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Green OTTB Jumpers

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  • Green OTTB Jumpers

    hello! First time posting but been creeping on here for a long time 😊 just wanted some thoughts on my current ottb project. She is 6 (sat in a field for 2 years after leaving the track- not injured just slow and they wanted to breed her as a surrogate but she wouldn’t keep a pregnancy). At first I was so excited about her, lovely little chestnut mare about 16h fairly quiet and so smart, easiest Tb project I’ve restarted and I’ve had a few. I’ve had her about 5 months now. Flat work coming along excellent can be ridden alone, with company, no naughty behaviour, not spooky. So of course it comes time to try a few jumps and she just can’t be bothered to even try unless I build her something fairly substantial. 2’6-2’9 ish with flower boxes etc , which to me seems substantial for a green bean and all my previous tbs would have jumped me out of the tack if I presented this to them at the same stage lol. She doesn’t crash she will just lift her legs up just barely high enough to get out of the way, if I trot to a little jump she just lifts her legs higher and keeps the trot or somewhat awkwardly hops over. She is a bit better cantering a fence but still absolutely minimum effort required. She does jump in good form when I can get her to actually jump, knees up, and jumps well through a chute (up to about 1.0m). I can’t decide if she is just untalented in the jumping department or will get better with height. It’s a bit tricky right now I don’t want to overface her but if it’s not big enough she doesn’t actually jump lol. I have tried a few different set ups with trot in poles etc and pretty much anything out of the norm catches her attention slightly the first time over and then it’s old news.

    So, do I keep plugging along hoping that with more experience and fitness she catches on and/or will improve when the jumps are big enough to require her to actually jump, or time to try and sell? (I do have a friend looking for a cheap horse to ride around flat & xpoles on her farm) I am looking for an upper level jumper and yes I realize chances are slim but I have very little budget after my last expensive warmblood decided to tear her ddft and retire to broodmare life so here I

  • #2
    Well, I have seen horses with little aptitude come around to be proficient over fences, but they're the exception and not the rule. It took a lot of really good training. You could spend tons of time and money trying to get this horse to be what you want. But ultimately, I think you'd be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

    Simply raising the jumps to get her to try is dangerous IMO. Without proper technique developed at lower heights, you're risking a really bad accident.

    If it were me, I'd sell her. Ride friends' horses for a couple months to save money (wow, you save a lot by not owning a horse), and then buy something with good aptitude for jumping. Even a fancy OTTB with good conformation, good movement, and natural talent in a chute can be bought for under $4K if it's not restarted.


    • #3
      I personally don’t see an issue. My first horse would do bare minimum and at one point had a trainer tell me she would top out at 2’6” since she only saw us doing little stuff. Then we went to a hunter pace with bigger fences.

      With my current mare I will get a big jump if she is nervous. So in reality I don’t want a jump that throws me out of the tack over something that’s 2’6”-2’9” and under.

      After the first few times over a jump she settles and gets over it without jumping me out of the tack. I can raise the fences to 3’+ and she will jump with the same effort.

      Lack of hang time doesn’t mean the horse wouldn’t be good at jumping.

      Fitness is key as well as having enough impulsion.


      • #4
        At 5 months of steady work starting at square one after sitting in a field for years? I’d ask this question again in a few months.

        Without seeing pics and vids, can’t really define specifics but it’s unlikely she is physically where she needs to be to decide anything about her jumping ability or lack thereof. Devote your time to developing good quality gaits with extensions and collections and introduce lateral work. Try to hack out in some hills. As she gets more condition and develops better balance, she may, or may not, figure out the jumping thing and be more able and willing to use her body better.

        She might have a shoulder and hip angle that don’t allow those joints to operate to create any kind of form so those are never very enthusiastic about it. No idea here but it’s a little early in her reconditioning and training journey to make any pronouncements. If she’s not trying at all, don’t ask her to do it, don’t let her smash over them. Instead come back and try again later after more conditioning and flatwork to build balance.

