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Finding the balance between doing too much and not enough?

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  • Finding the balance between doing too much and not enough?

    My horse and I have essentially had 2 years off from jumping, but in the last few months, we've really accelerated in his dressage work, and started back over fences via low gymnastics. He's an eventer, my background is primarily dressage - point being, I can install a lot of buttons on a horse, but have a history of over-riding, to some detriment over fences. I'd really like to get back to a "less is more" place with this horse. When I started him over fences, I took a very minimalist approach - forward, rhythmical, and straight, keep him in front of my leg and otherwise just stay in balance. By the end of the 2nd year, we were eventing at training level, and at that time my instructor was starting to have me really get in his face to bring him in deep to the base of the fence. This was terrible for me, so I'm coming back into this with all these memories and anxiety over misjudging distances and *doing too much*. I'm trying to go back to riding him like when I started him - but he has memories too, of going forward and fast and jumping "big". So he's strong at the beginning of each ride.

    We're just doing probably 2' x-rails and verticals right now, with placing poles on either side. Also, gymnastics from Wofford's little book. I often biff the entry placing pole (misjuding distance and/or miscommunicating with horse) if I have more than 2 straight strides to get to it. It's getting better every time, but it's still frustrating. I don't usually have a problem if we're on curving lines or if the placing pole is right out of a corner.

    My gelding is really enthusiastic about jumping - especially jumping outside. He'd really like to lengthen his stride, lower his forehand and rush a bit at the jump. I'd prefer to set him up 3 strides out and not have to interfere with him after that - just stay in balance. It feels like I have to hold him with my hands up to the placing pole, then can give him some slack for that last stride and take-off. Is that ok?

    Any advice on managing this "place" in our lives would be appreciated! I know a lot of exercises I could be doing (e.g. halting after jump - not great for me, as I have a tendency to ride backwards, so something like jump to small canter circle is better), but I think this may be more of a psychological problem than a training problem. How much should I be doing to "manage" him up to the fence? Given that the last time we jumped regularly, I was overmanaging him? Since we do well on curving lines, how do I use that to my advantage without avoiding the problem we're having on straight lines?

  • #2
    Hehe, that sounds very much like my horse, C - also very enthused over fences . I find I have to juggle being patient for the base but not holding, allowing him to roll forward without getting flat and fast.

    I am a one horse ammy and what works for me is regular lessons – 2-3x per month, a bit more often at the start of the season to get us back into the groove. I can maintain the work but I can’t easily build on it on my own, and I certainly can get stuck in bad habits if it’s too long between lessons. I have friends who compete at a good height who have a few lessons at the start of the season then the odd one throughout – that’s not me!

    My trainer doesn’t really do grids, but we warm up over a placing pole to a jump, halting on the other side – starting in a slow trot then moving to a slow canter. My focus is on a smooth wide turn to the placing pole, landing straight, then I let the arena fence help us halt. The height goes up pretty quickly so that we’re finishing the warm-up jumping a substantial oxer – usually +10cm higher than what we’d be competing over (but fairly narrow). This seems to remind C and I that we don’t need speed to jump big and installs the feeling of patience without face grabbing. I do need to maintain a contact to the pole/base - but it's all about keeping my shoulders back and "riding his ears up" vs "holding"

    Like you, I find it easier to jump off tighter turns – long straight approaches are hard! I try to be very patient and not make any major corrections – think about rolling the bit in his mouth if I need to check him a little (rather than bracing with both hands).

    Two things that have been biggest help - counting down 5-4-3-2-1 over and over. It doesn’t matter if we get to the fence on 2 or 1 or 4, but counting down helps me maintain a rhythm and prevents me gunning for the fence like I did when counting up 1-2-3-4-5. It’s odd but it makes a huge difference.

    The other thing is to keep my eye on the base of the fence. This is directly contradicts a lot of other trainers/books/articles but it works for C and I (and interestingly the two trainers who recommended it to me are also the two that have competed at the highest levels). Now when I walk a course I find a spot to look at – a tuft of grass, the rail shadow etc. Then on approach if I get a bit “I should be doing something! Panic ride!” I just remind myself to count down and find my spot.

