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Starting the horse over fences

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  • Starting the horse over fences

    What kind of program do you use when you introduce a horse to their first jumps?

    Do you free jump them a few times before you ride them over fences? How big is the first fence? Do you jump crossrails or verticals first? When do you use a gymnastic, canter to a fence, jump filler, jump an oxer?

    Do you wait until they are very solid on the flat or do you start them provided they can carry a rider in a sort of straight line?
    http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

  • #2
    The saying KISS is what i go by start with trot poles on the ground!!!! work your way up to x rails and then you can work your way up!!!! Do what the horse tells you to do just take it easy and don't fry the horses brain!!!!!!
    Author of COTH article "The Other Side of Aaron Vale"

    Comment


    • #3
      I hate freejumping, and have never started a horse that way, nor seen one I thought it had helped rather than hurt. I add rails almost immediately and little jumps as soon as they steer well enough at the trot to aim between two standards. Basically I use little jumps as way to improve their flatwork, as it gets their attention and helps steering and focus. Crossrails and boxes/walls first, then add poles over the boxes. Everything starts at about 2'-2'3", and then goes up as soon as they're confident jumping everything in the ring. Gymnastics when they a) go consistently in a straight line and b) consistently land at a canter. I don't canter any single fences until they are doing an entire course trotting in and cantering out of lines, which doesn't happen until they've done a lot of trotting the entire course at a decent height, and are confident through a gymnastic.

      Comment


      • #4
        I differ, as I like free jumps for youngsters Not big, maybe 2" at MOST. I set a chute first with poles, then add the small jump at the end. I like to feel that they can jump on their own, and understand how to jump before having to carry a person over. That said, my free jumps max at 2" for the young horses. Ive started several this way (5 or 6) and have to disagree with cboylen, that I personally believed it helped, and certainly didnt hurt. One is now a successful level 7 jumper, who as a young horse really enjoyed those free jumps. Some of them NEED to learn to free jump for their inspections as well (especially the colts).

        However, saying that....if you cant set it up properly for the horse DONT DO IT. You need to do it right if you are going to attempt free jumps.

        With rider, I introduce the concept almost rightaway. They walk/trot over poles bewteen standards.

        Even as a young 3 year old, I trot them over "raised" trot poles between jump standards. The idea isnt to get them to actally jump it,but to go forward over it. No swaying, no hesitating and keeping a good pace before/after.

        I use the free jumps to evaluate their form as a young horse, and to give them the opportunity to actually JUMP without carrying a person at the beginning.

        Each to their own, no right or wrong way and sometimes it just simply depends on the facility, handler and horse.

        Comment


        • #5
          The trainer that I ride with now starts them "on the rope" (She worked with Gene Lewis). Generally they know how to jump before we get on them and they've jumped everything in the ring. Once we get on the babies jumping is the thing that they really understand, so it's almost a reward to them. Most of them hop over little jumps within the first couple of weeks of being backed.

          Prior to this trainer I took the more traditional route of teaching walk, trot and canter before trotting poles, then three trot poles to a cross rail, building a gymnastics after that (18ft to a verticle, which later becomes an oxer... this might happen in the first jumping lesson, or it might take several depending on the horse... later the gymnastics becomes x, 18 ft to a verticle, 21 ft to an oxer (built up one peice at a time as the horse becomes confident). Then starting with a 60 ft line. Trot in canter out in 5 strides. At this point adding boxes and panels and such. Then cantering single fences, then trot in canter out of the lines, cantering around the corners to a single fence.

          Comment


          • #6
            Free jumping is mostly a tool for evaluating young prospects not really used much as a training method for teaching jumps (it may not hurt but is certainly not necessary).

            Personally, once my horses are going w-t-c fairly solidly I start trotting over a few cross rails or small verticals to get them used to going over objects. Sometimes I'll introduce cross rails before cantering as an aid to step them into the canter. However, once they kind of get the general idea (maybe two or three sessions) I go back to flat work for several months. I don't really start jumping them until they are very proficient in their flat work. I expect them to be able to lengthen and shorten their stride while keeping balanced, be able to maintain a good rhythm on soft, steady contact, and hopefully have their lead changes sorted out. Once their flat work is well established I rarely jump them lower than 2'6". In fact, once many of them are really going well on the flat, they can start right into 2'9" and 3' courses.

