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How much do you "jump" a 4 year old?

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  • #21
    I wouldn't personally teach a horse to jump cavaletti because I want my horses to trot through cavaletti, but that's me.

    My 4 year old mostly flatted at home. He would maybe once a week jump through a little grid/gymnatic or do a small course. He did most of his jumping at shows, where he jumped 2'6ish courses. He had changes and jumped fine so really we didn't drill much coursework at home.
    "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


    • #22
      I agree with the posters who say it really depends upon the horse! Some 4yos are mentally and physically ready to canter a 2'6 course with lead changes. Others, not so much. My giant dressage-bred Hanno gelding was broke at 3 and solid w/t/c at 4. He was introduced to jumping by a sensitive pro, but he just wasn't ready. Still growing, and slow to mature, the over fences work got him anxious and crooked and strong. We backed off, and dabbled over poles and singles for a year or two until he told us he was ready. He's 7 now, and showed happily at 2'6 last summer. He'll likely move up to 3' in 2013. But he's nearly 18hh, and when their feet are that far from their brains, I think they need extra development time to learn to organize their legs. We did lots of poles and transitions and transtitions-within-the-gaits with this one, and now that he understands how it's all supposed to work, it's easy for him and he stays relaxed. He'll easily be a 4-foot horse, or could even go the jumper route. He has a ton of scope and power, but he needed extra maturing time to learn how to use it. So, bottom line is, let your horse tell you what's enough. "too much" is going to depend drastically on the horse's mental and physical development, and also the trainer's "schedule". My horses are keepers, so I'd rather take a longer time, but have it be right for the horse,
      Last edited by ElementFarm; Dec. 28, 2012, 09:01 AM.
      A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's wine...wine does that...



      • #23
        My approach is generally to find out from my vet where that particular individual stands with respect to their joints and whether they are closed or not; most four year olds can easily step up to some light jumping work as part of a regular exercise program.

        That said, I'd certainly agree that too much repetition over small fences (small to the horse, not the rider, LOL) can encourage poor form later on. We use crossrails mainly to encourage the horse to find the middle of the jump and to stay straight, but after the horse is comfortable with that concept, we move on to verticals and then small oxers... we want them to stay interested and encourage good form. A relatively athletic horse will quickly realize they don't even have to jump a crossrail and will just start trotting or cantering over them without making much of an effort.

        As with flatwork, quality counts. I would not let a horse get crooked or approach a jump until I loved the gait I had. Nothing should change on approach in terms of the trot or canter; the goal is to maintain straightness, balance, rhythm and relaxation throughout. If a horse starts acting tense, getting a little sideways or whatever... we just gently circle away until the horse can approach the little obstacle without any change in demeanor.

        For that purpose, putting together a setup where you have a pole on the ground next to a small X, which is next to a small vertical (giving you three options you can easily get to depending on what you have when you make your approach) works really well. I locate that line of options where I can approach them on a big circle; if I don't have the quality of gait that I want when I come around toward those options, I just make the circle a bit larger and continue on the track without any "jumps." As the horse softens and relaxes, I make the circle a little smaller and let them w/t/c over the pole on the ground. When they can do that without the concern, I take the middle track on the circle and let them hop over the cross rail. When they can do that without changing, I take the inside track on the circle and let them hop over the little vertical (or a little oxer or whatever.) Please note that NONE of the circles are small - they all allow a nice open, relaxed stride and the ability to land and go straight for at least a few strides before turning.
        We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


        • #24
          I agree that a 4 year old should have a bit more straightness. And from a hunter perspective, I see a lot more flexion that I would want in a horse that young. Looks to me like the horse is getting behind the bit in order to avoid being straight.

          Horses, especially large ones, need to learn their job while they are still young enough to think that humans know what they are talking about. My horse is a "forever" horse. She's not a sale horse. That doesn't mean she can't learn at the age of 4. I want her to jump well "forever" so she's not going to be drilled over fences so small that she doesn't know if she should trot them or jump them.

          Learn straightness and striding and distances over poles. Then raise the jumps so that they know they're supposed to pick up their legs at the same time. It would drive me crazy if my horse tried to jump every trot pole in her path...