    And more unconventional stuff – I don’t do a lot of work over small fences on my own. We seem to go better with a short session of 8-10 jumping efforts over fences of a decent height than trying to get everything just right over fences that are well in the comfort zone. I seem to pick more at a smaller fence whereas something that's a bit more challenging I ride more positively to.

    Comment


    • #3
      If everything goes well on a curve and falls apart on a straight line, then the bend is likely creating the balanced, adjustable canter that is The Canter You Want To Jump From. Since you are fighting multiple battles here, keep doing what works (low jumps off a short turn) until you develop the muscle memory for fluidity and softness and your horse gets too confident and bored to rush.

      To tackle long straight approaches, you'll want to develop a better canter and give him the strength to set himself up properly to the fence (so that you don't have to do it for him). Good exercises for that include collecting and lengthening the canter, leg yields at the canter, and in general creating a bouncy, engaged, active canter where your horse is light in the contact and adjustable. Once you have this, start working over a line of poles set on the outside as far apart as your arena can manage (say, 7 strides) and decrease the length as you master this exercise: varying the strides in between the poles. Always add strides, never leave them out. For example, set a 7 stride line and ride it a few times in The Canter, then do it in 8 strides, then maybe 9. Add some inside bend in as you go down the line if you feel the canter falling apart. If you are doing it right, it should take a lot of leg and barely any hand. The next time, set a 6 stride line. When you are rocking a 5 in a 4 stride, add a third pole in equidistant so that you can do a 5 to a 4, then a 5 to a 5, then finally a 4 to a 5.

      Take your time and focus on training a lightness to the aids and building the strength he needs to carry himself correctly. Then sit back and enjoy not working quite so hard anymore

      Comment


      • #4
        Let me suggest some different, broad strategies.

        1. Worry less about picking a distance and just how far out you can see that. Rather, your job is to pick a Rhythm and a Track and be ready to leave the ground whenever the fence comes up. So your mantra is "Rhythm and Track," and that's it. I find it helpful to learn to pick the right canter and count strides all the way around, not the count down to the fence. If you teach yourself that your mental job is to be that metronome and feel the engagement of the hind end, plus look up and around so that you pick the right path to a fence, you'll find that the distance appears to you, you will know how that distance is going to be, (long, deep, whatever) you won't care so much.


        For your specific problem-- getting this forward horse willing to wait and jump from that deeper spot that your eventing pro wanted. Consider this proposition: If you want that spot, your job is to manufacture the canter that will yield it. And you can do that way back from the fence. Heck, it's not even about the fence! Again, the trick to riding to a deep spot is to see it way back and adjust your upper body then (and first), perhaps adding a waiting hand and your voice (second), and then doing as little as possible when you get to the fence. There, you are already "waiting" with your body and the fence "comes up to you." So this is the opposite of micro-managing to the base of the fence. It's also different from riding backward-- thinking most about your hand and leaving your leg an after thought.

        When I jump, I try to make my hand The Very Last Aid I pick up. That's a mantra for me. And I bring that to dressage, too. If I want a little more bounce in my canter, I see how much I can get done by bringing my shoulders and upper body back a bit, making a conscious effort to leave my elbows out there. If I don't get enough of a response in that first stride, then I add a half-halting hand to my shoulders and posture. It's awesome. Pretty soon, I don't need to add hand. The horse knew what was coming and rocked back on his own.

        2. Do use the tools of the best American hunter trainers-- lots of poles. The idea is that the horse needs to find his own way to the fence. What he needs, then, is the same practice with the optical part of finding a distance that you do. jumping with a "cheat rail" (one pole about 9' out from the groundline of any vertical up to 3') will help both of you "ride less" to the base of the fence. Here, you just ride to the pole and let the horse do the rest. It's very good mental practice at the art of giving a minimalist ride to a fence. It's easy for us because getting a distance to a mere pole on the ground is so low-stakes.

