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4 year old jumper training

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  • 4 year old jumper training

    My KWPN filly just turned 4 years old this past July. She's going walk, trot and canter under saddle, knows her leg yields, and mostly gets the concept of accepting and reaching into the bit even if she doesn't always do it due to strength, etc. I've popped her over small logs and other small solid obstacles outside cross country, and done some little two fence gymnastic grids (she did her first tiny ascending oxer last night).

    Just curious as to what people are doing with their young jumpers, and what they teach or expect of them at this age. I plan on continuing to work on small grids this winter and cantering ground pole courses. She's still a bit uncoordinated at the canter so I don't plan on cantering any actual fences with her anytime soon.
    "People who say riding isn't a sport are just intimidated because in our game, the ball has a mind of it's own."

  • #2
    The five YO classes are 1m to 1.20. So you know those four year olds are doing a meter at home before their five year old year.
    But IMO it’s a bad idea to jump baby horses that high. I prefer building confidence over little stuff so that I preserve joints and the horses don’t get burnt out at a young age.
    However, I do know people who have horses who have jumped bigger fences since a young age with minimal issues. So it could be very true I am ‘babying’ my babies.

    Comment


    • #3
      For the young horses I've ridden and trained I've always tried to listen to them- some are jumping 1.20 by the end of their 5yr old year, some are in the 1.0 ring still, both are okay.

      Depends on confidence, natural talent, disposition, and growth. Most at 4/early 5 I try to do just one day of "dressage" work, 2 days of circles/straight lines/flatting/riding the orangutang out of them,1 day of poles/small jumps, and 1 day of trail riding. Most of the time in the ring I'm not riding for more than 20 minutes, and I am on them for max 30 minutes. They are like children, there is only so much they can handle at once, so its best to do it in small repetitive pieces.

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      • #4
        I watch those young horse classes in awe...I go so much slower with my youngsters and I wouldn't know how to do it differently. I do a lot of work with them when they are young to emphasize timing and footwork. Also, it's important to balance the work that they do to build strength (their bodies are still developing and they invariably lack strength at this age) and also to learn that work is fun. Four is a great age to teach a youngster other life skills like little trail rides, working in a group, etc.

        Agree very much with emphasizing rideability and basic training at this age. If you have that, raising up the jumps in a couple years will be super easy.

        Comment


        • #5
          I erred on the side of caution and didn't really jump until 5. I set out ground pole courses and worked on track rhythm and pace. I'm more worried about longevity than ribbons when they are so young, personally. But I plan to keep him forever.
          http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fentre...24774504235082

          http://fentressfieldsequestriancenter.com/

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          • #6
            I think responses will be all over the spectrum. If it's going to be a "real" jumper (1.40+) then by the end of it's 4 year old year should be doing 1.10m courses. Yes, the 5YO jump 1.20 but it's an 8 jump course, only 1 combo, no jump off, easy properly-adjusted lines, etc. If it's going to max out at child/adult, or you're in no rush, then I think what you're doing is totally appropriate!

            Sidenote: did anyone see Liubov's Instagram of her 6YO jumping the 1.40 at Tryon?! I think that is definitely excessive (ESP considering there are good young horse divisions there.) But Royce turned out ok, so what do I know...
            When the boogeyman goes to sleep, he checks the closet for George Morris. -mpsbarnmanager

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            • #7
              Originally posted by OutsidersOpinion View Post
              For the young horses I've ridden and trained I've always tried to listen to them- some are jumping 1.20 by the end of their 5yr old year, some are in the 1.0 ring still, both are okay.

              Depends on confidence, natural talent, disposition, and growth. Most at 4/early 5 I try to do just one day of "dressage" work, 2 days of circles/straight lines/flatting/riding the orangutang out of them,1 day of poles/small jumps, and 1 day of trail riding. Most of the time in the ring I'm not riding for more than 20 minutes, and I am on them for max 30 minutes. They are like children, there is only so much they can handle at once, so its best to do it in small repetitive pieces.
              Riding the orangutang out of them 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂
              http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fentre...24774504235082

              http://fentressfieldsequestriancenter.com/

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              • #8
                This all depends on how young you want your horse to break down and become a pasture ornament for the rest of its life.

                Do you know and fully understand that the last growth plates to close on a horse are those in the spine - where you sit?!?! And that those growth plates don't fully close until "on average" (smaller horses earlier, larger horses later) 5 years of age?