          • #25
            All your opionions seem to make a lot of sense.. But..
            This cavaletti is in this riding arena for some professional very sucessful Jumping riders. They use it to school their jumpinghorses. (Highest national level )
            We think they do the single thing because wirh that horses need to come back...


            • #26
              I use cavaletti with jumping horses too. But I use them as cavaletti and not mini baby jumps. They can be great as part of a grid with a jump/crossrail at th end-- trot in. Teaches the baby horse not to rush (as the one in the video is doing a bit). What I don't do is canter young (any) horses up to single cavaletti and expect them to "jump" it. It's too small and I think it's a bad habit to jump cavaletti like that. I don't want my horses to jump groundpoles either. I want them to trot through cavaletti and groundpoles every time. Plus, with a greenie, you get NO additional assistance with straightness like you would with a properly set grid. I just don't see the benefit of it. If you want to jump little speedbumps, take the horse on the trail and jump logs. Otherwise, set up an exercise that helps improve the horse.
              Last edited by vxf111; Dec. 21, 2012, 10:55 AM.
              "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


              • #27
                Training programs vary--but the integration of of cavalletti and gymnastic training into flatwork allows for horses to keep their minds and bodies engaged in more constructive ways than if a training program is divided into purely "flat" days and 'jumping' days, particularly when horses are green and you want them to retain what they've learned and build on it.

                Look to Ingrid and Reiner Klimke's book, "Cavaletti" as well as to Linda Allen's 101 Jumping Exercises for inspiration.
                Inner Bay Equestrian


                • #28
                  Originally posted by Manni01 View Post
                  All your opionions seem to make a lot of sense.. But..
                  This cavaletti is in this riding arena for some professional very sucessful Jumping riders. They use it to school their jumpinghorses. (Highest national level )
                  We think they do the single thing because wirh that horses need to come back...
                  When the national level jumping horses use the cavaletti, I'll bet they aren't jumping over them.


                  • #29
                    Well they do jump it... And its faszinating to watch, because they are jumping it from different angles and of course a lot better than our young horse.. They do it only while cantering.
                    And by the way my horse is still 3. She will be 4 next year. And you are right I also expect her to be more advanced one year from now..
                    Last edited by Manni01; Dec. 21, 2012, 11:08 AM.


                    • #30
                      Manni - thank you for posting the video, always nice to see the young horses figuring out how their feet work. She is beautiful and hopefully you will show us a video of her in a year so we can see how much she learned! Wow is her movement fabulously fluid - you can see the quality dressage breeding oozing out of her. GORGEOUS!!

                      OP - I'm not a horse pro so take this with a block of salt... how much really *really* depends on the horse. My 4 year old mare took to jumping like a duck to water. It was easy, still is easy for her. She just grew up knowing lead changes and is brave. We event so she started over a log outside, then built up to crossrails/little courses and finished off the summer practicing training level jumps under an olympic clinician including ditches, coffins and things that made my eyeballs go like this --> (beginner novice feels much better to myself).

                      My gelding however, he is a special flower. Big and even though 5 when started under saddle very uncoordinated. We started him with a lot of ground poles (scattered - not grids). When that was okay we started to *slowly* increase the intensity. He is now okay with a full 'hunter style' course but too much grid work makes his brain go --> So we take it easy, push the envelope a little bit to learn/challenge but always, always make sure that its good and fun so we can tell him (really both of them) how absolutely brilliant and fabulous they are at the end of each ride.

                      Grid work is fine but with a green horse do not throw down 10 ground poles and expect that they'll be able to 'figure it out'. THAT is not fair. All the good people that I've seen training always make sure to start with 1 pole, then 3 poles, then 5 poles, maybe a jump in between... and you always end by subtracting back (i.e. remove jump, 5 poles, 3 poles, 1 pole - tell your pony that they are THE most genius pony ever and make a huge fuss over them). That is how you build confidence and have fun - not setting up a huge grid until the horse is in a literal lather going over 3 poles. I've seen that happen and it is not pretty so trust what you feel and remember that being patient and giving the horse time to figure it out will never back fire on you.