        A landing pole can help for a horse who wants to get too forward over little fences. Same for a pole in the middle of a line. I had a good hunter trainer who used to put a single canter pole in a course. If you found yourself getting a bit too much lick and the horse too strong, you simply inserted that pole as your next fence and found a distance to that. When you do that, you end up bringing the canter back to something more reasonable and more collected (still with good momentum from the hind end, but a little bouncier). This is a good mid-course reminder for both horse and rider. The idea is that not every fence or course should build to a hand gallop. Rather, it's a low mileage way of having a rider (especially) learn to bring a canter back and keep their eye tuned to seeing a different kind of distance, mid-course.

        2a. The American hunter trainer also values a rideable horse on course. Besides using poles, there can be lost of stopping in a straight line after a fence or line of fences if the horse gets strong. The key is just to get the stop done. Ride no harder than it takes to get the job done. Use the rail to help you, especially at first. But it should be straight. Stand there long enough for you and the horse to exhale. Walk off on a long rein, even for a moment. You need to halt long enough for the horse to change his mind. Don't rush it; it's about what's between the horse's ears, not his body or speed.

        Here, you are teaching the horse that the adrenaline-producing effort of jumping does not mean he keeps that going. Rather, you jump and then stop and think. This is the beginning of the way we would like to land and re-balance around the turn. Teach the horse that after a jump or line, he might be asked to stop.... in which case he'll start to bring his own mind's speed down a bit and let you rebalance without that ride becoming a fight.

        2b. It's legitimately hard to see distances on a horse who is not straight. And by this, I mean (especially) that his hind legs are in line with his front legs, and he doesn't lean into turns or bulge out in a way you can't control, but let slide as a minor problem during your jumping school. IMO, what we really need is our eye and our body to line up with where the hind legs are on the way to the fence. That's why straightness and impulsion let you feel confident in seeing a distance from way, way back.


        Your good dressage training will help you here. I'd suggest keeping the feel and high standards from your dressage work, but practice producing that straightness and impulsion with that tactful ride that is always "less and less" so long as you get the same quality canter and adjustability from your horse. You can work on this one day over even just a pole on the ground!

        At the fences, don't ignore straightness. If he's jumping left or right, slow down and use some poles to correct that. it wil make riding the lines a lot easier.

        Of course, I'd wish you a good ground person as well. Using poles well to train a horse takes two people!

        Good luck and I hope this pays off for you. It's nice to see someone who wants to do good flat work and give a horse the tactful ride over fences. I think horses like this ride in an adrenaline-producing activity, and I think it ultimately makes them safer for us.
        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by mvp View Post
          Let me suggest some different, broad strategies.

          1. Worry less about picking a distance and just how far out you can see that. Rather, your job is to pick a Rhythm and a Track and be ready to leave the ground whenever the fence comes up. So your mantra is "Rhythm and Track," and that's it. I find it helpful to learn to pick the right canter and count strides all the way around, not the count down to the fence. If you teach yourself that your mental job is to be that metronome and feel the engagement of the hind end, plus look up and around so that you pick the right path to a fence, you'll find that the distance appears to you, you will know how that distance is going to be, (long, deep, whatever) you won't care so much.


          For your specific problem-- getting this forward horse willing to wait and jump from that deeper spot that your eventing pro wanted. Consider this proposition: If you want that spot, your job is to manufacture the canter that will yield it. And you can do that way back from the fence. Heck, it's not even about the fence! Again, the trick to riding to a deep spot is to see it way back and adjust your upper body then (and first), perhaps adding a waiting hand and your voice (second), and then doing as little as possible when you get to the fence. There, you are already "waiting" with your body and the fence "comes up to you." So this is the opposite of micro-managing to the base of the fence. It's also different from riding backward-- thinking most about your hand and leaving your leg an after thought.

