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spinoff - how to let a horse find his own distances?

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  • spinoff - how to let a horse find his own distances?

    So that I don't hijack the previous thread about help on finding distances..

    How exactly do you let a horse figure out distances for himself? I understand pace and straightness but it is hard to understand how to let him see the jump. Are we saying not to adjust in front of the fence and let him chip or take a flyer? It's hard not to help out if you see a longer or shorter spot coming. Clarification?
    "Lord if we should fall, my horse and I, please pick my horse up first."


  • #2
    I'm interested in input here as well...I've tried allowing my seasoned jumper to pick his own distance (just to poles and a few small jumps...I don't want to die!) and he seems utterly incompetent. I don't just sit there either; as the OP noted, pace, rhythm, and straightness are of utmost importance. My horse just either completely missed the point or had no sense of self preservation, because he either stumbled over the pole/fences or chipped horribly (and he's a very careful horse capable of 1.30m). Either that, or he's a bit too dependent on me


    • #3
      Well for what it's worth, my new horse, the trainer said he wishes he had 10 more horses in the barn like my horse. He scopes out the distance and is very smart about it and you cannot teach that.
      Live in the sunshine.
      Swim in the sea.
      Drink the wild air.


      • #4
        I know that with my old AA horse, if I tried to pick the spot or distance by adjusting - it would annoy him. Sometimes he would just ignore me flopping about like a chicken to find the magic ( this was 20 yrs ago....). Finally, I learned to just leave him alone and he would find it so much better than I! My AA horse after that needed me every step of the way. He was just not as confident and like a firm contact etc. But he clocked around w/ just that minimal contact.I think sometimes it depends on the horse?
        Come to the dark side, we have cookies


        • #5
          I think that if you let them find their own distances when training them, they will learn to trust themselves and will probably make better choices than the rider, in many cases.
          Looking for horse activity in the Twin Tiers? Follow my blog at http://thetwintiershorse.blogspot.com/


          • #6
            This is probably heresy but in my opinion horses are just like people -- some have a better eye than others. If you are lucky enough to have one with a good eye, enjoy him. Otherwise, establish a good rhythm, keep a good pace, and ride a good line so he has a baseline to learn from.

            And then help him if you see something he doesn't, like the fact that he's going to eat whatever you are cantering up to.

            Free jumping can help them learn how to pick their own distances.

            The best thing is to not help them out when they are babies. If the horse is reasonably confident and you are not worried he's going to lose that, just canter down on a nice pace and rhythm, and to he&$ with the distance over little tiny jumps that can't hurt them. I try not to micromanage babies so they can help me out when the jumps get bigger. You aren't doing them any favors by coddling them at that age.


            • #7
              Gymnastics...lots and lots of gymnastics...and lots and lots of repitition of the gymnastics. Get Jimmy Wofford's book on Gymnastics...it's a great place to start and he's a great proponent of teaching horses to think for themselves. Start simple, make them more complicated as the horse progresses in their training...and give them time. It's fun to watch the young ones learn by trial and error through the grids...and see how much they learn to adjust themselves when they are allowed to figure it out on their own. Once they learn to find their own distances in a grid, then you can progress to single fences and courses...and it takes time for them to figure it out

              I agree somewhat with fordtraktor that some horses are definitely better at this than others...but I believe that most of them can learn to find their own distances to some degree. It's fun to watch...and to ride...ones that are really very good at finding their distances. One of my guys right now is fabulously accurate...to the point where he'll let you know that the line you thought you set at 60' is really 58.5'
              ~Drafties Clique~Sprite's Mom~ASB-loving eventer~
              www.gianthorse.photoreflect.com ~ http://photobucket.com/albums/v692/tarheelmd07/


              • #8
                My last trainer free jumped the younsters first. I think this helped some and then undersaddle over the small stuff, he supported to the jump but didn't place them at the correct distance. I am sure some horses learn better than others. My horse started this way and he would hunt the jumps and we rarely had a bad distance. He was also very well bred for jumping.
                My trainer now rides the babies the same as the above trainer to little jumps in the beginning. Obviously you don't want to scare a younsters. So if they get at all frazzled you need to help them more.


                • #9
                  Grids, grids, and more grids (aka gymnastics).

                  The point is lots of exercises the PUT the horse at the right distance, without a lot of input from the rider. Then they develop the "muscle memory" for what "feels right".

