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Help a wayward dressage rider!

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  • Help a wayward dressage rider!

    Hey H/J folks!

    I'm wandering into strange and untested waters here from my normal 20x60m world. I have a young horse (pony, really) who has a lot of talent for dressage but not maybe the patience for it yet. She does, however, love to jump.

    So here's my quandary: I'm a dressage rider through and through. I've played with cavaletti on my way to improving suspension and impulsion, not as steps towards jumping. There's also not a whole lot of instruction in my area, and before I toss a lot of money around I'd like to get some at-home basics nailed down. What are good exercises to improve my balance/eye and not overface my pony? Is there a quick 15-sins-of-jumping guideline? Any tips and/or tricks for this duck-out-of-water?

  • #2
    Start small
    Heels down, eyes up
    Release (don't grab you pony in the mouth over the fence)
    A jump is really just a big canter stride
    I'll let the more experienced riders chime in with more, but that can get you started. And, as a fellow pony rider, I try to remember that to a 14 hand pony, 2' is much bigger than it is to a 17 hand warmblood.
    Good luck & have fun!


    • #3
      welcome! H/J is fun!
      Does your pony already knows how to jump, and you just want to do it with her? or would you be learning together? The basics for either scenario will be similar, but you'll need to progress much more slowly in the latter case, and you may want to more frequently invest in professional help...
      Anyway, you'll need to learn to work on an H/J position as a rider. Put those stirrups up, and close that hip angle! As a lifetime H/J rider who dabbled in dressage for a few years while living in Germany, I truly understand how the mechanics are different as far as rider position goes. I would do a lot of flat work in two point and w/ no stirrups (posting and half seat) to become strong and comfortable *off* your horse's back. Make sure you and your pony can maintain speed/balance/rhythm when you loop the reins for a crest release (one of the hardest things for my dressage horses-turned hunters...). Once you can do all that on the flat, put together some "courses" of poles and practice the skills/timing/feel over the poles. Then start putting the jumps up. Also, simple gymnastics (say 3 trot poles to a bounce to a one-stride) will help you learn the feel of closing your hip angle and letting your horse jump up to you....

      A lot of jumping successfully is getting the right pace and finding the right distances to the jumps. There are already a ton of threads on COTH w/ exercises for both.
      Likely the biggest obstacle for you will be fighting the feeling that you're leaning forward all the time. But if you're too upright in your position, over the fences you'll get left behind and hit your horse in the mouth and bump her in the back. Two of the cardinal sins of jumping. Just remember, mane is your friend--don't be afraid to grab it.

      Happy jumping!
      A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's wine...wine does that...



      • Original Poster

        You guys are awesome.

        A few (ha! try a lot) clarifications and/or explanations:
        -We'll both be learning together. She's just turned 5 and (sadly for her) has me as a rider. I'm pretty confident in the dressage side of life but jumping is a whole new ballgame for me (ex-barrel racer, now GP dressage).

        -My 17.3hh monster does not jump. At. All. He does all the p's... piaffe, passage, pirouette, and prancing. Emphasis on the prancing. So this jumping is a whole new ballgame.

        -This whole shorten-your-stirrups thing is hard for me! I have a lot of respect for you guys who do it on a daily basis. I pulled my "normal" stirrups up 4 holes and my calves are killing me today.

        -I am not too proud to throw the reins away (more or less) and grab mane. I'm fully aware that my jumping position and balance aren't great, so I more or less leave her to her own devices as far as her head and neck go and I hang on. She's not amused.

        -Pony has auto changes? Learned that yesterday. Also the autochanges turned into a 20m circle of bucking like a porpoise. If nothing else, I'm sure we're entertaining to watch.

        -Pony is a lot happier on a "hunter rein" than basic training/first level contact. Drapes her neck well, still sits quite a bit in the trot and canter (and is quite rate-able), but likes me to be entirely out of her face. Which is not boding well for our dressage career.

        -I'm not expecting to jump 5' tomorrow. Or even 2' tomorrow. Heck, that 12" crossrail I set up yesterday looked HUGE. Also it looks like it should have a letter next to it. Possibly a reader. And certainly a potted plant for decoration. This may be a tough transition, is what I'm trying to say.

        My pony is not the easiest of temperaments, and I really like her, so a resale is not on the horizon. My hope is that with some integrated jumping days I'll get a horse that likes work a little more and eventually will turn a corner to dressage (or, worst comes to worst, I get more tools in my repertoire).

        Anyway, I'll conclude this novel by saying thanks for the help! I may be dropping in here more often. Certainly will be seeking professional help if we graduate past trot/canter poles or tiny x-rails.


        • #5
          I don't have much to say. I came about it the other way, started through h/j then to eventing and then to dressage They are a fair bit if differences, however rhythm, relaxation, balance are important in both. Just you need to find it off your horse's back.

          Originally posted by cnm161 View Post
          Heck, that 12" crossrail I set up yesterday looked HUGE. Also it looks like it should have a letter next to it. Possibly a reader. And certainly a potted plant for decoration. This may be a tough transition, is what I'm trying to say.
          This however is hilarious! Loved the description and had me giggling.


          • #6
            It is hard to get used to a shorter stirrup, your knees can get really sore. But you don't have to go super short if you're doing small cross rails.

            Grabbing mane is perfect, or buckle an old stirrup leather around your pony's neck as a grab strap.

            My pony is much happier on a looser rein too. When I try to do a little bit of dressag-y stuff with a more constant contact she turns her head and gives me "the look"...like "WHY do you keep talking to me? If we're not doing something really important (like going fast or jumping) then leave me alone!"