            I really dislike over schooling little fences. If you have a horse that is destined to be a 3'6" hunter then don't drill him on 2' jumps. IMO, that is a good way to create a dull horse with potentially sloppy form. Likewise, if you have a horse with the scope and potential to be a 4'6" jumper, you shouldn't be doing a ton of schooling over little 2'6" jumps. Now with that being said, there is nothing wrong with lowering the jumps when first introducing your horse to a new element (like boxes, brush, etc) but once the horse is confident over that element it goes right back up to a decent height.

            That is one thing I have learned from European jumper riders- little jumps do not train a horse to jump well, solid flat work does.

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            • #7
              I was so interested to hear the thoughts on free jumping. I hate it. Every time I see it done, they are hurrying the horse over the jumps. Cluck, cluck, whip, whip, whatever. I do not think that promotes rideability to the jumps. I start mine with poles and crossrails. I do not care how they jump them, just that they quietly get to the other side. But then, I am training them for me, an aging amateur!
              Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ToTheNines View Post
                I was so interested to hear the thoughts on free jumping. I hate it. Every time I see it done, they are hurrying the horse over the jumps. Cluck, cluck, whip, whip, whatever. I do not think that promotes rideability to the jumps. I start mine with poles and crossrails. I do not care how they jump them, just that they quietly get to the other side. But then, I am training them for me, an aging amateur!
                Sounds like you have witnessed BAD free jumping.

                I agree, free jumping doesnt teach a horse how to jump with a rider. it gives the rider an idea on HOW the horse jumps, and lets the horse figure out that he CAN navigate himself over a fence on his own. It absolutley does not teach ridability to a fence, does not teach form, does not teach straightness. What it does do, is give the prospective owner, current owner, rider etc. a way to see how the horse jumps naturally. A properly trained horse over free jumps should not involve rushing a horse with whips. Ideally they should trot into a line, or have a relaxed canter.

                Is it a necessary training tool? Absolutley not. I personally like it, as I find my horses when they start over fences with riders, know what to expect. I can trot them up to a 2" fence and they will jump it, not trot over it. Absolutly not needed,but a personal choice. I dont use whips or have them gallop fences.

                Depending on which side of the business you are on, its nice to see a young horse free jumping when buying. If I was looking to spend a good chunk of money on a 3 year old hunter prspect, I would like to see it over fences. I wouldnt expect it to be ridden over fences, but would like to see it free jumped. Not every one would want this...just my preference

                If you want to see some good free jumping, go to one of the reputable stallion inspections. My friend picked up a 5 year old stallion there, he had a stellar jump at 3'6 but didnt go higher. She got him for a great price, gelded him and is now a spectacular hunter at age 6. He already "knew" how to jump, and he had excellent ground work. They showed in the pre-greens his first year under saddle. He will be doing the first years this summer (he will be 7).

                Comment


                • #9
                  I just trotted my gelding, who is 60 days under saddle, over his first little cross rails today. I waited until he was steering well and confident over trot poles, up to 4 or 5 in a row. Today I put some "guide" poles on either sides of the X and a trot pole to set him up on the way in. He trotted right over it, no problem. It was very low, so he just trotted over it, but the third time I gave a bigger squeeze and he jumped it like a real horse. He was extremely cute about it.

                  He has been crossing obstacles such as small logs, a ditch, some barrels and a wood bridge that I have in my field since the first week I got him (in hand). By the time he was broke he had been over quite a few "scary" looking things. I've gone this route with several horses that I've broken in and it seems to work out pretty well for them.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Mine go over poles almost as soon as they are under tack, but that's more to teach them that anything I ask them to head to and over is not debatable and not going to hurt them.

                    Mostly I just like to ride them to a jump and get to the other side, focusing on straight lines and holding the same rhythm before and after the jump. I think placement poles can complicate the issue so unless there is a glaring need I don't like to complicate things if they don't need complicating.

                    And add me to the not a fan of free jumping. It's fine for people who need to see what a horse looks like free jumping before buying (which still isn't an indicator of what the horse will do with a rider, but if he is crappy at free jumping the odds are extremely slim he will improve under tack, so there is that), but it doesn't affect the process of training a horse to jump enough for me to waste my time, so why bother?