          When I jump, I try to make my hand The Very Last Aid I pick up. That's a mantra for me. And I bring that to dressage, too. If I want a little more bounce in my canter, I see how much I can get done by bringing my shoulders and upper body back a bit, making a conscious effort to leave my elbows out there. If I don't get enough of a response in that first stride, then I add a half-halting hand to my shoulders and posture. It's awesome. Pretty soon, I don't need to add hand. The horse knew what was coming and rocked back on his own.

          2. Do use the tools of the best American hunter trainers-- lots of poles. The idea is that the horse needs to find his own way to the fence. What he needs, then, is the same practice with the optical part of finding a distance that you do. jumping with a "cheat rail" (one pole about 9' out from the groundline of any vertical up to 3') will help both of you "ride less" to the base of the fence. Here, you just ride to the pole and let the horse do the rest. It's very good mental practice at the art of giving a minimalist ride to a fence. It's easy for us because getting a distance to a mere pole on the ground is so low-stakes.

          A landing pole can help for a horse who wants to get too forward over little fences. Same for a pole in the middle of a line. I had a good hunter trainer who used to put a single canter pole in a course. If you found yourself getting a bit too much lick and the horse too strong, you simply inserted that pole as your next fence and found a distance to that. When you do that, you end up bringing the canter back to something more reasonable and more collected (still with good momentum from the hind end, but a little bouncier). This is a good mid-course reminder for both horse and rider. The idea is that not every fence or course should build to a hand gallop. Rather, it's a low mileage way of having a rider (especially) learn to bring a canter back and keep their eye tuned to seeing a different kind of distance, mid-course.

          2a. The American hunter trainer also values a rideable horse on course. Besides using poles, there can be lost of stopping in a straight line after a fence or line of fences if the horse gets strong. The key is just to get the stop done. Ride no harder than it takes to get the job done. Use the rail to help you, especially at first. But it should be straight. Stand there long enough for you and the horse to exhale. Walk off on a long rein, even for a moment. You need to halt long enough for the horse to change his mind. Don't rush it; it's about what's between the horse's ears, not his body or speed.

          Here, you are teaching the horse that the adrenaline-producing effort of jumping does not mean he keeps that going. Rather, you jump and then stop and think. This is the beginning of the way we would like to land and re-balance around the turn. Teach the horse that after a jump or line, he might be asked to stop.... in which case he'll start to bring his own mind's speed down a bit and let you rebalance without that ride becoming a fight.

          2b. It's legitimately hard to see distances on a horse who is not straight. And by this, I mean (especially) that his hind legs are in line with his front legs, and he doesn't lean into turns or bulge out in a way you can't control, but let slide as a minor problem during your jumping school. IMO, what we really need is our eye and our body to line up with where the hind legs are on the way to the fence. That's why straightness and impulsion let you feel confident in seeing a distance from way, way back.


          Your good dressage training will help you here. I'd suggest keeping the feel and high standards from your dressage work, but practice producing that straightness and impulsion with that tactful ride that is always "less and less" so long as you get the same quality canter and adjustability from your horse. You can work on this one day over even just a pole on the ground!

          At the fences, don't ignore straightness. If he's jumping left or right, slow down and use some poles to correct that. it wil make riding the lines a lot easier.

          Of course, I'd wish you a good ground person as well. Using poles well to train a horse takes two people!

          Good luck and I hope this pays off for you. It's nice to see someone who wants to do good flat work and give a horse the tactful ride over fences. I think horses like this ride in an adrenaline-producing activity, and I think it ultimately makes them safer for us.
          Y'know, I'm just going to copy and paste this whole thing to my Notes file so that I can periodically review and assimilate the lessons MVP suggests. It is just chock full of great ideas!

          Comment


          • #6
            I'm going through this a bit myself trying to retrain my more Jumper style mare into a Hunter - thanks strangewings for asking and for all of the great advice!

            I would piggy back on this question to ask what truly defines "rushing the jumps"?

