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Jumpers v. Hunters- which is better for my horse?

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  • Jumpers v. Hunters- which is better for my horse?

    So by all measures I'm an eventer, but I'm feeling a little burnt-out and want to take my horse to some non-rated h/j shows this summer to kind of liven things up a bit and have some fun.

    This past winter I took my horse to a few schooling shows and did the 3'-3" jumpers for fun and to keep him tuned-up in the stadium department. However, nearly all of our attempts left us mid-to-bottom in the placings. It seemed like the people in my classes either went the same pace as me or were riding in a downright dangerous manner because they were going so dang fast. I don't know if I did so poorly because some of the dangerous ones did go so dang fast, because the classes were so small anyways, because my horse really isn't as fast as I thought or what.

    Fast forward to now, I'm trying to decide if I should just stick with the jumpers despite our poor placings this winter or if it's worthwhile to branch out to hunters. I'm hoping that the experienced people out there might be able to look at a description of my horse's potential positives and drawbacks for each discipline and give me a little guidance as to where my money is best spent and where I'm least likely to embarass myself. Either way I'm hoping I'll have fun no matter what I enter.

    Show Jumping:
    Positives- Always under time in stadium, does well on collected courses as well as forward-riding ones. Very clean. Loves to do interesting jumps at home, especially things like a 45 degree slice to another 45 degree slice in 2 strides. Does well with 1 and 2 stride in-and-outs and triples. Turns on a dime and loves bending questions.
    Negatives- Now that he's broke, he can get a little slow on course, but never excessively so. Possibly too slow for jumpers, though? I do refuse to let him be wild on course and bring him back to reality when he does get full of himself.

    Positives- He's very steady and rateable. Has lovely ground-covering gaits for an OTTB. Potentially has nice form?
    Negatives- I'm not sure to what extent that he has nice form. At least 50% of the pictures I see at horse shows have him with lovely square knees, a relatively rounded back and a kind of laid back expression on his face. But depending on the jump/course, his form will look kind of icky in photos even though he almost never pulls a rail.
    He has a terribly short neck and I'm scared that judges will mistake his short neck for not being round over the jump.
    He doesn't have lead changes- he'll change up front if I cue him, but never behind. The changing up front came naturally with training and I'm hoping that he'll eventually change behind, too. I guess I just haven't bothered to be very proactive about fixing it at the novice and training levels.
    I like to tie his mouth shut as tightly as possible, preferrably with a figure 8, which I know judges won't like.

    To get a feel for his form for yourself, here are proofs from our second-to-last event at novice, which is a touch boring for him (max height 2'11"). We currently show training, max height 3'3".
    If I show up to a h/j show for either jujmpers or hunters, I do have tan breeches, a lilac ratcatcher shirt and a grey hunt coat that I can wear. I don't have a shaped saddlepad anymore, though.

  • #2
    He looks like he jumps nice enough to attempt the hunters and not get laughed out of the ring. This is good. BUT...you may find it more similar to your eventing goals to stay in the jumper ring.

    You said you weren't very successful...how did you ride your courses? I know in eventing there is a pretty standard track that everyone takes, so you may not have been thinking about turning options while doing 'show' jumpers. You can really save A LOT of time, even over the crazy runners (they lose time on getting their horse under control after the jumps) by making smart turns. Good turns will almost always win out over the scaries.

    If you decide to try hunters, work on a slow, long, easy rhythm at the canter. You want to meet each jump at the 'hunter gap'...no base distances. This will probably keep your cute horse jumping his best. The lack of lead changes will hurt you tremendously, however. How is your horse's balance? Does he do changes in the pasture? If so, you're most likely the issue...not an inability to do full ones(isn't it always that way? ). We often lose the change behind because we lose the hind end to the outside.
    Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
    Veronica: "Buy me a pony?"


    • Original Poster

      We rode our courses pretty efficiently, I thought. In jumpers I take the tight inside turns when possible- they're more fun! Tight turns and a rateable gallop between fences was what I think placed me 9th out of 81 at a gambler's choice class at VA HT last year and gave me confidence to try jumpers in the first place (probably would've done better, too, if I understood the concept of joker/bonus fences). At events I do make "safer" choices- unless I think most riders will take the outside turn but the inside turn is an equally safe choice and do-able for my horse, I'll follow the same outside turn that everyone else does.