                    The only caveat I have to that is now that I am getting older (read: wimpier than in my younger days) I don't always want to point my horse at the next new/big jump. I admit the temptation to let ME see that he can do it via the free jump is considerable. But again, if I did it, it wouldn't be for the horse's benefit.
                    Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Pretty much what DMK said, except that since I no longer ride, this time w/ my baby greenie I had him walking over poles, then x-rails, then teeny-tiny spread jumps then trotting and finally cantering over same on the longe line before he ever went off to even be started under saddle. You don't want to stress a baby's joints too early, so this was limited to maybe 5-10 minutes a couple times a week. Also started out occasionally *leading* him over stuff he was unsure about, e.g. Scary Ditch, Scary Water, or Baby's First 6"-High Flower Box. Once he led over quietly and calmly, then he had to "go by himself", first at a walk then a trot then a canter. Since a lot of baby ASBs are notoriously unable to figure out how to canter, we actually used a ground rail to start teaching him that, too! We'll use it again when it comes time for auto-changes - under saddle of course.

                      IMO free-jumping is more of a WB registry thing, and not really useful as part of the training process.
                      "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by hntrjmprpro45 View Post
                        Free jumping is mostly a tool for evaluating young prospects not really used much as a training method for teaching jumps (it may not hurt but is certainly not necessary).
                        What I do NOT know about teaching a horse to jump would fill a book, but I thought I would add that it's proven that free jumping does nothing to "teach" a horse to jump.

                        One of the major registries in Germany (either Hanoverian or Holsteiner -- forgot which one), actually did a study on this, where they free-jumped some young horses (starting as young as long weanlings) on a weekly basis, while not exposing the other group of youngsters to any sort of free jumping at all.

                        At age 3yrs. when they were put u/s, the 'free-jumping' group did not jump any better or learn any faster than the non-free-jumping group.

                        Just an tidbit of info.

                        Carry on....

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Glad this topic came up as I am starting 3 youngsters over fences. I introduce them to rails on the ground from the very beginning of the breaking process as well as flowers and tiny boxes so things aren't quite so surprising. Once we have decent w/t steering and some decent canter work I start over cross rails then add flowers, and boxes. Then we grow.
                          I was debating with myself the correct time to introduce gymnastics. Should one START with that as an introduction, or start with singles and simple lines, THEN go to gymnastics.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I start with poles and then X rails.
                            It's important that the horse is confident, before I increase the height.
                            I also like small grids, it allows the horse to figure out striding and where to put his feet.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by copper1 View Post
                              Glad this topic came up as I am starting 3 youngsters over fences. I introduce them to rails on the ground from the very beginning of the breaking process as well as flowers and tiny boxes so things aren't quite so surprising. Once we have decent w/t steering and some decent canter work I start over cross rails then add flowers, and boxes. Then we grow.
                              I was debating with myself the correct time to introduce gymnastics. Should one START with that as an introduction, or start with singles and simple lines, THEN go to gymnastics.
                              Start with singles and then add a pole after, maybe 2 or 3 strides away.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I use a similar program to CBoylen. I don't dislike free jumping, but I haven't ever started a horse that way since I don't have a great setup for it and would rather focus on under saddle work once they get to that age. I do, however, start cantering fences early on and interchange the trotting and cantering of jumps based on what I'm looking for from the horse.

                                I typically start them over 2'-2'3" jumps. I hate little crossrails beyond the first time or two jumping because I don't think they give a baby a very good idea of "jumping." I want the message to be much more clear in a youngster's mind, and 2'6" is nothing to a scopey horse....even if they've never jumped before. With that being said, the first time putting a course together for mine is usually with crossrails to keep it simple. Although for my OTTB who is now doing the 1.40m jumpers, his first time ever over a course was in a 2'6" jumper class at a little show.

                                My latest baby started jumping at 60 days under saddle. I decided to officially start him jumping in a clinic with Greg Best with the idea that I could get some good pointers from him. It was really an awesome experience. My plan was to get him jumping around and then toss him back out to pasture to grow up more, and it worked out better than I hoped.

                                I did jump him over little jumps once or twice before the clinic (mostly a single trot or canter jump at the end of the ride...2' or 2'3" vertical IIRC). But the program at the clinic was to put together full courses. Greg had some advice that I took to heart (I know there was more than this, but I can't recall offhand the other gems of wisdom):

                                1. Starting a youngster away from home is the easiest possible way to get them jumping over new things. The horse is so focused on all of the new distractions and environment that they often won't bat an eye at something they'll look closely at at home. This was sure true for my guy! He jumped boxes, brush boxes, flowers, planks, and poles without ever hesitating at all (he was a little more concerned with flowers at home).