            I ask because I've started to video my rides, and the canter/jump I'm getting in the saddle FEELS much worse and "rushing" than it actually looks like on the ground. My mare has a much more powerful canter and jump than I'm used to all around, though, so I'm wondering if maybe that's also happening with you? Maybe not since you remember what it felt like 2 years ago when you first got him, and you're trying to return to that place, but maybe he's just more fit overall, so you're never going to get what felt like a light, slow canter, but was really just not as muscled and fit as he is now?

            This is something I'm going to keep in my mind as I continue to work with her, to make sure I'm not taking what is in fact a small adjustment for this horse and turning it into a bigger issue than it needs to be.

            Comment


            • #7
              On approach to a fence, the feeling of "I can't let go or he will rush/fall on forehand" is not a good one. Coming from dressage, I'm sure you've ridden a movement where you push your hands forward 2-3 strides to show the horse maintains balance, rhythm, and self carriage. You should have that same feel coming to a fence: three strides out, you could soften your contact, hold your core, and the horse stays there, same rhythm, balance, and stride length. You should not have to "wrangle" him into staying the same.

              Teaching your horse patience on approach is much easier said than done. Like others have said, use ground poles--singles, lines 4-5 strides apart, 4 poles on a wheel, and bounce poles. Bounce poles are great because they don't allow the horse to "build" and increase his stride. Start with 5 poles 9ft apart, and ride in staring down at the first pole as if telling him exactly where to place his feet. Half halt and let go with your hands, using lots of core muscles to "hold" the canter. When 9ft is easy, collect the canter more and roll the poles in to 8ft. If you're good, down to 7ft and really use his hocks. This could take weeks or months to progress shorter than 8ft, but it will give you control of his stride and make him hold himself to a balanced, even stride. If he rushes, he'll get in trouble and be leg spaghetti. If you hold too much and lock your elbows, he'll fall to trot...so keep your arms moving.

              When he's completely rideable over poles, keep the same feel over low fences. If he rushes, he doesn't get to jump: circle or downward transition. Make as many circles as you need, until you can let go and he doesn't change.
              A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.
              ? Albert Einstein

              ~AJ~

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                So much great info here, thank you guys!

                Feliz - Looking at the base of the jump is one of the habits I'm trying to break right now...I started doing this unintentionally during this "coming in deep" period. When I come into the jump looking at the base, I tip forward, get anxious, stop breathing, and hold him with my hands. A clinician a few years back had me close my eyes in the approach to a jump (to force me to do more from "feel" and stop overthinking) and I found that really effective at that time. I can do this a bit now, but go back and forth with myself about whether I should do it, want to do it, if it's really helpful at this time, etc. Dunno.

                flexion, mvp, and EventerAJ - great suggestions, I really appreciate them. He's just about ready for me to start pushing the topic of transitions-within-the-gait at the canter, and doing good canter-halt transitions from the seat - long story short regarding the last two years, he had (hopefully) a mild sacral pain issue and I've been taking my time with collecting the canter work just to be sure it's actually resolved. Byproduct of the long process of figuring out whether/ where there was a problem, or if it was just normal crookedess, is that now he is pretty darn capable of being straight! Also, bending from the seat, etc. had been good, now is very good. But yes, collection and transitions are a work in progress.

                mvp, super helpful advice all around, thank you. I totally agree with you about setting up the canter, but I should clarify that I don't want to come deep to the base right now at all - the placing poles are definitely helping us work back into a rhythm, but a few weeks ago, what was pretty consistently happening was he'd be forward, willing, opening his stride, and then at the last minute would add a short one and bunny hop over - because that's more or less how we ended things with the pro 2 years ago (and of course I'm kicking myself that I ever let it get to that state...).

                AHunterGal, you make a good point about "is rushing really rushing" - I have a video of him where he looks like he's got this beautiful reaching daisy cutter trot going on, but it felt at the time like he was on the verge of falling apart balance-wise. Both could be true! He's not really rushing at any point in the sense of truly running *at* the jump, but you can tell he really wants to open his stride, where it's maybe not warranted, and ends up putting us in a bad place for take-off if I just "let him" do what he wants. Again, this is much less of a problem indoors, but outdoors he's definitely got this feeling of "OMG we're finally doing something FUN again". Also, yes, his body has changed a *lot* in the last 6 months...

