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Jumping narrow horses vs. wider horses: biomechanics of tall folks?

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  • Jumping narrow horses vs. wider horses: biomechanics of tall folks?

    Made a little discovery the other day. It seems apparent that I am, for some reason, unable to produce a normal jumping position on a horse that is too narrow for my long legs. I am 5'11 and long through the thigh and in the back.

    From this past February to August I rode a wider draft cross mare and everything was peaches in terms of my eq. over fences. No major issues. Towards the end of August I started riding an ArabxOldenburg mare that was about the same height but not as wide. Sometime last month I really started having issues with my two point that had not happened in months. They had been resolved and suddenly they came back. Specifically, my back was rounding over fences. Instead of bending at the hips I was bendning from my lower or mid back. I was not feeling this half the time. Everything felt secure and stable but my equitation was suddenly going downhill. I had a couple rides on a more experienced but even narrower horse to see if his more correct, back snapping jump would get be back where I need to be (the ArabxOld mare is green and jumps hollow). It didn't do much. Weird back rounding persisted.

    Got back on the wide draft mare yesterday and my eq. was suddenly fine again. Back flat, butt out the back, legs just fine. My trainer believes that it must have something to do with the horse being wide enough to accommodate my legs adequately enough to keep my secure and stable. I agree with this since I know it was definitely harder with get my legs glued to the thinner horses. But I'm just curious how that effects my back over a fence. Would riding with my legs tighter and closer together cause me to be unable to bend at the hips?

  • #2
    It's that it's harder to balance side to side than front to back for all of us. Also, your center of gravity is already high, being 5'11" and all. The narrow horse makes it all worse for you. You are rounding your back in order to keep your hips "feeling" on the horse, if not close to it's back.

    I'd guess that you need to keep your back nice and flat, gaining the security of being close to the horses back from the front of your seat. Think of finding your pubic bone when you post or get up in a half seat.

    Want a tough exercise that might fix this? Post at the canter on a circle. Add in some poles on the ground if you want. If you can balance on the narrow horse doing this and keeping your position, you'll teach yourself how to feel balanced with good eq over fences, too, when there is a lot more going on.

    Just my guess.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat

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    • #3
      Are you riding with the same length stirrup? I might try shortening a hole or two and seeing if that helps the biomechanics/security.
      http://wildwoodfarmnc.com

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        Trainer didn't think my stirrups needed shortened. I was able to get my butt out out of the saddle and two point on the flat. Things just weren't going right mid-air. Also, unfortunately I ride in an AP saddle and haven't got a forward enough flap to allow for much shorter stirrups. My knee would go off the front.

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        • #5
          Let your knee go off the front of the saddle. The biomechanics of having the correct angles are likely more important than having leather under your knee. Correct stirrup length is all about angles, not just being able to get your bum out of the tack to two-point. Try shortening your stirrups so they hit your ankle in the same spot they do on the wider horse. Unless there's an uncomfortable block or something, it shouldn't make much difference, since you don't hang on with your knees. Sure, it won't look pretty to have a knee stuck out front, but neither does curling up in the fetal position over a fence.

          It's worth a try. Worst thing that can happen is that you need to drop your stirrups back down again. Best of luck.

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          • #6
            No real advice on your jumping position, but I wanted to mention that I have two horses - a very, very wide paint gelding and a fairly narrow WB gelding. I never felt different in my jumping position on either of them - I jump ahead just as well on both

            I just wanted to mention that going between very wide and narrow horses is hard on your peroneal tendon and can lead to peroneal tendonitis. I had it very bad and to this day I have to make sure I stretch my calves very well. Make sure to stretch, especially before getting on those draft crosses!
            Southern Cross Guest Ranch
            An All Inclusive Guest Ranch Vacation - Georgia

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by OveroHunter View Post

              I just wanted to mention that going between very wide and narrow horses is hard on your peroneal tendon and can lead to peroneal tendonitis. I had it very bad and to this day I have to make sure I stretch my calves very well. Make sure to stretch, especially before getting on those draft crosses!

              That's interesting. I've never felt any pain in my calves from riding the smaller ones. I get sore up in my inner thighs, actually.