        Oh, remember jumping starts with rocking back to push off, if a horse is weak behind, they don’t want to or just can’t. Often that’s a lack of conditiin, balance and strength issue. Which you can fix in time. If not, you still get a better broke horse after a few more months of flatwork and conditioning to build them up. Easier to sell into another job.
        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


        • #5
          Hard to say without seeing pics or videos...some horses jump just barely over fences due to lack of scope of aptitude, some just are efficient and continue to jump with the minimal amount of effort even as the fences get higher. We had one OTTB who always jumped in good form but never put any unnecessary effort into overjumping fences and he evented through intermediate and was doing the 3’6” jumpers well into his 20s...
          ~Drafties Clique~Sprite's Mom~ASB-loving eventer~


          • #6
            Yep, I'm with everyone else. My TB never really tried until he got to 1.40m. He jumped plenty high, he just wouldn't bother bending his knees. Then we got to 1.40m (and 1.45m and 1.50m) and he suddenly *had* to use himself.

            But it's impossible to say what your mare is doing without seeing a video. And even then, it may be impossible to answer from an armchair quarterback perspective. My guy looked like he wasn't scopey, but he felt like everything was so easy for him. A trainer friend said to me (many years into doing the big jumps), "I thought you were crazy jumping him so big after watching him develop, but you obviously knew more than I did!" I laughed and answered that my "trick" was not being able to see what he was doing, which probably would have taken away the confidence I had in how he felt!
            Flying F Sport Horses
            Horses in the NW


            • #7
              Sometimes they don’t know how (or are not strong enough) to use their bodies correctly. I had one that needed to be free jumped to allow her to figure out how to properly round through her shoulder - otherwise she would just ineffectively ping over the jumps.

              Ingrid Klimke calls it popcorning when her dressage horses jump.

              That at doesn’t mean that increased strength and fitness will not fix this. Just that they’re not a naturally catty jumper. The bascule can be improved with strength and training.


              • #8
                I will echo that it's impossible to determine what's going on with a brief description sans video.

                I've seen a number of green horses who make no effort over small jumps because they literally don't understand why they should. I think this country is a little obsessed with starting green horses over the tiniest of jumps and keeping them tiny for a long time. And while I'm certainly not an advocate of rushing them either, sometimes green horses simply trot over small jumps because they see no earthly reason why they should jump over something they can trot over. I've seen similar things where greenies don't know how to jump a small crossrail but a 2'6 solid cross country jump makes sense to them, and they jump that well.

                I wouldn't advocate for putting the jumps up without seeing video because the horse could be untalented or dangerous in style, but my guess is that she needs something more substantial to make it make sense to her. 2'6-2'9 is really NOT a big jump, and assuming you're not jumping herlegs off, I wouldn't worry about jumping a bit higher with her if that's what makes it click. IF that really is the problem.

                Also...having one that's unimpressed is not necessarily a bad thing whatsoever as long as it doesn't translate to a lack of carefulness. It's HARD to teach horses to relax over the jumps if they have a propensity to worry. So again, assuming she isn't dangerous or seriously unathletic, I wouldn't be bothered by that at all - I'd actually be excited. She's not 4, she's 6, and is physically mature enough to handle some bigger jumps.

                Can you get some video for us?
                Jennifer Baas
                It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)


                • Original Poster

                  I will try to get some video, I keep my horses at home and usually ride alone but maybe I can get a friend out one of these days. I’ve watched the videos on the arena surveillance camera but don’t know how to get them onto my phone. It does look better than it feels, not that it feels bad it’s just feels like not much is happening lol. She is not dangerous and is actually quite tidy in front when she does jump, I was more just looking for opinions on whether the lack of effort is a bad sign for ability to move up to some bigger jumps down the road, I’m sure she will at least be able to pop around a 3 foot course quite well. And good point about her being 6 not 4, 2’6-2’9 fences is not a big deal. I think I was just quite excited to jump this one and was expecting/hoping for a big round amazing jump lol. I should probably appreciate a little more that she is brave and willing.


                  • #10
                    My mare (8yo OTTB) was my sister's for a year before I got her nearly a year ago. She's not green to jumping, and she's a lovely, athletic, careful jumper. But she won't even begin to pick her knees up until at least 2'6".

                    I'd be thrilled with the chill attitude! Every single little fence is an EVENT in my mind (getting better; I haven't jumped a ton), and having a horse who literally takes it all in stride is a huge confidence booster.