                That means that right now you are riding and jumping a horse with open growth plates and the average horse person should be able to understand the kind of damage that's doing to a horse that's still growing.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Alterrain View Post
                  I think responses will be all over the spectrum. If it's going to be a "real" jumper (1.40+) then by the end of it's 4 year old year should be doing 1.10m courses. Yes, the 5YO jump 1.20 but it's an 8 jump course, only 1 combo, no jump off, easy properly-adjusted lines, etc. If it's going to max out at child/adult, or you're in no rush, then I think what you're doing is totally appropriate!

                  Sidenote: did anyone see Liubov's Instagram of her 6YO jumping the 1.40 at Tryon?! I think that is definitely excessive (ESP considering there are good young horse divisions there.) But Royce turned out ok, so what do I know...
                  I think it depends; I’ve seen horses go onto the big leagues but not be started over jumps until later in life. I think the main market for the 5/6 YO classes are people who are showing that horse to sell. A 6 YO jumping 1.20 brings a lot more than an 8/9 YO jumping 1.20, even if that isn’t its max.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I follow the young jumper program with most of mine. In the 4yo year most of mine are jumping 1.10-1.15m courses by the end of the year and [very occasionally] jumping single fences at 1.20m - 1.30m. In the 5yo year they're usually coursing 1.20m with occasional singles to 1.30m/1.40m by the end of the year. By the 6yo year they wind up at 1.30m by the end of the year with the occasional precocious horse ready to do a 1.40m by the end of the year.

                    But there's a really important point about that that I think people forget about. The riders who are following that program ARE NOT MISSING to jumps or having to learn "alongside" their horse. They aren't chipping or making the horses take the hail mary long spot...I'm not saying all of the distances are perfect, but the "chip" in an amateur's hands turns into an intentional deep spot more often than not in a pro's hands. The riders are [more often] confident, calm, supportive of the horses, and not stressed in general. That is a very different skill set for the rider AND experience for the horse than what it would be like with a rider learning along with them.

                    Also, there isn't nearly as much drilling....at least not in a good young horse trainer's program. For my own young horses, they might jump 2-3 times a week, but often it's literally 3 fences and they're done. That is also a very different amount and type of jumping than someone follows in a lesson-type program.

                    With all of that being said, it really is all over the map depending on the horse. Right now I have a 5yo who has been the punkiest most ridiculous thing on 4 legs since day one. She MIGHT get to the 1.20m in her 6yo year. MIGHT. No question she will be pretty spectacular when she catches up with her peers (mentally), and worth every ounce of energy I've put into her. But she made it clear on ride number one that her program was going to be "unique."

                    And I think people tend to forget that they're only seeing the most precocious horses in the young jumper classes. It's like the tiny tip of a giant iceburg of a large number of horses who just aren't ready to be at that point. And when I say that I do the YJC classes, it's worth pointing out that I buy 3 and 4yos from Germany who are already identified as "the precocious" ones out of a huge number of youngsters who are not. So even my own perspective is skewed by the insanely nice-brained horses I get from my breeders. My mare mentioned above was one I bought at a few weeks of age and is a good reminder that the best laid plans can easily shift based on the horse.

                    But back to the OP and her questions - what you are doing sounds like a great program for a young horse. There really doesn't need to be any great pressure on a youngster, and I don't think they wind up "behind the curve" if they're not jumping bigger. I like to give my 4yos the winter mostly off (if they're still ridden, there's minimal jumping and a whole lot of trail rides and easy hacks on a long rein). But doing little grids and basic flatwork is a good plan. I start cantering fences in the horse's first or second time jumping, so I don't think that's too much to ask. But there's not great need to do so either. As someone else pointed out, a lot comes down to what your expectations are down the line. If you want a 1.60m horse you need them to be doing a lot more than a horse who you'd like to compete at a mid-range level on a longer time frame.

                    I do want to add (as I've said about three million times here), since this discussion almost always ends up there, that I do not believe that jumping horses more earlier has any direct correlation with soundness issues down the road.
                    __________________________________
                    Flying F Sport Horses
                    Horses in the NW

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      my 4 yo KWPN filly is away at the trainer's doing W-T-C-lateral work-deferalizing (ahem, desensitizing).

