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Jumping a gaited pony?

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  • Jumping a gaited pony?

    I set up some very small cross rails for my Paso to jump. He did really well. Gives a nice steady canter. He tends to drift through the corners a bit, sometimes doesn't pick up his hind feet over the jumps. He does the line in about 8 strides. He doesn't seem to get hot or rushy which is really nice.

    I would like to try some gridwork with him, but i have no idea what spacing to use. He doesn't know his leads either. I slow him every time he gets it wrong. He was such a basket case of nerves when I first got him, i completely ignored any canter work... We focused solely on calm down, chill, relax, and trust. Walk-gait- whoa repeat. And lots of trail rides. Canter used to be an explosive gallop followed by one rein stop. We did walk five steps whoa, trot five or ten steps, whoa....Then one day the canter just magically appeared. A nice, controlled canter. Finally.

    He's jumped on trails, but never in an arena. He doesn't have much respect for pvc poles. I'm thinking of switching them out with wood ones.

    He seems pretty interested in the jumps, especially compared with flatwork. He may never be a show pony but I'm hoping to have some fun with this.

    He's about 14 hands and takes very tiny strides. He has to canter to keep up with my horses when they trot. He doesn't seem to get upset if he knocks a pole and he doesn't seem fearful of the jumps. I plan on keeping things low and progressing nice and slow. I don't want him to regress back to the mess he once was. I'm actually hoping the jumping will give him something to focus on.

    He doesn't like flat work and would be a terrible dressage horse- any pressure can be too much with him. He really hates leg pressure - I've worked at it and while I can give aids, he just isn't very tolerant of leg. We have just started working on lateral movements and vertical flexion at the walk. But it definitely is not something he enjoys.

    The right lead is difficult for him under saddle. He definitely prefers left. He does both leads just fine on the lunge so perhaps it is me. I was taught to turn the nose to the outside when asking for canter, but i know that isn't used as much now. Perhaps i should try the opposite? He really doesn't have good departures, but after trying so hard to teach him- Do Not Break into Crazy Gallop- i can understand why he might be reluctant to canter on cue.


  • #2
    Why are you wanting to jump an animal who does not canter on cue, does not consistently hold his leads, and will not accept leg? Why is he ready to jump?

    none of the above is personal or an attack. I would ask the same of you face to face.


    • #3
      I don’t remember them off the top of my head, but there are standard stride lengths for small, medium, and large pony hunter classes. Looking those up will give you a sense of how much shorter you might set your lines for your pony.

      However, having a quality canter (and the flatwork/dressage basics that go into that) is the foundation for safe jumping. Not that you can’t play around with poles or x’s for fun, but I wouldn’t get into grids or anything of height without giving him more time and training to improve his acceptance of “pressure” and his canter.


      • #4
        Second the above comments on needing a good canter and needing to be able to actually use your leg, but if you DO jump, please please please do not use PVC poles. Go buy some landscape timbers at the very least, they are usually 4 to 7 bucks at like Home Depot or something. I hate when people use PVC.

        Best bet would be to google grid lengths for large ponies, but I highly suggest:

        1. Sort out the canter and leg pressure issue. Could be pain related, check for ulcers. If not, that's a big training hole you need to fill. For canter, don't turn the head to the outside. Use your body, inside hip more forward, turn YOUR shoulders more to the outside when you ask for a canter depart, there are a few different tricks to help get your body in a good position to ask. Might not be a bad idea to get a trainer in to help you.

        2. Get some wooden poles or landscape timbers. You can start with trotting (if he has a trot) and cantering poles on the ground if you want, just make sure if they are round you have a block or something to put the pole on to keep them from rolling. If he doesn't do a true two beat diagonal trot, could just canter poles. Probably about 10 feet apart, maybe 9 if it's a really short stride.

        3. For a simple thing to get you started if you really want to play with it, set up a small "grid" of three or four trot poles spaced probably about 3, 3.5 feet apart for a 14h gaited pony (if he trots), then maybe 6 or 7 feet to a small crossrail. If he doesn't trot, you could probably do just a single pole, 6 or 7 feet to a small crossrail. The distances might need to be adjusted, for a horse it would be 4 to 4.5 feet for trot poles and 9 feet from the last trot pole to the crossrail for reference. Trot/gait in, jump, canter away calmly. If he gets too excited cantering away, then add a halt after every jump a few strides away.