      As for pace and distances, I don't think he's so bad... he's quite steady and so long as I don't ride like an idiot, almost always gets the perfect distance. If I don't ride him appropriately forward (but do give him enough gas), he'll go with the closer one but make it over the fence clean.

      It's interesting about the lead changes- I've hardly ever seen him canter in the field unless I'm dressed as the big bad blanket monster, coming to keep him warm and dry, so it's hard to say if he does them on his own. I might just not be asking him correctly, seeing as I've never ridden a horse that already has changes. And I don't really cue him, flying leads are just something I haven't played around with. Usually he gives them as a result of my laziness in making him counter-canter through the turn instead of doing a simple change. But maybe focusing on keeping his ribcage softer and more bent through the turn could help when/if I do try.


      • #4
        Leadchanges are a very important thing in the hunters--even on the local level--and not having clean changes will keep you out of the ribbons (or in the lower ones) for sure. So my recommendation would be to probably stick with the jumpers unless you get him doing his lead changes. Also--using a figure 8 bridle or anything like that is not accepted in the hunters--again even on the local level (depending on HOW local) it will be looked down on and probably bump you down more. Plus if you work hard at the jumpers you could probably improve your stadium jumping section of the event.


        • #5
          Unless you get the changes, stick to jumpers. It really really sounds like you're asking him incorrectly and/or he hasn't been taught to do lead changes correctly.
          Do you have a trainer? I would strongly suggest getting a trainer to work with you and your horse on changes, also whichever you choose, hunters or jumpers, you would benefit from having a trainer guide you through the unfamiliar territory


          • #6
            Its been in my experience that theres crazy riders at the lower jumper levels that are just hell bent on racing around the course. If your horse is scopey enough, try moving up a few levels, the riding becomes much safer and you're much more likely to win just by leaving the jumps up and taking inside turns rather than tearing around the course like a bat out of hell.
            Try leaving strides out too-you don't necessarily have to be flat out racing to do this and it saves tons of time. I'll typically leave out a stride or two and that could be the sole reason why I win a class.


            • #7
              Ditto gg4918.

              I've seen a lot of crazy lower level jumpers who race around courses. However, once you get to the 3'6"+ level there are less riders who are running around like chickens without heads. However, you did mention your horse can get slow. Try establishing a more forward, working pace than you are used to and see how he is around a course. Maybe you are just used to his rhythm, when his rhythm should be a touch faster. Not wild, but not a slow, collected pace. If he gets wild, then calm him down and try a touch slower. If that doesn't work, then maybe moving up a level will help you two. He's cute in his pictures!


              • #8
                You may trying some jumper metals but without the changes you won't place well.


                • Original Poster

                  Eeeegh, it sounds like I should definitely stick to the jumpers. It was worth it to ask, though, I'd rather get an opinion before I go out there and do horrible. After all, to be mediocre in the jumpers is probably better than to be horrible in the hunters (and lose lots of judge-points for no changes!).

                  As for what you all mentioned, my horse has definitely never been formally taught flying changes in any way, shape, or form. I've pretty much done all the training on him during his none-race career, save for a few rides from my trainers past and present when I need help or just have too much school to deal with.

                  And I currently take two lessons a week, one dressage and one jumping- I'd die without expert help! My current trainer is a locally-approved dressage judge with 15-20 years of eventing under her belt. She's currently trying to get her level 1 USEA instructor certification.

                  Also, proper speed for the height of the jump is one of those things I'm still working on grasping. My horse used to be a speed demon on course, making long 2 strides into 1 strides, etc, but as he's gotten more broke, he's slowed down a loooot. He can still get strong by the end of a course at a horse show, but I can control him pretty effectively in my dressage bit (as opposed to his initial full cheek gag).