                      • Original Poster

                        These are really excellent posts, thanks everyone for contributing. The coming 4 year old in question was x-rayed before being started to be sure the joints closed, etc., and he was cleared to start under saddle training. I rode him last week and he's got basic w-t-c down on a large circle in a designated dressage arena. But it's very open and he's very prone to looking around. He's not amazingly coordinated but that's fine at this stage. I'd say his biggest "issues" are that he's smart and he's pretty hot (he pays attention to and is concerned with everything going on around him). It remains to be seen how he takes to poles and cavaletti, but I think this is the kind of horse who will ultimately benefit from exposure to different things sooner than later. I will definitely use trot poles and cavaletti with him in the future because he needs to get a bit more in touch with his hind legs and ultimately get quicker with them.

                        While I agree that straightness is important "in general", I'm not too concerned with straightness in a young horse. They have to build the muscles in order to be straight and that comes with the work. Same with the flexion. The horse I'll ride will look overflexed in some of his work but it's a step to keeping his mind on his work and loosening his jaw so that he flexes through his body (he gets tight when things change in his environment, it seems). It also keeps him from spooking in front of objects he tends to want to spook at. He's got TB back in the Dam's dam line and that really seems to come through with him. I think the jumping will help him because it'll give him something to focus on.

                        I agree 110% on being fair to the horses I ride, especially the smart ones. I believe that horses should like thier work and want to come out and be ridden.

                        Manni, your video was fantastic - thank you. I really like your horse, and the easy way that he goes at this age. I get the posts that say the horse need something to actually pay attention to, though. That rationale makes sense.

                        Again, THANK YOU for such excellent advice and discussion. Really, thank you.
                        Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


                        • #32
                          I known several FEI level dressage riders who also jumped their youngster. If you are just doing it for cross training purposes.....twice a week is probably ideal. Until they are further along in their training. Also hacking out of the ring a few times a week....that is probably even better for them. Going up and down some hills.

                          Start with just some poles...if that is easy, jump some little single fences. But if you are not experienced in teaching a young horse to jump...I'd recommend getting help. The FEI Dressage riders that I know also did eventing before they specialized in only dressage so were experienced riders over fences and in teaching youngsters how to jump.

                          You want to start with single fences and them eventually do a bit of gymnastic work. Honestly...my horses jump 2' the first time they jump even as a 3 year old. Most are jumping a few fences at 2'3-2'6 with in their first few jump schools. That is NOT a big fence for a reasonably athletic horse at all. Less than that, most of my horses probably would just trot over it and not jump.

                          But what I don't do is drill. I jump 5-10 fences and that is it. So my green horse would do a little flat work, jump a few fences then maybe go out for a walk around the farm. It isn't about the height. Most people get into trouble not by jumping too high as much as doing too many jumps and over drilling.

                          Have fun! It is great for them to cross train...especially as youngsters.
                          Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Dec. 21, 2012, 09:29 PM.
                          ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                          • #33
                            This made me think of an Ingrid Klimke training video I really like. Shows a little of the cavaletti and jumping she does with her young horses. And it shows a great clip of Damon Hill rolling I just wish the video was longer. I think it's clips taken off an instructional DVD.



                            • #34
                              Originally posted by Tha Ridge View Post
                              See, but that doesn't look effective to me... I see a very, very cute horse who is largely being allowed to just trot over a caveletti with hocks trailing, landing stiff and counterbent, and then at the canter, seems to rush and evade. I would, personally, expect a coming 4-year-old to know a lot more, especially over poles/cavaletti.

                              Now, for a horse who will be concentrated as a dressage prospect, cross rails and 2 ft jumps could be plenty, just enough to give their brain a change of pace (trail riding is great too!)

                              But for me personally, all my horses are different so different goals are set. But the ideal goal for my hunters/jumpers is they need to be prepared to go into the young jumper classes (at 5 in the US)

                              or for the hunters they need to be able to jump around a 2'6 course with ease.

                              Now this does not mean to over prepare them, but I completely agree that jumping constantly over tiny 2'6 fences will teach a horse to be sloppy.


                              • #35
                                Originally posted by my_doran View Post
                                I totally agree. My horse was 5 last year & she is only jumping 2'6" right now because I want to be careful with her. My friend has a horse the same age as mine & she has pushed him so much over taller fences that she has already had to have his hock injected. So my advice would be to take it easy. You have the rest of your horses life to jump higher than cross bars or 2ft.