                  Then placing poles (approx 9' in front of the jump). Unless the horse completely ignores the pole (and I have had a couple like that) the placing pole puts them in approximately the right distance. Again, developing the horse's "muscle memory", and thus the horse's "eye".

                  chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


                  • #10
                    I agree with what the other posters have said, I know my AA has a great eye, he finds the distance consistantly,

                    How do I know that? Well when my BNT said more than once wow you have a great eye, I just patted his shoulder and said Thank You! Cause it ain't me baby! Its all him!


                    • #11
                      I feel that, for most green horses, finding their own distance is not an option. You run the risk of the horse having a bad expereince, crashing thru a fence due to a bad distance and then really having issues. What I think is that a green horse learns thru repetition, i.e. they develop "muscle memory" if put in a situation where the distance is EASY to get to. This involves the use of placing poles. I ALWAYS start youngsters ( or retrained horses) with cavelletti, ususally 4 - 6 trot poles spaced out. I teach them to trot thru calmly and usually include a small "flower box" in the exercise to help them learn that it is not JUST poles, see this video:


                      Then I progress to using trot poles and a small fence, usually start with cross rail, and progresss to a "Crossrail oxer"


                      then progress to a "line" of fences at related distances with takeoff/landing poles and also do small "courses" initially at trot:


                      By doing these exercises enough times and progressing thru them over a period of a few weeks, making sure to incorporate small fences that are more that just poles so they are used to boxes, flowersm bright colors etc. they begin to get to a point where they can negotiate fences better on their own. You need to keep jumping a POSITIVE exxpereience for the young horse, yes they will make mistakes but they need to have help to learn.


                      • #12
                        what's wrong with the rider in the vidoes? Does she suffer from some sort of birth defect that keeps her from bending her elbows?


                        • #13
                          How rude, KC. I would send a green horse to Shawnee to learn how to jump any day if I couldn't do it myself. They all look willing, happy and confident, and she has very soft hands.


                          • #14
                            bar.ka here

                            bar.ka kno horses who r smart and bold want 2 go to fence. they take jockey to the jump. lazy horses have to b kick.ed 2 the jump. lazy horses much harder 2 ride 2 good distance.

                            bar.ka say work on impulsion and str.aightness then u find jump.ing the easy part.

                            here at "SOLID BASIS IN FLATWORK FARMS" we tea.ch even the laziest horses impul.sion.

                            u got 2 st.art with go.o.d horse.

                            c u in the ring.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by fordtraktor View Post
                              How rude, KC. I would send a green horse to Shawnee to learn how to jump any day if I couldn't do it myself. They all look willing, happy and confident, and she has very soft hands.
                              THanks FT, but I cannot claim to be the rider in these particular videos, this is my "assistant", these are videos with me riding


                              I very rarely get to be videoed (probably a good thing! ) usually I am the one doing the videoing and noone is around when I am riding! I only WISH I were as young, thin and talented at my assistant is!

                              You know, we all have our riding faults, and the videos were posted in an attempt to show the progressions of training a young, green horse the art of jumping, not as an example of "perfect riding"


                              • #16
                                How incredibly rude KC. And on top of that, I find the rider to be soft and tactful. Would put her on one of mine any day. Especially rude, given that Shawnee Acres has given lots of wonderful advice, and I don't recall her ever being anything but gracious.
                                Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.


                                • #17
                                  It's been my experience that "finding a distance" happens way before you ever look at a fence. Horses that naturally go in a balanced and rhythmic way, with the proper amount of impulsion, and who have been taught to take off at the right spot will *seem* to find their distances for their riders. In actuality, it's the balance, rhythm, impulsion and track that has done most of the work.

                                  In teaching greenies, grids/gymnastics teach them to gauge how much they're going to need to get over the fence from any given spot. Ground lines and ground poles act as training wheels to teach the horse the proper take-off spot. It's sort of like learning to stop the car behind the crosswalk instead of in it. You learn that if you're going to stop, you have to apply a certain amount brake to stop in time. Eventually stopping in front of the line becomes habit. Horses eventually learn through the proper placement of groundlines and grids how much room they need in front of the jump. If you don't use groundlines and grids, the horses will rely on the rider more to give them that information. Without groundlines/grids, they should eventually learn where to take off, but it may take longer and they may get resentful at the rider for constantly tugging on them.