                  As far as the slow comment, the big thing is even though my horse loves a good forward course, the broke part of him wants to go whatever slow speed I want to go. I think it's mostly an issue in which I have to tell him to go faster now when in the past it was always telling him to go slower. When I ride max 2'11", my horse could probably fall asleep because I'm going so slow and *I* like that pace. I could probably push him out a lot more on course, because what feels wild to me at that height is probably just forward- maybe having someone at the show tell me how it looked could help that? But max 3'3" I'm much better about pushing him out there and he jumps pretty nice. Overall he's a brilliant little guy and my trainer says he makes 3'7" look like nothing, so maybe later this year we could even take a stab at the next level up of jumpers.


                  • #10
                    [QUOTE=IsolaBella09;4075554]Ditto gg4918.

                    I've seen a lot of crazy lower level jumpers who race around courses. [QUOTE]

                    ugh i definitely afree. I'm stuck in the Child/Adults and see some pretty horrifying rounds EVERY horse show. They always and always will beat me.

                    Definitly work on the lead changes, if your horse is athletic at all (which he looks it) then when you ask correctly they should come pretty easily. You can also get them over the jumps but thats not always garenteed. (sp?) Anyways, i'd definitely get help from a trainer or read up on lead changes and really crack down on them! Good luck.
                    Horse power

                    Horse" pow`er\ (Noun) The extraordinary capacity of a horse to elevate the human spirit.


                    • #11
                      Work on those changes. Have you had a vet check to make sure there is nothing going on that is keeping him from changing in back? Even as you move up in jumpers you want to have your leads. You talk about the tight turns that he's good at, do you do those when he is on the wrong lead or cross cantering?
                      Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


                      • #12
                        how is he about adding strides, leaving them out?, turning and "hopping a fence?curling around tall verticals? do lots gymnastics so, he learns to recognizes "traps and backs himself off
                        breeder of Mercury!

                        remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by gg4918 View Post
                          Its been in my experience that theres crazy riders at the lower jumper levels that are just hell bent on racing around the course. If your horse is scopey enough, try moving up a few levels, the riding becomes much safer and you're much more likely to win just by leaving the jumps up and taking inside turns rather than tearing around the course like a bat out of hell.
                          Try leaving strides out too-you don't necessarily have to be flat out racing to do this and it saves tons of time. I'll typically leave out a stride or two and that could be the sole reason why I win a class.
                          I was just going to say the same thing. The lower level jumpers can be downright horrifying because it's easy to race around the littler jumps. Once you get to about 3'6+ it gets much more reasonable and the riders almost all "ride" the course instead of gallop around and pray the jumps (and the horse) stay up.


                          • #14
                            I do not Event but...think the thinking os more towards a a clean trip at good speed but it is combined with the other phases for the final score. Regular Jumpers may really go faster as that is all they got to go on, the Efent SWJ I have watched has struk me as a little more conservative.

                            The racing around mentality at level 1 or so Jumpers is not anything to emulate so don't worry about that. Look to your track-not just an inside turn but creating lines with fewer steps overall. Angles over the fence, turns mid air, shaping the corners...even leaving out strides when it is safe to do so and you don't create it by running the horse out of them.

                            Don't want to harp on flatwork but...if you do not have your leads, you likely do not have good lateral control of the haunch and that is going to make any kind of bend and shape work that much harder.

                            All our best Jumper riders-and GM-will tell you you need to fix it on the flat then take it over the jumps.

                            One of the worst things to happen in the Jumpers is the thinking that "it does not matter, you can do anything". Not true. Oh, yeah, it's not judged-but you won't get anything if you do not lay down a ground saving trip unless everybody else has rails.

                            Try this. Set a tiny course-I mean like crossrails or 2' verticals. Little. Give a friend a stopwatch and a pencil and paper, have her/him time you around. Try different tracks, approaches and striding inside any little combinations and note that beside each time. Compare the times. What did you do different on each and what did that do to the time?

                            One other thought, your leads are killing you as the horse is going to be awkward and off balance at times-that is costing you time and shortening his stride. Just because you may see a big name horse doing it, until you can make the kind of time with no rails that BNR does anyway, by riding a perfect track, you need to fix that.
                            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                            • #15
                              how you win

                              If you can turn inside, and leave out stride, you will be seconds ahead!
                              breeder of Mercury!

                              remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


                              • #16
                                wwhich leads?

                                ?Is it one lead or both?
                                breeder of Mercury!

                                remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


                                • #17
                                  How do you ask for your flying change?
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