                Regarding pole spacing, I'm finding right now that we're most comfortable on a 10'-11' stride (outdoors), where comfortable = easiest to maintain rhythm/balance/stride length from my seat alone. Is it ok to stick with that while the novelty of jumping again wears off and the enthusiasm tempers? He has not, in the past, been a habitual rusher, so I believe we may be able to get back to that place just with repeated exposure.

                I understand collection is a precursor to extension, and you're all suggesting shortening exercises, but if you eventually want to jump on a 12' stride, when do you start introducing that? I find for myself in dressage that if I *only* work on shortening the stride, I tend to fall into the habit of compressing without collecting, so I do like to interweave shortening and lengthening. Maybe we're not quite ready for that yet over anything but groundpoles?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Definitely stay on the comfortable 10-11' stride. If you actually go around with a tape measure down the lines you would notice that most trainers set the lines short when schooling at home (especially as home arenas tend to be smaller than show arenas). If a 12' stride is difficult then that should be the finishing exercise during show prep, not the starting one, and there's no point to it until you have mastered all the other stuff or the horse will get flat, heavy, and rush again.

                  Collection will make your horse sit back on the hind end, which then gives them the ability to push forward off of it - your dressage knowledge all still applies when jumping. if you have an athletic, large enough horse, a 12' stride is not a challenge when you have the right canter, especially in a large arena with sweeping corners and heightened adrenaline at the show facility. I think that setting the lines to show length at home is useful in cases where the the horse and rider tend to come in crooked to a line or collapse after a fence instead of setting their sights up and marching down the line - which does not seem to be applicable in your case at all. Side note: course designers at shows do change the length of the line depending on fence height - jumping 2' does not require a 6' landing and 6' take off buffer and you get green riders being run off with if you don't take this into consideration.

                  Lengthening the canter is also not an exercise you want to do over poles, because a pole does not shape the horse's arc and they will instead naturally flatten their stride/jump (if you have a choice between a long and short distance to a pole, take the short one to keep the quality of canter). If you find yourself falling into the trap of compressing without enough bounce and impulsion, then do some lengthening on the flat only and vary your stride in a pole line between the working canter distance and the collected ones (ie in a 5 stride, do a 5 then 6 then 7 then 5 then 7). The next step is to start adding in some gymnastics. Grids are so versatile and they can be designed to add in more bounce while maintaining an open stride - but depending on your horse, that could be getting too far ahead of ourselves. Homework first

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by strangewings View Post
                    So much great info here, thank you guys!

                    Feliz - Looking at the base of the jump is one of the habits I'm trying to break right now...I started doing this unintentionally during this "coming in deep" period. When I come into the jump looking at the base, I tip forward, get anxious, stop breathing, and hold him with my hands. A clinician a few years back had me close my eyes in the approach to a jump (to force me to do more from "feel" and stop overthinking) and I found that really effective at that time. I can do this a bit now, but go back and forth with myself about whether I should do it, want to do it, if it's really helpful at this time, etc. Dunno.

                    flexion, mvp, and EventerAJ - great suggestions, I really appreciate them. He's just about ready for me to start pushing the topic of transitions-within-the-gait at the canter, and doing good canter-halt transitions from the seat - long story short regarding the last two years, he had (hopefully) a mild sacral pain issue and I've been taking my time with collecting the canter work just to be sure it's actually resolved. Byproduct of the long process of figuring out whether/ where there was a problem, or if it was just normal crookedess, is that now he is pretty darn capable of being straight! Also, bending from the seat, etc. had been good, now is very good. But yes, collection and transitions are a work in progress.

                    mvp, super helpful advice all around, thank you. I totally agree with you about setting up the canter, but I should clarify that I don't want to come deep to the base right now at all - the placing poles are definitely helping us work back into a rhythm, but a few weeks ago, what was pretty consistently happening was he'd be forward, willing, opening his stride, and then at the last minute would add a short one and bunny hop over - because that's more or less how we ended things with the pro 2 years ago (and of course I'm kicking myself that I ever let it get to that state...).

