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WWYD? Instructor sets gymnastics at awkward distances.

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  • WWYD? Instructor sets gymnastics at awkward distances.

    I am an adult who has been jumping for 30 years. I enjoy the lessons with my instructor greatly except for certain days. These are the days that gymnastics are set up. Normally, I enjoy this type of work. This particular instructor, however, typically sets the strides at very awkward distances. The striding is always set veeeerry loooong. I have gotten to the point where I just dread doing them because the only way to try and make it through is just to literally run at them. All students must trot into the gymnastics, but the kicker is that the next jump is set at the standard horse length of twelve feet. Just. Too. Hard.

    For example, if I was jumping through a two stride, the first fence would be a trot-in followed 36 feet later by the second obstacle. Now, books about gymnastic design (for example, 101 Jumping Exercises for Horse & Rider, by Linda Allen), suggest that the trot in-fence should be compensated for by shortening the distance to the second fence. A one-stride (following a trot in first fence) should have a spacing of 18 feet, and a two stride should be set at about 28 feet. To try and make a two stride set at the full 36 feet requires a major flyer. All the students attempting this either had to run their horses hard at the fence to try and make the distance, or wind up chipping badly—it’s a mess. These gymnastics don’t accomplish anything and hurt my confidence level because they are just so awkward/difficult.

    Well, I’ve just had it and so confronted my instructor recently in the lesson. The instructor replied that I was wrong, and that the distances should always be twelve feet even with a trot in. Instructor was also very icy in the response and I was a hairsbreadth away from being kicked out of the lesson.

    I still do not want to jump through these scary/awkward gymnastics anymore. I also don’t want to change instructors because, except for this striding issue, the instruction really is quite good. (But believe me, I’ve thought about it.)

    So, my question is, how can I ask my instructor to change things a little without causing offense? I’m afraid if I ask again, that I will be kicked out for talking back. On the other hand, these “gymnastics” are borderline dangerous. I just don’t enjoy doing them. But I know, sooner or later, the gymnastics will appear again and that there will be another confrontation.

    How can I (A) have the instructor become more open minded and modify the gymnastics to a more comfortable distance?
    Or (B) just tell her I don’t enjoy gymnastics and therefore don’t want to do them anymore?

    Thanks, any advice would be appreciated, especially from students or instructors who have resolved a confrontation with a happy outcome.

  • #2
    Give her a copy (complete with gift wrapping and a bow) of 101 Jumping Exercises for Horse and Rider.
    Donald Trump - proven liar, cheat, traitor and sexual predator! Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but we have all lost.


    • #3
      I would say, "Hey, Instructor, I read about this really neat gymnastic exercise. Why don't we set it up and try it out?" Maybe pick one that's different than the ones she's been butchering. If Instructor is one of those who thinks that you couldn't possibly know anything even though you've been riding for 30 years, hand over the book so she can pretend she's getting info from the book instead of you.

      I get the feeling that if she's already P.O.'ed about you challenging her, she'll smell what you're trying to do a mile away. You may end up having to make a decision about either quitting the gymnastics or finding a new trainer. That's a shame, because when set up correctly, gymnastics are wonderful. But as you already know, when they're set up wrong, they will make a mess out of horse and rider. The thing is, for the most part, gymnastics should be set up to fit the horse, not the other way around. It's not a one size fits all thing.

      ETA: Oh, and I would try to not to correct a trainer during a lesson unless it's a private one. Unless of course she's asking everyone to jump a fence made of barbed wire that she sets on fire. Then I might speak up.


      • #4
        Find a tactful way --- to not do it.

        I would talk to the trainer privately and ask why she sets it that way,
        let her know it rides long and makes you feel like he is pulling as opposed to rocking on his hocks-- and say something of the sort that it just feels risky on your horse.
        You owe fairness & safety to the ole POny!!!


        • #5
          I'd get a new instructor. Sorry....any instructor that off on setting distances (and not adjusting an exercise for the horses to get a good training result) isn't very good and not worth spending money on. I would be questioning every thing they say or do.....that is just too basic of a mistake.
          ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


          • #6
            Does instructor ride? Could you ask instructor to please get on your horse and show you how to "properly execute this gymnastic from the trot" because you're having difficulty? Perhaps if instructor had to actually ride it, instructor would hop on the clue train.
            A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

            Might be a reason, never an excuse...


            • #7
              I would also be looking elsewhere, and I have for this very reason. Gymnastics are basic and very necessary and can easily destroy a horse's confidence if set improperly. Not to mention why pay somebody for something when they obviously know less about it than you do and can't be bothered to learn?

              It's not your job to train the trainer.
              "Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?" Sun Tzu

              My Blog!


              • #8
                Or you could just ignore the trot in and canter into the gymnastic


                • #9
                  Sounds to me like the instructor just doesn't know she's setting long. I would pull her aside with a copy of 101 Jumping Exercises and talk about distances for gymnastics, which are different than for regular canter-in work.


                  • #10
                    A trot in two-stride is not 36'. Usual protocol when trotting in a line (any line, even a combination or gymnastic) is to add one stride to the canter in count. If you're doing an average 4 stride at the canter (60') it would be a 5 stride if you trotted in. Trotting in to 36' should be about 3 strides (probably a quiet three for most horses).