        • Original Poster

          Thank you Rain Weasley- that was what I was looking for. I already picked out some wooden poles. I don't really like PVC at all.

          As for leg pressure- he is an extremely sensitive guy who was badly manhandled before I got him. A light touch is all you need with him. I'm assuming he was previously ridden in spurs and those nasty Paso Fino Bits. He is better with light contact- I can get passive leg pressure on him at the trot and I do a lot of rubbing his sides with my leg at the halt and walk. For some reason rubbing his sides seems to soothe him so I do that when he gets anxious about something. But as far as cues go, it doesn't take much to get a response.

          Right now we are just going over really tiny stuff. The jumps and natural obstacles on the trail are much bigger than the little stuff we are doing in the yard. I put cones up at the end of the jumps and that is where we stop. Trying to keep it simple for him. Baby steps.

          What I like about him, is that he is actually a fairly self confident little guy- not very spooky. People make him very anxious, but as for riding in the woods, he doesn't spook at anything. Anything not associated with the former abuse, he actually learns very quickly. I'm hoping he approaches jumping with that same outlook.

          His whoa is very very solid. I don't worry about stopping him. He is not a malicious horse in any way- he doesn't buck or pull pranks. He has a tendency to get anxious and go forward. I knew once I could get him past the anxiety, we could start working on other things. The fact that he is cantering calmly in an arena is a huge milestone for him.

          He has been treated for ulcers twice. I'm thinking of putting him on a maintenance dose, just because he stresses easily if you change his routine.


          • #6
            Dunno that introducing jumping is a great idea for him right now at all. Not setting him up for success here. The grid in particular. Pasos have a very short, soft step. They are bred and built for it their brains are hard wired for it. They also typically do not have the conformation to engage behind, rock back and support their weight pushing off over anything bigger then a lope over. Kind of back end to do that does not allow the short, soft step but does allow the rock back and push off, you find in a totally different type horse with ability for different skill sets bred into them.

            While going over a single obstacle, like a log, is a great skill for any trail horse, Think trying to construct a related distance Grid with this Paso at this time is not in his best interests and is likely to confuse and frustrate both of you. Not now, maybe later.

            After he develops more skills and gains more confidence you might re examine things. He’s had a tough past, you need to keep it simple for him, not challenge him. Not if he finds flatwork too much pressure. You need solid flat work skills to execute any grid, without them, you risk ruining his confidence. I mean, if he tries to drift out or go around- as many will try when being introduced to grids-how are you going to steer? What if he rushes and you can’t slow down?

            Do you have a knowledgeable trainer who can help you build his flatwork skills?

            Have a suspicion he isnt sensitive at all at all but just does not know how to do the kind of flatwork needed to get around a course of jumps or down a grid, Nibody ever taught him that so he just doesn’t know. He got taught enough to gait around. Nothing else. He needs to go back to kindergarten and learn the basic skills of regular, non gaited flatwork like responding to leg pressure and rein aids. He just doesn’t know.

            Keep that in mind when you make choices for him. He’s never been taught. He wants to please you but he just has never learned what you are asking in the flatwork. You need to teach him that first. Only then challenge him with a grid.

            Or just love love him for what he was bred and built for and can be very good at, a very comfortable riding horse.

            You say he has to canter to keep up with “ my other horses”? Why not learn to jump a grid one of your other horses?
            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


            • #7
              Conformation isn’t everything. Is this horse going to go win hickstead? No. But no reason to discourage reaching a horse a new skill.
              It sounds like he isn’t bending both ways equally. I would put four poles on the ground, in a large circle. I attached a photo to show what I am saying. They have it at 100 ft apart, but I would do smaller, more like 60 or 70 ft. Walk the poles both ways until he bends equally in both directions. He should be looking to the next pole, not at everything else around him. His body should make a C shape in the direction you are going. When he is completing that nicely, raise the poles just a touch so they are cavaletti and repeat at the walk and at the gait, so long as he can confidently get over them without kicking them. Again, once he is bending correctly, canter the circle. Eventually you can raise them past cavaletti height, but I wouldn’t until he is really bending and using his body.