                    AHunterGal, you make a good point about "is rushing really rushing" - I have a video of him where he looks like he's got this beautiful reaching daisy cutter trot going on, but it felt at the time like he was on the verge of falling apart balance-wise. Both could be true! He's not really rushing at any point in the sense of truly running *at* the jump, but you can tell he really wants to open his stride, where it's maybe not warranted, and ends up putting us in a bad place for take-off if I just "let him" do what he wants. Again, this is much less of a problem indoors, but outdoors he's definitely got this feeling of "OMG we're finally doing something FUN again". Also, yes, his body has changed a *lot* in the last 6 months...

                    Regarding pole spacing, I'm finding right now that we're most comfortable on a 10'-11' stride (outdoors), where comfortable = easiest to maintain rhythm/balance/stride length from my seat alone. Is it ok to stick with that while the novelty of jumping again wears off and the enthusiasm tempers? He has not, in the past, been a habitual rusher, so I believe we may be able to get back to that place just with repeated exposure.

                    I understand collection is a precursor to extension, and you're all suggesting shortening exercises, but if you eventually want to jump on a 12' stride, when do you start introducing that? I find for myself in dressage that if I *only* work on shortening the stride, I tend to fall into the habit of compressing without collecting, so I do like to interweave shortening and lengthening. Maybe we're not quite ready for that yet over anything but groundpoles?

                    Most people offered collecting exercises because your original post said,
                    My gelding is really enthusiastic about jumping - especially jumping outside. He'd really like to lengthen his stride, lower his forehand and rush a bit at the jump. I'd prefer to set him up 3 strides out and not have to interfere with him after that - just stay in balance. It feels like I have to hold him with my hands up to the placing pole, then can give him some slack for that last stride and take-off. Is that ok?
                    As flexion said, most horses will canter comfortably with a 12' stride. However, some horses won't *stay* there...they increase, or build approaching a jump, or on landing, or overreact when a rider half-halts or adds leg. If you teach your horse to wait in a 10 or 11ft stride, you can essentially "allow" him out to his normal 12ft stride and he'll have the self-discipline to stay there. There is no harm staying in 10-11ft stride over poles learning to approach, land, and canter away on soft contact without impulsiveness (different from impulsion!).

                    Look at it another way...you want to teach your puppy to walk on a leash. You don't start with a 10ft lead and let him drag you at the end of it. You teach him to stay by your side, to walk at your pace, to stay within the length of the leash without pulling. You do lots of stopping and sitting, even when a squirrel runs by. Once he understands boundaries and knows to walk with a slack lead, you can let the dog out on a longer leash. Your horse is the same...he needs to learn to listen to your half-halts, and have the self-discipline to hold whatever stride length you decide for the last 3 steps approaching a jump.

                    When you have moments of patience and softness to poles with a 10-11ft stride, get in a half-seat and let him open up a little down a long side. You don't have to "run," just follow him instead of holding. Lift your shoulder but try not to pull back through the turn to a ground pole. Think about rhythm, count up or down, and maintain that canter all the way to the pole. If he keeps the same canter all the way though, great! You're improving! You're teaching him to wait! If he gets an awkward long distance, but didn't change his canter, no problem! It happens! Give him a pat, organize your canter, and come again. If he sees the pole and rushes the last 3 strides, fix it on landing: halt, or downward transition to trot, and/or circle, etc to rebalance him and give him some work to do. Come back at the pole on your 10-11ft canter until he's going over the pole on a soft rein, then thing "flow forward" and try again with his natural stride.
                    A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.
                    ? Albert Einstein

                    ~AJ~

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                    • #11
                      Here's a striding exercise I learned at the ICP Symposium a few months ago.

