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How do you keep your jumper fit?

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  • How do you keep your jumper fit?

    How do you keep your jumper fit? I'm really interested to hear what different people's programs are. I have a big WB that needs just a little more fitness. I don't want to overdo the ring work, but he doesn't really enjoy workouts out in the open fields/hills as much as my other horses do (though we still do them).

  • #2
    I have a big grey mare that tends to lose her fitness quite easily. I alternate between what I call "fast" days and "slow" days. Fast days entail cavaletti work, gymnastics, collection, transitions, lateral work. Pretty much always changing it up. They are fairly demanding session, but I keep them short, no more than 25-30 mins. Long days entail hacks out on the trail, walk trot work, hill work, gallops- not too fast, but for a fair distance followed by a lot of walk work. I usually use draw reins for these sessions so that the horse is always working through, but I don't have to fuss so much with the bridle. This seems to have worked well for my mare. I also don't necessarily work her every day, I usually work her 4-5 times a week, alternating fast and slow days. Good luck!
    Ryu Equestrian & Facebook Page
    Breeding Horses Today, for the Equestrian Sport of Tomorrow.
    Osteen & Gainesville, Florida.


    • #3
      My AO Jumper WB mare also loses fitness pretty quickly. I do fairly conditioning-intensive training sessions close to 7 days a week (she'll usually get 1 day off every 2 weeks). Every day we do 30 minutes of long and low but very forward warm up, followed by 15-30 minutes of collected and lateral work (shoulders/haunches-in/out, serpentines, spiraling, transitions, etc.). And during the show season I try to jump her every day.....only over smaller jumps (3'6" and under range), but lots of gymnastics, jumps on a circle, etc. I find that for this particular horse she holds her jumping stamina and fitness much better if we do a little bit every day. I jump her up (4'6") once every couple of weeks.

      She's the only horse I've ever had to keep in such a rigid conditioning program, but boy does it make a difference during the show season! My off-season sessions are shorter and involve a lot more dressage and a lot less jumping. And my other jumpers are on much less intense workout programs.

      FWIW, I don't do any out-of-the-arena work. Much of the time I'm riding during my kids' naps and can't leave the property. Fortunately this particular mare is perfectly happy to work on what we work on without "field trips"
      Flying F Sport Horses
      Horses in the NW


      • #4
        For one, I tailor their feed and supplements individually.

        My seasoned guys do 2 days of light flat work - mostly on the buckle, 20-30 mins tops. I find that they get fried mentally if they need to work intensively too many times per week, so these 2 days are mostly just to hack out and stretch their legs.

        2 days of more intense flatwork (emphasis on transitions between gaits and collection/extention) with maybe a handful of small jumps. One of these might be a student's flat lesson day.

        1 day we jump bigger stuff and work on whatever our current jumping goal is. Even during this ride I try to limit the fences, they only have so many jumps on those legs. This would be the student's jumping lesson for the week.

        Then 1 day we spend out in the field. I have what I call "big gallop" days and "little gallop" days that alternate every week. On the "big" week we gallop pretty hard for as long as I think is okay temperature wise, followed by an hour's walk through the trails. On the "little" week we work on all of our flatwork, gallop a little bit, and jump some natural stuff.

        The last day is off, usually monday. And of course this schedule gets a little jumbled during show weeks but we try to keep the jumping day or the gallop day on a weekend so that its similar to a show week where they'd be doing the most on the weekend.

        My two greenies do the same, but have one more intensive flat work day with a few more jumps and one less hack day. One is actually TOO fit and is quite a handful. He's also a stallion though.

        I find that this balance works pretty well for our guys and gal and I must say I'm happy to be in a part of the country that allows me to gallop out like we do. Growing up that wasnt an option for me.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks for sharing. PNWjumper, I was encouraged to read that you sometimes jump your mare every day. This horse loves to jump and as soon as he knows that is in the plan--even if it is tiny cavaletti--he just goes so much better and it makes him so happy he really pours himself into whatever I'm asking for. I was thinking that if I increased his ring work he might get sour, but I think if I throw in a few smaller jumps each day that won't happen.

          I do ride him out at least 1-2 days per week and trot/canter around the fields but he seems to be bored by it. Like it or not, I think I may add some more "formal" trot and canter sets. MCarverS, that's a great point about making the horse work "through" during the fitness work. That was one thing I was worried about with increasing the field work--with this big guy he is a little harder to put together out in the middle of a field, esp. when he gets tired and I don't want him to forget the proper self-carriage we are working on in the ring. I think I just have to really make the effort with that.


          • #6
            If he gets bored hacking in the fields, why not try some cross country?
            "To do something that you feel in your heart that's great, you need to make a lot of mistakes. Anything that is successful is a series of mistakes." -B.J. Armstrong


            • #7
              I like this thread. My young jumper is not in a set conditioning program at the moment, but we generally do one hard jumping lesson a week, an optional mini-jump (3ft and below) alone, and at least one trail. I usually ride him between 5-6 days a week. But I have been toying with the idea of planned "vacations" for him because he has gotten lazy and I think he might be losing his work ethic. Apparently his current schedule is not fun enough, my trainer seems to think I should be happy that he is so quiet now

              I do write down every ride though--I have a color coded calendar where I write simply the title of each day (hack, trail, jump, lesson, show, lunge, day off) so I can at a glance see how many days he's worked and what he's done. Then I have a little log book where I write a few notes about each ride. Helps me keep track of when certain issues arise, when they disappear, and if they come back again. I would be completely lost without this!