              This is the exercise I use on my ponies when they decide that they don’t like cantering on the correct lead. Sometimes you have to be creative with ponies because they are usually so naturally balanced that they don’t natually ‘get it’ like horses tend to.


              • #8
                That’s a great exercise....but maybe not with one that gets upset with leg pressure and has trouble going right at the moment. Later, yeah. By all means. Once the tools are there to help him instead of get him upset at leg. Same reason working over a grid with related distances isn’t a great choice. YET.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • #9
                  You are very busy pounding a square peg into a round hole.

                  When you tell us that his canter aid includes pulling his head outside, you're telling us that you have no understanding of the mechanics of canter, or he was badly trained. And pulling ihs head to the inside without correct supporting aids may not be too useful..

                  I had a Paso breeder come and watch a dressage lesson as she wanted to bring horses to compete in dressage. She decided against it.

                  In order to handle a grid or do any jumping a horse must be able regulate stride length. That ability has been carefully bred out of them.
                  Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                  Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                  • #10
                    You said that better then I did merry.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by findeight View Post
                      That’s a great exercise....but maybe not with one that gets upset with leg pressure and has trouble going right at the moment. Later, yeah. By all means. Once the tools are there to help him instead of get him upset at leg. Same reason working over a grid with related distances isn’t a great choice. YET.
                      I should have specified, but that exercise isn’t to be completed in a day, or even a week. That may be a month long process to get from walking the poles to cantering the cavaletti.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                        You are very busy pounding a square peg into a round hole.

                        When you tell us that his canter aid includes pulling his head outside, you're telling us that you have no understanding of the mechanics of canter, or he was badly trained. And pulling ihs head to the inside without correct supporting aids may not be too useful..

                        I had a Paso breeder come and watch a dressage lesson as she wanted to bring horses to compete in dressage. She decided against it.

                        In order to handle a grid or do any jumping a horse must be able regulate stride length. That ability has been carefully bred out of them.
                        Bingo. Bingo. Bingo.


                        • #13
                          "Horses for Courses." Let this little guy be the BEST gaited trail horse he can be. Many resources out there, both online and in print, to help you. A book called "Easy Gaited Horses" is where I would start.

                          If you want to jump, borrow or take lessons on something more suited to the job. Not saying he can't pop over a log here and there on the trails, but showing is asking him to practically change species. Sounds like a good instructor for any or all of these activities might be a sound investment. Your guy sounds cute--enjoy him!


                          • #14
                            If he's physically able to actually jump over the little obstacles, and isn't just wading through them, I honestly don't see the harm in popping him over some little things, IF he enjoys it.

                            Do you need a correct, balanced canter to jump well? Usually. But we're not talking about showing at the A shows here. As a kid, I rode dozens of harness racers (standardbreds) off the track. Some sort of learned to canter, after a fashion. Some never did. They are entirely not built for it. But, it was surprising how many of them could jump, and seemed to really enjoy it. We mostly jumped them over logs out on the trail, but sometimes small stuff in the ring too. Many could jump surprisingly well out of an awkward tranter. I look at old photos of them now, and you might be shocked at the nice shape some of them make over a fence! So I disagree that you necessarily need a purpose-bred horse to jump little jumps, or that gaited horses can't jump at all.

                            For your guy, my suggestion would be to grab a friend who's an experienced jumper, and have him/her watch you from the ground. Get a brutally honest opinion on whether your pony is physically able to pop over a jump, or not. If he gets confused, upset, hot, can't seem to get his back legs out of the way etc., I would drop it completely. If he's one of those Pasos with incredibly delicate toothpick legs, I would also be very cautious. But if he stays calm and enjoys it, then do whatever he seems comfortable with. Bear in mind that grids require quite a bit of strength, and might ultimately be too much for him. But if you decide to try it, start with poles on the ground. Set them a distance apart that he can comfortably put a canter stride between them, and go with that.


                            • #15
                              I jump my twh. This is not (for me) anti-
                              gaited jumping... this is a super tense, tight moving, inverted Paso being asked to do something he's not going to be good at. It just feels greedy.