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Anyone else scared of gymnastics?

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  • Anyone else scared of gymnastics?

    Everyone always says they are so easy to ride through but I'm horrible at them! All my worst riding sessions have been going through gymnastics. I think it just shows how weak my leg is. I continuously fall off over them or add strides. I also have a problem with giving huge releases and leaping up on the horse's neck. I feel like I've gotten into the habit of jumping for the horse with my upper body instead of letting the horse carry me over.

    And trust me, I've ridden some stoppers so I don't know why it's taking so long to solve this problem

  • #2
    Drop your stirrups. Drop your reins too if you have a horse that is trustworthy enough.

    "Ride or die" has always been a good strategy for me.


    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by alternate_universe View Post
      "Ride or die" has always been a good strategy for me.
      Love it


      • #4
        So long as you have your stirrups you can, and most likely will, rely on them and find a million ways to BS your way through any gymnastic line. You may not be doing it on purpose but because you're physically used to it and have a mental block about doing anything else, you'll keep doing it. Heck, take the leathers totally off the saddle if you have to.


        • #5
          Grids (gymnastics) get messy when you overface yourself, and do more than you're capable of. You might be lacking straightness and/or rhythm, and when you add some height to that you're asking for a disaster, and a horse that will quickly lose its confidence in itself and trust in its rider.
          Start with poles on the ground to get used to the rhythm and striding of the grid. After you've gotten comfortable, make them into 12" (or less) crossrails which with help keep your horse centered and straight. Add height only if you're completing the grid well consistantly. You'll only get yourself into trouble if you do too much too quick. Baby steps.
          Add fences to your grid gradually, don't worry about height for now, just focus on getting through the grid with a steady pace, and maintaining straightness. Start with a one stride. After you've gotten comfortable doing the 1 stride, place a 2 stride after it. Then place a one stride or 2 stride after that. Don't up the ante until you've successfully completed the current task, at least a few times.


          • #6
            I don't always love gymnastics! If you get in at a bad distance either trotting or cantering, it can easily mess up all of the distances through the whole gymnastic. Also, if not set at the correct striding, a botched distance can land you in serious trouble through the whole gymnastic. Just make sure that the striding is adjusted according to the natural stride length of your horse. If the gymnastic is sent up to trot in, make sure you have a good forward trot going into it. This will help your horse land with some impulsion, then, do nothing! Just let your horse take your through on his own! It might take a time or two but most horses will figure it out pretty quick! Good luck!


            • #7
              It's funny - I don't mind doing them on my old horse, but I don't like them on my new lease horse.

              Except my old horse was mostly a brat, dumped me in the middle of one once, and also enjoyed stopping halfway through the gymnastic. The new horse is honest as they come and will get you out of any trouble you get into.


              • #8
                I loved watching a Jimmy Wofford clinic where he built up the gymnastic. You didn't just start with a whole line of jumps, but something simple, like poles, then maybe a single bounce, etc. It takes more time, and more work for the ground person, but it sure helps build confidence in both rider and horse. Really works well for the green horse, so you don't confuse or over face. I really wish instructors would take the time to do this, but too often see them build a grid and shoot people thru and it can be a disaster.


                • #9
                  I am the biggest chicken over fences there is. Sounds like you may be overfaced. Start simple and low and build from there. I love doing gymnastics more than anything. Go figure. I have a horse I trust and love that I just sit there and let him figure it out. The hardest thing is to do nothing!
                  My trainer uses them a lot, and is always careful to never overface the horse or rider. She always starts small and simple and builds up. Remember, each day is different for the horse and rider, so go with what is working today!
                  Some days the best thing about my job is that the chair spins.


                  • #10
                    I agree with what another poster said. You start with poles on the ground, and do a simple one or two stride. Then you slowly build up the grid/height until you feel that you're working at your skill level. Don't start with the full grid at full height.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by horsepoor View Post
                      I loved watching a Jimmy Wofford clinic where he built up the gymnastic. You didn't just start with a whole line of jumps, but something simple, like poles, then maybe a single bounce, etc. It takes more time, and more work for the ground person, but it sure helps build confidence in both rider and horse. Really works well for the green horse, so you don't confuse or over face. I really wish instructors would take the time to do this, but too often see them build a grid and shoot people thru and it can be a disaster.
                      Joe Fargis uses this exercise too. He also, once everyone has gone through it a few times to his satisfaction, deconstructs it one element at a time until you end over the poles that you initially began on.
                      Proudly blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse!


                      • #12
                        I have only recently gotten over my fear of gridwork - and it took 16 years. For some reason, the first horse I leased out of short stirrup was a 6 year old OTTB that would get to the base of the fence, pop in the air, and drift left. Needless to say, grids were more than scary when you go into them like that.