                      They are all different. this one is like PNWjumper's punk mare -- but I am letting someone else work through that, a good Ray Hunt-type western trainer. She's really coming along but she needs to work through this phase before I'm brave enough to take over.

                      If the basics are there the jumping part will be pretty easy. I don't think your horse is "behind" at all. Yes if you wanted to do YJC, no to be a nice jumper down the road. Not at all.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        PNWjumper, such a great post on so many points and I really enjoyed reading it. I completely agree with your points about the need for a very specialized program (and specialized horses) to achieve these results. I'm in awe of the riders that can give that kind of ride, and to those special young horses.

                        Originally posted by PNWjumper View Post

                        I do want to add (as I've said about three million times here), since this discussion almost always ends up there, that I do not believe that jumping horses more earlier has any direct correlation with soundness issues down the road.
                        What I've quoted here I think you are right but I would state it differently. If you don't have a specialized program AND a precocious horse, the main risk is not physical soundness. The main risk is that the horse will lose confidence or learn bad habits or learn various evasions, or simply dislike work/jumping in general. Negative feedback from an inadvertent bad experience can be very difficult to overcome. And those "bad" behaviors can often be interpreted as soundness issues. Going more slowly and adding life experience and focusing on rideability with a horse adds a "buffer zone" for the horses to learn and progress and not be rattled by a bad day or a bad ride.

                        I think the key is that for a regular person it's best to tailor your program to suit you and and your horse, instead of overly comparing yourself to others.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Not a jumper trainer in the least, I actually kind of suck at jumping. But my 4 year old has probably done about...idk, 6 or 7 total jumping sessions under saddle? And the highest we have gone is an 18 in vertical a few days ago. But, like PNWjumper pointed out, I am not even close to a pro, I can't help get him to a good distance very well, and I don't have the experience of training hundreds of youngsters to jump, so I am absolutely NOT in a rush. Not to mention I think he is just going to suck as a jumper as well so we aren't focused on it, more focused on dressage basics and if I can get him to happily pop around a 2 foot course eventually and that is all he wants to do, I'm fine with that.

                          I do have to say though, I thought I would dread cantering him over jumps but he has been much easier to jump ("jump") from a canter than from a trot. It's just a bit unnerving because he has a fairly low-set neck and carriage, this winter will probably be a lot of really working on improving his canter and letting him figure out jumping without me picking at him so much. And maybe jumping things from a trot (maybe even a walk!) since I dread it so much.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by RainWeasley View Post

                            I do have to say though, I thought I would dread cantering him over jumps but he has been much easier to jump ("jump") from a canter than from a trot. It's just a bit unnerving because he has a fairly low-set neck and carriage, this winter will probably be a lot of really working on improving his canter and letting him figure out jumping without me picking at him so much. And maybe jumping things from a trot (maybe even a walk!) since I dread it so much.
                            In that situation, I would focus on setting up a simple line, maybe 5 strides long with a cross rail to a low vertical. Add a placing rail in front and then just practice trotting in to jump 1 and cantering out over 2. Do it a few times and call it a day.

                            My hunter trainer did this for his green horses and green riders and it helps both bc 1) you're not finding a distance to jump one. Just sitting quietly, supporting with your leg and grabbing mane so you don't hit your young horse in the mouth. This also helps teach you not to jump ahead. 2) you can practice working on your eye as you approach the second jump. You know how many strides you're doing (whatever you set plus one stride), you can relax and practice seeing if you're getting there a little early or a little late.

                            Bc the striding is easy for the horse in the line, he leaves the ground on jump 2 confidently and feels like it's easy. Bc you know better where you are, you build confidence. And the trotting in helps him learn to sit a little more to the jump. Cross rails are also nice for straightness and getting the shoulders up.

                            Even though I do the jumpers now, I do this exercise with my young jumper and even my more seasoned horse when I want to practice on me in a way that helps me slow down and focus.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by greysfordays View Post

                              In that situation, I would focus on setting up a simple line, maybe 5 strides long with a cross rail to a low vertical. Add a placing rail in front and then just practice trotting in to jump 1 and cantering out over 2. Do it a few times and call it a day.

                              My hunter trainer did this for his green horses and green riders and it helps both bc 1) you're not finding a distance to jump one. Just sitting quietly, supporting with your leg and grabbing mane so you don't hit your young horse in the mouth. This also helps teach you not to jump ahead. 2) you can practice working on your eye as you approach the second jump. You know how many strides you're doing (whatever you set plus one stride), you can relax and practice seeing if you're getting there a little early or a little late.