                      Set up two jumps measured 6 strides (84ft) apart. Add a placing rail on the outside of each jump, about 9ft away. Add another ground pole exactly in the middle of the 6 strides (42ft). Start with just poles on the ground between the standards, no jumps. Canter in, bounce the first poles, get 3 strides to the middle pole, 3 strides to the next pole, and bounce out. EVERY STRIDE SHOULD BE THE SAME. Come in a little quieter than you think you need to, as most horses will "build" after the first jump (pole) and the final 3 strides will get tight. Work off both directions.

                      When you accomplish even strides over the poles, make them into small jumps. Again, maintaining a smooth, quiet canter get 3 strides to 3 strides. When you're ready, you can take the ground poles away and do the line in the same smooth 7 strides, then open up to the normal 6 strides.

                      Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeIR63cJB9s
                      A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.
                      ? Albert Einstein

                      ~AJ~

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                      • #12
                        I haven’t had time to read every response...but funny enough, I had a lesson with Jimmy Wofford yesterday. On a big, powerful and talented young horse. And he told me a story of how every year they were bringing back into work the classic long format big time horses (i.e. fire breathing dragons for jumping). And Le Goff would have them trot...and trot a lot. Just out in a ring full of fences, picking off each one at the trot. My big young horse is obviously not an Olympic mount. Hell...he’s not even BN yet. But I’m all about putting the correct start on him. And Jimmy’s advice was trot. Trot, maybe add in cantering a fence...then back to the trot. Can I tell you how much I hate trotting fences...and making sure I wait and let them trot right to the base....but of course...it works. I have a couple of short videos from my lesson that I’ll send you.....it was the trotting to slow down our brains...then limiting the cantering so the canter never got too big or out of balanced.

                        Your old trainer wasn’t wrong about needing the horse to jump from the base of a fence....but the hole people have with that is that you need to get to the base of the jump NOT by pulling and NOT being in their face. So when teaching young horses....it is about letting them come deep....not chasing them for the long spot. It is DANG hard to do...but important. And yes, it’s about getting the right balanced canter...and keeping the canter rhythmic.....not being focused on the “spot” as much as keeping the balance and rhythm.
                        Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; May. 16, 2019, 01:00 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? **

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                        • #13
                          EventerAJ bornfreenowexpensive I love these thoughts and exercises! Question - for trot fences and cantering them on the 10/11ft stride, is there a height you should aim to keep them under just in case you really need to wait and take them to the very base?

                          I ask because I know I have a tendency to see the short one when I'm actively shortening their stride as well, and I wouldn't want them to feel anxious about getting over the jump if I take them right up to the base.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by "A"HunterGal View Post
                            EventerAJ bornfreenowexpensive I love these thoughts and exercises! Question - for trot fences and cantering them on the 10/11ft stride, is there a height you should aim to keep them under just in case you really need to wait and take them to the very base?

                            I ask because I know I have a tendency to see the short one when I'm actively shortening their stride as well, and I wouldn't want them to feel anxious about getting over the jump if I take them right up to the base.
                            I used to warm up by trotting a vertical with a 7ft placing rail, raising it two holes at a time until I was one hole higher than competition height. (My advanced mare would trot 4'3" and 4'6".)

                            In general, working on rideability, both trotting and cantering, I would keep the jumps at least 2 holes (6") lower than the horse's competition level. Something both of you feel is easy and not stressful if you have a bad distance. Raise them a little at a time as rideability improves.
                            A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.
                            ? Albert Einstein

                            ~AJ~

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                            • #15
                              I don’t personally try for a 10-11” stride. I care more about the balance. And the height of the fence really isn’t the issue. I’ve trotted 4’9” before (but I wouldn’t recommend starting there!) I want the fences small enough that the horse can comfortably jump out of a too deep distance and the rider comfortable enough to let the fence happen (and not feel anxious enough to chase)......so that is all going to depend on the horse and the rider. You need more power/impulsion in your canter jumping bigger fences....NOT more or less length of stride. So make sure you are not so focused on a short stride you are killing your horses engine. Since your horse is experienced, I would probably start at 2’6-2’9” and possible go up a bit from there. I know even on my green horses, trotting 3’ is not a big deal.
                              ** 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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