                                2. Always build your courses backwards. So start with the last fence/line on course and then add the fence before it and do that until you've got the whole course. This allows the youngster to always end on a positive and confident note.

                                Here's my guy's first time over....well....pretty much anything and everything on the first day of the clinic:
                                First course: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q851DtF9en4
                                2nd course: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUyojmjxX9k
                                I wish I'd been able to get video of the second day, but we did get some pictures: http://pets.webshots.com/photo/23040...94686761KuJcJl (more in the album).

                                When we warmed up we did it over the grey/yellow vertical you can see in the videos, which got up to maybe 2'6". As for jumps, my personal opinion is "the more solid the better" and also the more obvious to the horse. Brush, filler, boxes, and gates are great.

                                In regards to gymnastics, I don't use them until the horse is more solid with flatwork. That means that I might start an OTTB (who knows how to carry a canter) over little gymnastics, but never a baby. I wait until they can land from a jump in a nice canter and carry it on before I throw gymnastics at them. Note, I don't count a canter pole before a fence as a "gymnastic" and will sometimes use a pole 9' out from the jump early on.
                                __________________________________
                                Flying F Sport Horses
                                Horses in the NW

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                                • #17
                                  We free jump our youngsters as yearlings, two year olds and three year olds. By the time they are solid in their flat work undersaddle, they are trotted through some trot poles to get the feeling of the rider posting on their back while they exaggerate the movement to get over the poles (as most young horses will do at first).

                                  Then they are trotted through the same grid started with poles on the ground, then gradually built up. The first element is a trot pole, to an x, to a placement pole, to a vertical, to another placement pole to an oxer.

                                  Once comfortable and confident through the grid, I begin incorporating single fences into their flatwork routine or one after the grid and start to build from there until they are doing full courses quietly and confidently.
                                  Last edited by RyuEquestrian; Mar. 19, 2011, 03:37 PM.
                                  Ryu Equestrian & Facebook Page
                                  Breeding Horses Today, for the Equestrian Sport of Tomorrow.
                                  Osteen & Gainesville, Florida.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by PNWjumper View Post

                                    Here's my guy's first time over....well....pretty much anything and everything on the first day of the clinic:
                                    First course: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q851DtF9en4
                                    PNWjumper..he is so cute I could eat him!! He looks like he had a pretty balanced canter to begin with, yes? I've had a couple that were like that right from the get-go & a couple that could barely put one foot in front of the other

                                    I'm with Squishthebunny; I like to free jump mine a bit first (like maybe twice over a little crossrail/vertical) so they understand the concept of going over something & get the feel of what it feels like to jump.
                                    \"Don\'t go throwing effort after foolishness\" >>>Spur, Man From Snowy River

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Czar View Post
                                      PNWjumper..he is so cute I could eat him!! He looks like he had a pretty balanced canter to begin with, yes? I've had a couple that were like that right from the get-go & a couple that could barely put one foot in front of the other
                                      Thank you Czar! He is extremely balanced and has been from the beginning. It's definitely much easier to start a balanced horse than an uncoordinated one (which seem to constitute the majority of the ones I've started through the years). Though my guy has had his moments....he went to his knees once or twice tripping over his own toes. I love my mares because they seem to be so much more aware of where their own bodies are
                                      __________________________________
                                      Flying F Sport Horses
                                      Horses in the NW

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I start mine very similar to CBoylen and PNWjumper except that sometimes I spend more time at lower heights than others. Most of mine have moved up pretty quickly, but my OTTB has taken forever to be consistent at 2' so he hasn't moved up. He had a nasty quick off the ground, then land/buck/crowhop/spin/rush thing to resolve, and some training gaps (pregnant, had a baby, horse was in another state, winter with no indoor so couldn't jump) that meant I've been doing 2' off and on for ugh, 2 years. Ready to move up and confidently, quietly loping down the lines like a hunter now, though.

                                        Worth taking the time sometimes. If I'd gone fast with this one I think I'd have blown his mind, he's easy to frazzle. Now he looks like he might be able to go in the hunter ring and march around in decent style but at first -- eh, I had my doubts most days!

                                        He's also a horse that will not be more than a 3' hunter or 3'6 jumper. No reason to really move him up that quick, it's not like there's anywhere much to go.

                                        He's by far the slowest I've ever gone with a horse, though. I'm getting old.

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