                              Bc the striding is easy for the horse in the line, he leaves the ground on jump 2 confidently and feels like it's easy. Bc you know better where you are, you build confidence. And the trotting in helps him learn to sit a little more to the jump. Cross rails are also nice for straightness and getting the shoulders up.

                              Even though I do the jumpers now, I do this exercise with my young jumper and even my more seasoned horse when I want to practice on me in a way that helps me slow down and focus.
                              Oh this is good! One issue I have had with him and crossrails is that he seems to just not feel like he has to put any effort into them. He will kiiiiind of actually try if it's 18 inches at the center, but it's a pretty uninspired effort and he will likely just trot it next time around, even if I get him more forward and in front of my leg. Do you think it would it be good to make a larger crossrail to make him actually use himself more? My other horses have not been quite so...nonchalant about it, this is a relatively new problem for me!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by RainWeasley View Post

                                Oh this is good! One issue I have had with him and crossrails is that he seems to just not feel like he has to put any effort into them. He will kiiiiind of actually try if it's 18 inches at the center, but it's a pretty uninspired effort and he will likely just trot it next time around, even if I get him more forward and in front of my leg. Do you think it would it be good to make a larger crossrail to make him actually use himself more? My other horses have not been quite so...nonchalant about it, this is a relatively new problem for me!
                                If he doesn't care I'd definitely raise it up. also make the vertical big enough he notices it is there. Not giant, but enough.

                                maybe instead of raising it add some flower boxes or something?

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by fordtraktor View Post

                                  If he doesn't care I'd definitely raise it up. also make the vertical big enough he notices it is there. Not giant, but enough.

                                  maybe instead of raising it add some flower boxes or something?
                                  I really like the flower boxes idea if he's pretty nonchalant in general. But raising your cross rail a bit should help too. I forget how big he is? I think you're being plenty safe staying around 18" for both of you.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    So last year I would be all in this discussion. Last year my imported 4 yr old did a bunch of smaller things, after having jumped much bigger in the UK, before I shelved him for 3 months for the winter.

                                    However this year my poor little (not! ) Chad has been sidelined by the worst hives that I have EVER seen in my life, then a punctured sole, then way more hives, then fungus and losing almost all his forehead hair. And finally when he's ready to work again, I'm benched!

                                    All of this is just to point out that it's really fun to play with and educate our 4 yr olds but remember to enjoy the time you are able to ride. It really can go away for a myriad of reasons.

                                    On the plus side surely his back bones are closing without my weight on him. So we'll be able to kick on a bit in 2020.

                                    Emily
                                    "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Xctrygirl View Post
                                      So last year I would be all in this discussion. Last year my imported 4 yr old did a bunch of smaller things, after having jumped much bigger in the UK, before I shelved him for 3 months for the winter.

                                      However this year my poor little (not! ) Chad has been sidelined by the worst hives that I have EVER seen in my life, then a punctured sole, then way more hives, then fungus and losing almost all his forehead hair. And finally when he's ready to work again, I'm benched!

                                      All of this is just to point out that it's really fun to play with and educate our 4 yr olds but remember to enjoy the time you are able to ride. It really can go away for a myriad of reasons.

                                      On the plus side surely his back bones are closing without my weight on him. So we'll be able to kick on a bit in 2020.

                                      Emily
                                      That was my last year, exactly a year ago actually. Horrid case of cellulitis that would not go away. Of course, he was 3 then, so it wasn't really like it put a dent in our training but it's still frustrating. Right down to being benched as soon as they are better, he was cleared and I started having crazy panic attacks driving and it took me months to be able to get to the barn with any regularity. So now I am incredibly grateful for any time I get to actually work with him.

                                      On another note, you said 2020 and I was like, omg that's so far away....then realized that it really isn't. Where has the year gone??


                                      And flower boxes, yes! I want to build some little rolltops and walls and other jump fillers for my barn too, if I can figure out how to do it.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Yes sadly I would say that my ability to do much in 2019 is doubtful at best, unless the shoulder improves enough in the next 10 days to make a run at a show in the last week of 2019. Even still I would likely be looking at winter stuff in Jan- Mar next.

                                        Em
                                        "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries

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