                    If your trainer doesn't realize that, I would either a)add the stride myself or b)excuse myself from any gymnastic exercises.

                    I would not, however, try to correct trainer during a lesson. That's not going to go well and will only be seen as you trying to undermine her authority.

                    One thing I might do is set my own gymnastic and do it myself. Hopefully trainer would see you being successful and wonder what the difference is. 'Course this is a very passive-agressive way of dealing with the issue, but if all else fails...I'd give it a shot.
                    Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
                    Veronica: "Buy me a pony?"


                    • #11
                      This is ridiculous. You should not be paying for instruction on something that is blatantly wrong. Why is this trainers instruction so much better without the gymnastics? Is she really teaching you anything? Why do you like her?


                      • #12
                        You are right and she is wrong.

                        Problem 1: You are the paying ammy, she is the paid pro

                        Problem 2: Gymnastics can be fantastic when set intelligently and with a purpose. The best of the best hunter gurus do this. They can be something between "wasted jumps" and scary for horse and rider when done without enough knowledge.

                        So you must do something, even if that's skipping gymnastics day lessons.

                        Problem 3: You and trainer don't have a good way to talk about what you need at the moment. The pro should Man Up and get over the shock of your "challenge," but might not be able to just yet.

                        I think other posters have given you good ideas about how to broach the subject. I agree that a private convo, and the innocent "Hey, look what I learned! The bigwigs do say to shorten the distances to accommodate for the fact that the trotting horse will land closer to the base of the first one" may work. But you might need to just put some time between your last discussion and this one.

                        On the other hand, I was in the same situation and learned something. The pro had set the distances at cantering-length distances and that got my panties in a wad. Of course, she and I agreed that my horse really needed to learn to canter slowly and stretch out his stride without me chasing and causing him to answer with "ok, bizzatch, you get shorter but faster." I'll be damned if he didn't do that by sizing up the too-long distance and making it work.
                        The armchair saddler
                        Politically Pro-Cat


                        • #13
                          lol. Does the instructor also judge? We had a judge once, in an eq work-off, who lowered the in of the in-and-out and wanted us to trot in. All righty.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by BuddyRoo View Post
                            Does instructor ride? Could you ask instructor to please get on your horse and show you how to "properly execute this gymnastic from the trot" because you're having difficulty? Perhaps if instructor had to actually ride it, instructor would hop on the clue train.
                            yes, I think that would be the best thing to do



                            • #15
                              What state are you in? I know an instructor who does the same thing and when I discussed it with that person, the response I got back was not good! We were talking about distances changing in hunterland when the fences got higher- like from the 3' divisions to the 4' regulars. I was told there was no way the lines could be set any longer than a 12' stride because the only horses who could make that were racehorses!! huh? ok, then!
                              Sometimes going forward is as simple as never going backward.


                              • #16
                                I would get a different instructor. I have only been riding 7 years, and I can set up fairly accurate related distances. If they are off, if is normally by no more than 1-2 feet, not by 10 or more feet. That's almost a whole stride off!!! If you ask me, that is simply ridiculous.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thanks for the responses so far. I'm actually quite worried about it because the instructor truly does NOT know that the gymnastics needs to be adjusted for the trot in. This is for my safety as well as the safety of the many juniors also taking instruction who do not yet realize that these distances are not set correctly.

                                  Interestingly, the instructor does not jump though the gymnastics that he/she designs. I think if he/she did, that they would understand the awkwardness of the distance. I'm not going to let him/her go through on my horse though because it would put my horse in an awkward, crash worthy situation.

                                  I would canter through if I could, but there is usually a trot pole or two set up in front of the first fence to prevent it. I do try and ask for the canter a step before the jump to try and get the distance in, but the jumps are still always flyers. I can't add up either because there are placement poles set at 12 foot intervals. I'm here right now still shaking about this.

                                  I did make the confrontation in the middle of a group lesson--I guess that was an oops.


                                  • #18
                                    This is a shame. You are right, she is wrong. Gymnastics are an amazing tool and something that can and SHOULD be taylored to each horse and rider and the desired goal for the day!

                                    Even within one group lesson, it may be difficult to have all horses and riders in the lesson jumping the exact same gymnastic set at the same lengths. When I did camp 2 weeks ago, I had a gymnastics day and I had to set up our gymnastics line once for the ponies, and then again for the horses. When I was having my students come through with no reins, I shortened it up a little just to make it a little easier so that the test became the no reins, not the gymnastic. Gymnastics can easily scare a horse or rider when no set correctly!
                                    ...for there are wings on these hooves, the speed and power of foam-capped waves...
                                    Proud member of the artists clique


                                    • #19
                                      If your instructor doesn't know how to set fences then what else doesn't she know?
                                      If she can't see with her own two eyes that the distance is wrong, then she is a not qualified to teach. IMO.


                                      • #20
                                        Get new trainer.

                                        This is gymnastics 101. I won't pay $$ to people who know less about riding a horse than I do.

                                        From your post, there is nothing positive that will come out of you trying to correct the trainer, even though you are totally correct.

                                        And just fyi, we set the gymnastics even a little shorter than "standard", even when the jumps go up - teaches horse to rock back, slow down, etc. Not all horses can do this, but you get the picture.