              Funny you should say that you have trouble putting him together out in the fields 2foals, because with mine it's the opposite. Mine tends to engage more easily out in the fields but perhaps it's because he's a bit lazy in the ring and is always prepared to evade killer rabbits in the field.


              • #8
                Well, there's a few of them and it really depends on their individual needs and mood.

                IMO there's nothing wrong with doing rail work or small jumping excercises almost every day for a while. fex incorporating a line of bounces or some grid work into your flat work. Doing rail excercises as part of your flat work etc. But I personally find it very useful to also on occation stay away from rails and jumps altogether for a 10-14 day period when you don't really have to practice over jumps. Keeps them a little more fresh on the rails and let's face it, you don't want to make a jumper bored with working over rails.

                Somebody mentioned a little cross country. I think this is a great idea for a bored/lazy/and even shy jumper.
                Going out in the field will often make them a little more excited and a little braver, specially if they are with a group of other horses. I had a mare that was to shy to rerach across properly in a big one stride bounce a one out on the field. A hunter pace in your area could be a great fun conditioning workout.
                Try to stay away from brush fences etc and keep it small enough for a good jump though as again, you will want him to stay careful.

                Now on to OPs Q.

                IMO the most important thing is to do a lot of your flat work in a more realistic pace. I see a lot of riders school their horses on the flat at a 50ft per minute pace (ok exadurating but you get my drift).

                In real life you have to stay on a good forward canter and jump for 2-3 min, so make sure that you get a decent amount of work done in a forward canter and in a light seat. This is the pace he will have to carry over a course. You need to make sure he can keep this pace and still be rideable so its a win win. He gets fitter and you get a real gage on the control you actually have!

                Who cares that you can halt or turn on a dime when you canter really slow if you can't carry a good pace and still have breaks and turns?

                Think about the job he does in the ring and the pace he has to work at, then play with it! Play being the operative word here. Have a bit of fun, challenge your eye at a bigger stride by counting strides between rails or between fenceposts if it's a non jumping week.
                Challenge your steering by leaving one out between post A&B then do the inside turn in front of that oxer. Challenge your breaks by hand galloping fence post B as a single and then halting to salute the crowd. Treat him like he jus won a GP when you get it right. Essentially have fun with him and with it!

                Turns are great, do a mock barrel race, lead changes and breaks are good too. Fex Set up 3-4 jump standards only in a big ring. Hand gallop between them and halt next to each, pick up the other lead, hand gallop to the next one in order and halt. This is something you can do next to each jump too if a course is already set up.

                If jumps are set up, go out there and canter the course passing just next to each jump rather then jump it. Try to still find your spots even if you are not actually jumping. Challenge a friend to do it with you or play around by yourself. When you ace it, again act like you won the GP. If you have fun, your horse will have a bit more fun too!

                It is so easy to get stuck on a small circle "working on that sticky left side" but no course was ever ridden on a small circle on a really short stride.

                Don't do anything crazy of course that will make him blow a tendon but have fun and he'll have more fun too. Again everything in moderation but if you have some rails thrown out, challenge yourself to handgallop the first rail, still get the add and then leave out to the third etc and so on.

                When you are out in the field, don't just canter up the same boring hill time and time again. Make it something different by hiking your leathers up 10 holes and pretending you are starring in National Velvet or riding in the Kentucky Derby. Or pick distances to nail, the next red flower etc. Switch it up when out in the field, hand gallop to the next red flower, perform a canterpiruette around it, let him trot on a loose rein and see if he can grab a quick snack without breaking pace etc. Then pick the hand gallop up again.

                All of this is the kind of stuff I used to do with my U16 jumper back home to keep him fit and happy. Mostly because I had a younger sister to play with but also because going around and around on a circle didn't interest him much.

                Me and my sis would always be looking for different ways to trip each up, some were completely retarded like the game where the goal was to pull the other one of their horse (we gave this one up once we grew out of our smalls and the ground ended up too far away), but some games like the modified barrel race between jump standards where you had to come to a complete halt and touch the last fence post with your hand for at least a full second were really useful.
                So was the one where we set a jump course with rails on the ground and simply counted strides to get the winner (we had no stop watch at the time). You can blow down a line in 4 strides but you'll most likely end up with an add through the turn. We also had a make shift crosscountrytrack set up in the woods. A fallen tree to a pile of brush, around that tree and under that one etc. We'd hack on overgrown twotracks to get there and allow our horses to grab a bit only if they didn't break stride to do it. All of this taught us a lot and our horses had fun too.

                My examples of exercises is a modification of the games for honor (and sometimes for cleaning the other ones tack) we played in our teens. I don't recommend doing all of the stupid things we did but we had fun riding, our horses had fun and we rode them in a much more realistic way. The horses we were on also BTW did the high juniors, 1.50 (4'9-5ft) back home, so no joke there!

                What I am trying to get to is the fun factor.

                My last remark will be in remenicing about working for Rolf Goran Bengtson (silver Olympics 2008) a summer many years ago. I very distinctly remember him telling one of the working students to get on his then top horse with one simple instruction, "play with him!"
                Timothy, stop lurking