              At this point I think I'm just going to be spending most of my time on the wider horses. Besides the draft mare there is another large WB mare that the trainer wants me to try out. There's no point in being forced to ride horses that I really don't fit if there's other options. The average sized girls don't like riding the bigger ones so it's a win/win for everyone.

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              • #8
                I too am 5'11 and have similar experiences.

                It's not just the horse's conformation that will affect you but how the horse goes over the jump as well.

                Here is a picture of me on horse #1
                who is very slow and soft off the ground and also has a wide barrel. In nearly every picture I have of myself jumping this horse over big jumps, my leg is in a pretty good position under me.

                Now, here is a picture of me jumping horse #2 who is very fast and hard off the ground and has a narrow barrel (comparatively). In nearly every picture of me and this horse I am doing something extra to stay with him; pinching with my knees, grabbing mane, whatever I can do to stay with his jump and not interfer.

                Some horses are just not good for equitation, while others will just put you in the right place. On horse #2, I have to work extremely hard at it while on horse #1, it just comes easily.
                Last edited by tidy rabbit; Nov. 12, 2012, 12:16 PM.
                Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN

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                • #9
                  I'm 5'10" and I also have problems on narrower horses. I think it's hard to have a secure base of support from the stirrup and lower leg when your your lower leg has to wrap around the bottom half of the horse's barrel and your heel and lowest leg might not even be touching the horses' sides. I know in my case it causes me to depend more on my thigh and knee for support, particularly over fences, which in turn tightens my hips and abs and forces me to round my lower back more. I ride up to 14 horses a day and I change my stirrup length constantly to accomodate their different sizes and barrel shape as well as fence height--I'll change stirrup length by as much as 3 holes depending on the situation. It definitely helps me; you might experiment with stirrup length one day just to see if it helps. Over fences you might also try pushing your lower leg forward a bit more than usual while gripping more with your calf and decreasing the grip in your knee and thigh when you're on the narrower ones. That also seems to help me relax my hips and abs.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by alternate_universe View Post
                    Trainer didn't think my stirrups needed shortened. I was able to get my butt out out of the saddle and two point on the flat. Things just weren't going right mid-air. Also, unfortunately I ride in an AP saddle and haven't got a forward enough flap to allow for much shorter stirrups. My knee would go off the front.
                    On a narrower horse you will need a shorter stirrup. I see this all the time with my pony kids. They go from smalls to larges and just automatically want a longer stirrup on the big and fat ones, and they put them up on the smaller or narrower ones, without anyone ever telling them. They just feel it.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by llsc View Post
                      On a narrower horse you will need a shorter stirrup. I see this all the time with my pony kids. They go from smalls to larges and just automatically want a longer stirrup on the big and fat ones, and they put them up on the smaller or narrower ones, without anyone ever telling them. They just feel it.
                      I agree with this. I'm only 5'1", so for me the difference is going from my 16.3hh TB to a pony being what it takes to get too narrow for me to be as comfortable, but if a horse is narrower than the ideal for you, shorter stirrups help you get your leg on. I tend to put my stirrups down a hole when I get on the very round Friesian cross even though she's 5" shorter than my horse because she takes up more of my leg/feels more comfortable with a longer stirrup.

                      I think one of the best ways to learn to feel this is IHSA. Get up on multiple horses you don't know with no warmup for 10-15 weekends per year, having to jump courses on these unknown horses and in unknown saddles, and you learn to very quickly feel what seems solid to you, not what is "right."
                      Originally posted by Silverbridge
                      If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

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                      • #12
                        I can SOOO relate to this thread.

                        I'm a taller rider and have the same issues that have already been described. On the narrower horses I feel a lot less secure and tend to get a little heavy on my hands. Since my lower leg didn't make as much contact, I found that it was a little harder to cue the horse as well. I used to think that taller horses would be better, but that wasn't necessarily the case. I've felt a lot more comfortable on a 16H horse with a wide barrel than a 17H+ that felt like riding a pencil.

                        I too get sore on my inner thighs on the narrower horses. I also seem to get more tired during lessons than when I'm on a wider horse where I feel like I could ride for hours.

                        If you're able to stick with the wider horses, I would just do that. I mostly rode the barn's horses, so I just had to ride whatever I got.

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