                    • #11
                      Agreed with others, some additional time on the flat usually never hurts. If you have access to some hills, incorporate hill workouts into your weekly regimen to help strengthen the hind end. I'd also recommend doing gymnastics if you have a helper. Jim Wofford has great books on gymnastic exercises that can help teach her to use herself and figure out her feet, and that should help when you decide to step up the height.
                      War Horse Blog
                      Blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SaraOTTB View Post
                        I will try to get some video, I keep my horses at home and usually ride alone but maybe I can get a friend out one of these days. I’ve watched the videos on the arena surveillance camera but don’t know how to get them onto my phone. It does look better than it feels, not that it feels bad it’s just feels like not much is happening lol. She is not dangerous and is actually quite tidy in front when she does jump, I was more just looking for opinions on whether the lack of effort is a bad sign for ability to move up to some bigger jumps down the road, I’m sure she will at least be able to pop around a 3 foot course quite well. And good point about her being 6 not 4, 2’6-2’9 fences is not a big deal. I think I was just quite excited to jump this one and was expecting/hoping for a big round amazing jump lol. I should probably appreciate a little more that she is brave and willing.
                        The best jumper I ever rode was thoroughly unimpressive until the jumps were big (IE. 1.2m). She had the most amazing, athletic canter and I remember the first warmup jump I jumped on her I thought "What the heck? That was...boring." But you shoulda felt her at 1.40m...the back was sure cracking then!

                        It's again hard to say over the internet but also hard to say at this point in your process. She could be nonathletic. Or she could just have a simple, flatter style (and there's plenty of successful horses in all 3 rings with just a simple basic jumping style). Or she could be so athletic that she doesn't care about these tiny jumps and you'll see her real style over real jumps. *People* tend to think that 2'9 or 3' is a decent sized jump, and for some horses it is, but for others that's really quite small. What you perceive as lack of effort could simply be confidence and pragmatism. Actually I prefer a young horse that simply jumps a small jump vs. the overly dramatic, gigantic jumps over small fences. That type can be harder to develop.

                        Enjoy her brave and willing mind and continue developing her, and you'll see what you have in a while. Obviously the brave, quiet-minded AND brilliant techniqued horse wins any day, but I'd take a quiet, simple horse any day of the week. One can improve the quality of jump significantly (be it front end or roundness), but it is difficult to improve the mind.

                        Simply teaching a youngster how to use their body and then making it stronger can really transform jumping style. Having the mind that allows doing that is really quite priceless.

                        PS. I never have anyone to video me, so I bought a cheap iphone holder off Amazon that I wrap onto my fenceline, point the camera at a specific point in the ring, and get video that way. I then have to edit out the long pauses when we're out of frame, but it's better than nothing!

                        Good luck!
                        Jennifer Baas
                        It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)


                        • #13
                          I would post video here, there are some very knowledgeable folk who can help guide you. If you're used to a rounder jump and she jumps more flat, that could also be a shift in perception. I tried a horse recently and in the video she jumped with a lot of hind end. I wasn't sure I could stay on. But she's actually kind of flat over the jump, so it felt much less impressive in the saddle.

                          In the meantime, I think there are definitely exercises that can make her stronger and more interested. I would integrate bounce cavaletti and as she gets stronger, do three or more on a curve. They really have to sit to do them and then you can practice being more collected and taking the inside track or having a stronger power canter and riding the outside track of the curve. I find this exercise endlessly useful and for my horse, who needs strong quads, it's been really impactful.


                          • #14
                            Absolutely use cavaletti- it's a great way to strengthen and get them understanding they have to use themselves.

                            As for your horse, it may be weakness, it may be something else- there are lots of reasons green ones don't jump well.

                            My now-retired TB, who was very green at 13 when I got him (long story) and ended up eventing in his late teens through Training, used to regularly embarrass me trotting warmup jumps because he was so contemptuous about them he would actually stomp on the poles as we went over/through. This horse had incredible amounts of scope, he just didn't use it until about 3'3"-ish and up. Had we gotten him when he was younger and less screwed up I don't think he would have had a limit at eventing, and yet I couldn't get him to not step on crossrails.
                            You can take a line and say it isn't straight- but that won't change its shape. Jets to Brazil