home based on it's trot across the pasture. The canter was crap (literally like a bouncy ball) but it opened up for one stride that showed development was possible. The first time we freejumped him, we covered our eyes and seriously thought about giving up right then and there.

                                      He turned out to have one of the most spectacular front ends ever.

                                      There are some with true conformational limitations, but more often than not, I find that dangling front legs in a baby is totally normal and expected. In fact, I find that the more they use their backs, the less they use their front end. It takes a lot of time to build the coordination to crack their backs AND yank their knees up because doing so is two opposing motions.

                                      Additionally, a horse tight through his back or shoulder and who travels low in the forehand will dangle his legs. As will one who doesn't know how to rock back on the hindquarters. And most babies have ALL those qualities.

                                      OP - the answer is to not make judgments on your horse now. Trot jumps from lines of cavaletti, do TONS of gymnastics...and do very little course work until the style becomes confirmed through the former. Wide, low oxers, substantial groundlines on landing and takeoff, low triple bars, high crossrails, etc. Set everything a touch long for now, when she begins getting the front end up and only then should you shorten the lines up. Many are inclined to do the opposite but they never get the horse first producing and thinking open and up and this results in a shortened frame.

                                      Just take your time. The horse is 4. It has SO much to figure out. And some just aren't born with textbook form, it must be developed.
                                      It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        The chances are your horse isn't jumping properly because she is four. My mare is that age and she sometimes jumps head-first. I don't know, but young horses seem more assured if they stick their head over the jump first Gymnastics and time will fix this. Just jump little jumps and ignore the strange jumping habit. It will go in time. Your mare needs to be more confident in you and herself. Try getting her used to scary jumps (barrels, hay bales, tires, flowers, liver pools etc.) and she will probably feel more comfortable over the simple fences. Relax - it is all a part of having a young horse

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