            Maybe it's a pony thing.


            • #7
              With a green horse, make sure you get to the base.

              On the way in to a trot fence, you want to be slightly decreasing the length of your stride but keep the energy the same. This is in order to get all the way to the base of the jump, so the horse has to jump high and round around it rather than doing the "flat launch."

              It can help to put a ground pole 9 feet in front of the little jump and try to get "two posts" in, in between the rail and the base of the fence.

              Ridden correctly you should land cantering, balanced, soft and collected and polite in a very light contact. Think "land in ueberstreichen".

              Eventually when you add a second jump 3 or 4 strides away, you should be able to just land and carry on in "ueberstreichen" with the horse balanced and soft all the way to the next one.

              If you have a lot of "work" or "management" to do after a fence you need more practice at that question.

              These are the little details that make a crossrail more than just a crossrail, but they make all the difference in the rest of the work. Horses that run or get quick usually were allowed to get away with very minor deviations that can go too easily go unnoticed and uncorrected in the introductory phase but spiral into a much bigger issue when you start putting courses together.
              The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
              Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
              The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


              • #8
                Dear meup: can you please move to Indiana and be my trainer? Thanks!


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks meup and Hinderella (btw: I strongly suspect it is, in fact, a pony thing)!

                  I'll be sure to give that a try. She's greenish, but we do have adjustability in trot stride length so I can give that a go. In the past the canter after the jump has been great-- quiet and rolling along without any rushing or ducking. I have been letting her canter along more or less on a looseish rein in a straight line until the end of the arena and then we make the turn and come back to the trot.

                  Quick question-- if you had to quantify, about how many fences (and we're talking little bitty baby ones here, because I'm no pro at this) would you put in a ride? I've been popping over simple x-s about 5 times in my "jump schools" (which so far have happened 3 times), quitting when the approach seems less frenetic and nothing traumatic happens.

                  Also, Aven-- having lots of trouble with steering initially after getting off her back. Embarrassing! Dressage rider can't ride.


                  • #10
                    Dear cnm161:

                    Welcome! It sounds like you are off to a great start. Your sense of humor, perspective, and willingness to learn will serve you well.

                    I am so touched by your willingness to change your pony's job to something she might enjoy more, even though it puts you out of your comfort zone. It speaks volumes about your good and sensitive horsemanship.

                    And finally as to steering...point pony straight at the jump, release (grab mane) and keep very light contact...LEGS and balance take over majority of steering, mostly by keeping straight. Eventually you will adjust to that feeling of "OMG who is steering this thing!?". It's still you, just not your hands so much anymore

                    Best wishes!


                    • Original Poster

                      Well thank you TiaRosa! What a lovely post.

                      So the day after some cavaletti and x-bars she was great "on the flat". I guess this may morph into a "Anybody know a decent beginner jump trainer in the northern Pittsburgh area?" thread.

                      So once again, thanks everyone! It looks suspiciously like it's time for me to learn some new skills.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by cnm161 View Post
                        Heck, that 12" crossrail I set up yesterday looked HUGE. Also it looks like it should have a letter next to it. Possibly a reader. And certainly a potted plant for decoration. This may be a tough transition, is what I'm trying to say.

                        From one DQ-dabbling-in-jumping-a-young-horse to another, I feel for ya!

                        Now shorten those stirrups!


                        • Original Poster

                          Kadenz-- I feel a club coming on. The "I think my knees are in my throat" club. Or the "How did that tiny jump get so big" club. Or the "I finally get to buy brown bridles" club. Alternate suggestions are welcome.

                          Love your sig as well.


                          • #14
                            Linda Allen's 101 Jumping Exercises is the perfect DIY guide for learning to jump. Page-by page progressive work from ground rails to grids to courses, all well-defined with trouble-shooting tips.
                            Patience pays.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by cnm161 View Post
                              Kadenz-- I feel a club coming on. The "I think my knees are in my throat" club. Or the "How did that tiny jump get so big" club. Or the "I finally get to buy brown bridles" club. Alternate suggestions are welcome.

                              Love your sig as well.
                              Welcome to the land of brown tack!!!

                              It's great that your pony will maintain good balance, working from behind, on a "hunter rein." Despite what you may have heard, LOL, we really DO want our horses to carry themselves properly; we just generally do that with less contact on the reins and less (no zero) seat than you'd use in the dressage ring.

                              With a green horse, (any horse, really) the biggest key is to ride the correct canter and maintain a good rhythm all the way to and beyond the jump. You generally want a nice, active step - which allows the horse to make a good jump even if the distance is a little long or a little deep. Despite how it may feel as you stare down the approach to a jump - there is no ONE take off spot - there is a pretty big range of acceptable distances from which your pony can easily get from side A to side B. What you want to avoid is a lot of last minute adjustment (read: interference!) in the final strides - that takes the pony's focus off the jump and makes them anxious.

                              Teach your pony that you are just cantering around - the jumps don't change anything about that. Your pony will learn to make their own small adjustments (if any are needed) if you are disciplined about staying out of their way - your job is to establish the right canter, and manage the track. The jump is the pony's job.

                              Meanwhile, you support your pony by staying in good balance, eyes up, in your half seat, holding your shoulders open, keeping your elbows soft and your hands following, and supporting with your leg. You allow the pony to make the jump (never the rider!!) which you absorb in your hip angle, staying deep in your heel.

                              So, there, that's really all there is to it Go have fun!!
                              We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.