                        I had to deconstruct everything and like other people have said, do the poles on the ground. Then baby baby x's. And do them until you're so bored you can do them in your sleep. Because if you move up and the littlest thing goes wrong, that horrifed little voice is going to start screaming that you're going to die (At least that's what happens to me sometimes), and you're back to square one.

                        No time limits, just keep doing them until you start to think that jumping grids is fun.


                        • #13
                          They can be helpful to address many issues in the right situation, but if used inappropriately they can have the opposite effect, making a rider and/or horse fearful. Gymnastics must be measured accurately,set correctly, and presented in a thoughtful manner in order to guarantee a successful and constructive experience. This means that having an experienced and knowledgeable person on the ground is really crucial--if you aren't sure, get help!
                          Inner Bay Equestrian


                          • #14
                            I agree with the others about building up the elements of the exercise. Do you start with the whole thing or usually build up to it? I have found that if you are already feeling a little "iffy" about it, building up the elements can help build confidence.
                            Originally posted by rustbreeches
                            [George Morris] doesn't always drink beer, but when he does, he prefers Dos Equis


                            • #15
                              I hate them.

                              My first horse is a pony with a pony sized stride. I had a trainer who would constantly put us through gymnastics set on a horse stride. Poor pony tried his best to fit things in but it was never the "let go and let the horse figure it out" experience that gymnastics are supposed to be.

                              Second horse came off the track and spent the first 6 months of his "learning to jump career" doing things like jumping a bounce as a very wide oxer. You never knew when he was going to just take a flyer at parts of a gymnastic.

                              Years of riding on these two taught me to really dislike gymnastics.
                              "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                              • #16
                                Before you do any bounces/etc....can you do two point? W/o reins? In all three gaits? And finally w/o stirrups? Establish this. Then start with caveletti. Then Cavelettit to a single fence (with wings if the horse runs out)....get the step/step/step/bascule feeling....then start with the rest.
                                I.D.E.A. yoda


                                • #17
                                  I have Woffords book and used to be nervous about gymnastics but after using them many times over the past year I am pretty confident with them and I am definitely not a super confident rider over fences.
                                  I 100% agree that it is essential to build up starting with poles and slowly up the height to avoid trouble. Measuring correct distances between the fences is critical as well as others have stated.
                                  Myself and some fellow boarders have gymnastic days at the barn and take turns being the grounds person. We have great fun with it! I set the fences based on the measurements in Woffords book (or 101 Gymnastics, have that book too ) and I use a measuring wheel or tape to be exact, I never eye ball it or walk it off. I also make sure ground lines are precise too. We have had alot of success schooling gymnastics this way and all the horses and riders benefit. Precision and following the process correctly is key!


                                  • #18
                                    M. O'Connor could not be more correct. I love grids and started them as a kid doing them with no reins, eyes closed etc. They key was that as a kid I did them on a super dependable horse and they were set properly and built up gradually.
                                    Several winters ago when I rode with Jumphigh83 we did grids all winter to work with a green horse and I got a ton of benefit myself. She did a clinic at her barn last month and every session began with a grid.

                                    Grids can help both horses and riders. If the object is to help the rider (more secure seat, better feel of the horse etc) then the horse has to be a steady Eddie and the distances have to be set such that the horse doesn't really have to even think about what he's doing and needs no guidance from the rider to make it work. Start simple with poles on the ground and progress to a pole to an X, again set for the horse. You want to make it easy for him so the rider can work on herself.

                                    If the goal is to improve the horse (make him straighter, better with knees, handier) then you need a rider comfortable with grids and you need to start with "perfect" striding and made adjustments. Horse mentioned above had great form but had a deadly drift. He wasn't one sided so much as he was making room for himself rather than shortening his step. We did a grid of x's with the rails near the top of the standards to force him to the middle. When that failed, we used guide rails on the ground between jumps to keep him in a narrow path. As we tightened the striding, he learned to shorten his step. This was the same field hunter that was taught to canter (he did a road trot and a gallop) with a series of 6 bounces.
                                    F O.B
                                    Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
                                    Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique


                                    • #19
                                      I love them. They never fail to put my weakness front and center and I love the challenge I also find that as long as my horse is comfortable going through them, it really allows me to focus on whatever I need to work on.

                                      Plus their fun....like riding a really big pogo stick when you are doing bounces!

                                      Others have given you really good advice. It should be a positive experience for both you and your horse so start simple and work up enough to challenge yourself without being over faced. If your horse isn't a confident ride, maybe borrow one that is until you get yourself stronger and more confident.

                                      You state your leg is weak...maybe try no stirrup work and two point. Two point through transitions (both up and down) seem to really get my legs in gear.

                                      Good luck!


                                      • #20
                                        I think I am more scared of a fence all by itself! Too much time in between for me start worrying about something. I just started doinf gymnastics with my young mare and we both love it. I don't have time to worry and she is too occupied with the next fence.