                                  Any time a young horse, or even a schoolmaster with a green rider, makes a big effort in spite of how it came to be that they needed to make such an effort, I make a big deal (good boys, pats) out of the horse to let them know that their hard work was appreciated. It gives them confidence to tackle the next difficult situation and instills in them a desire to try harder for the rider. It may have physically been unpleasant for the horse, but if they're appreciated for their try, they're more likely to do it next time.


                                  • #18
                                    Back to the topic at hand...

                                    Bar.ka nailed it. Seriously.

                                    You cannot fix anything in front of the fence, you have to do that well back-like in the corner before you straighten out on the approach. Or, actually, the minute you pick up your canter and head to that first fence. You stay focused on keeping the horse on the aids and focused on you as you stick to your plan.

                                    I am in the camp that believes the horse "finds" it's own distance only when properly and consistently on the aids throughout the entire course. Only minor adjustments will be successful, anything more will disrupt and make things harder. Plus make more obvious the fact the horse was improperly balanced and/or stride regulated to the point that big adjustment had to be made.

                                    I say this having just watched my DVR of 3 hours of Eventing Show Jumping while listening to Jimmy Wofford point out where riders lost focus and made mistakes-they lost focus and dropped the aids, rein or leg, and the horse "missed"-because the rider did not see they were not regulating the stride properly to get to the right place and follow thru off the ground until it was too late. A few did but the horse did not care to listen and stay focused. JW must have said "that's where the Dressage comes in" 50 times or so.

                                    If the basic aids are there, the flatwork is there? The distance will always be there.
                                    That said, you got an old horse that has done courses for 10+ years and they will "find" the spot despite the rider. But that's from repetition under good riders that kept them focused.

                                    Oh, not saying to not do the gymnastics, that's been covered. Just try to do them RIGHT or it won't work and could get them backed off and even scare them.
                                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                                    • #19
                                      I don't think every horse can find its own distances. Some are trained to be responsive to you and wait for you to make the call, where as others are trained that this is their job and they are to do it no matter what you're doing up there.

                                      My one pony could find his own distance backwards and blindfolded. He gets mad at me if I try to pick the distance because he knows what he's doing and doesn't want me messing it up lol. The key to him is just having enough pace, because he's pretty lazy. Once I have enough pace, I just loop the reins, get off his back, and steer from time to time. You will never miss on him if you let him pick the distances. When you watch him go around, you can tell he sees his distance early and moves up or backs off accordingly. And if you ASK for lead changes, he gets irritated. Basically, he just wants you to stay up there with your foot on the gas pedal and let him do the rest. And over the years, I've learned that it always goes better his way. I honestly don't even look for distances when I'm on him anymore. If I do, whether I mean to or not I'll change the ride and we won't get there quite right. If I just sit there and let him worry about it, he'll fix whatever needs fixing on his own.

                                      It's a really hard thing for some people to learn to do though. When I first got him, I struggled with learning to do less and not interfere with him and I've seen riders who have leased him from me have the same problem. Most of the time we're taught to be effective riders, so when you're on a horse who doesn't need you much at all to do its job well, it can be hard to just let the horse be and trust that they don't need you to do all the finessing you would normally do.

                                      Then there's letting your horse find their own distance when they're NOT perfect at doing it. I have another pony who every now and then decides he knows best and can find the jumps without me, and he'll try to take hold of the bit on the way to the jump and do his own thing. And sometimes I have to just say 'fine, go ahead' and let him get there horribly wrong so he'll realize maybe he should be listening to me, and then he'll be fine afterwards.

                                      I don't know if you can teach a horse to find its own distances per se. I think either they do it naturally, after years of showing they figure it out on their own, or they'll always just wait for you. I'm sure my one horse could find his own distances, but he won't. I can feel him waiting for me to tell him what I want him to do. He's just not the 'go ahead and do it alone' type horse. Then there's my pony who's the 'leave me alone, I got this' type pony. So I think to an extent, it's in their nature or it's not.


                                      • #20
                                        Some riders also do not understand why they missed and blame not finding the distance...the term "finding a distance" is not exactly universally embraced. Some of the very top folks will tell you there is no such thing anyway.

                                        I see and hear waaaay too many blame that when the horse just flat cannot do the job-it's not the distance, it's the fact it's not built or trained up properly for the job at hand. Or it's lame or hurting someplace.

                                        IMO we get too wrapped up in distance and neglect what creates it. We see it as "distance" when it is simply proper management of pace and balance.
                                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.