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What to Do About Long Spots

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  • What to Do About Long Spots

    I'm a "baby" jumper - as in, working my way toward 2'3. I have a nice, quiet little horse who's extremely honest about her jumps. She's small and flat-gaited and I feel fairly confident on her (confidence is my issue). The only thing is that she prefers to take long spots rather than chip. At my lesson Saturday my instructor said I was ready to start working on adjusting her stride, but I'm not good at this yet. So yesterday in a practice ride, my mare took a couple of REALLY long spots - one had to be almost twice the correct distance. Although I stayed on and had some more successful jumps afterward, I obviously need to work on rhythm more. What's a good exercise for this? A ground pole one stride in front of the jump? Crossrails on a circle? Something else? I have no competitive aims, just want to keep it fun. I can trot jumps all day, can trot in and canter out of a line all day, but cantering a simple line is my challenge right now.
    Yes, I am crazy. Is that an issue?

  • #2
    A placing pole is a big help, both before and after the jump to teach your horse to put the jump in the middle of her bascule. Also, THE most important thing is to find a rhythm, commit to it, then WAIT for the jump to come to you. If you truly commit to a balanced rhythm, the spots will just happen. Most "mess-ups" happen because we just get in the way, trying to mess around with the horse and change the rhythm in front of the jump. Ground poles are great for practicing this, just laying out a ground pole course and focus on finding and keeping a rhythm (count it out loud, or sing it) and just ALLOWING the poles to fit into the rhythm without forcing anything.
    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

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    • #3
      She is not ready to jump. IMO. If she can't rock back and sit on her hocks then you have more flat work to do before she shold be jumping. You can add poles and lots of them, but until she is able to carry herself, I would wait on jumping real jumps.
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      • #4
        What does she do when your trainer rides her? What is your trainer suggesting for exercises?
        Last edited by ExJumper; Dec. 7, 2009, 03:01 PM.
        Originally posted by tidy rabbit
        Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community.

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        • #5
          Set out two poles in a straight line in some multiple of 12 (like 60'). Canter through and see how many strides you get. If you have trouble counting the strides, just work on that for a few days. Once you get the counting down, work on adding and subtracting 1 stride from the original number. If it naturally happens in 6, try doing it in 5, then try to do it in 7.

          Besides teaching you to shorten and lengthen the stride, it is teaching you to see a distance to the second 'fence'. Eventually that skill will carry over to seeing a distance to the first fence in the line - so you can adjust far enough out to avoid the long distances.

          Don't worry if it doesn't come right away- you may have to spend a few weeks getting it over poles before you feel solid that you can do the number of strides you intend to every time. Thats when you should switch out the poles for x-rails and start over.

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          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
            Set out two poles in a straight line in some multiple of 12 (like 60'). Canter through and see how many strides you get. If you have trouble counting the strides, just work on that for a few days. Once you get the counting down, work on adding and subtracting 1 stride from the original number. If it naturally happens in 6, try doing it in 5, then try to do it in 7.

            Besides teaching you to shorten and lengthen the stride, it is teaching you to see a distance to the second 'fence'. Eventually that skill will carry over to seeing a distance to the first fence in the line - so you can adjust far enough out to avoid the long distances.

            Don't worry if it doesn't come right away- you may have to spend a few weeks getting it over poles before you feel solid that you can do the number of strides you intend to every time. Thats when you should switch out the poles for x-rails and start over.
            I'm sure the problem is me, not my horse. With a more experienced and above all, braver rider she does wonderfully. The problem is that I can't yet tell where the jump is going to come. I can count the strides, but as we get close to the fence I don't know if it's 2 strides or 3 strides away. Up to now my trainer specifically said to let the horse pick her own spots, since the heights have been 2 ft or less and I've been often trotting and working on my position. The occasional "not so bad" long spot has actually helped me learn to stay with her more. What you describe in your first paragraph is exactly what my trainer is having me do. She hasn't put down a ground pole in lessons, because of course she's talking me through it.

            I have no problem with working on the flat as much as I need for rhythm, but at some point I do need to learn this. Ground poles just don't have the intimidating effect of an actual fence! And I know a good deal of this is nerves. Maybe I should go back to crossrails in practice and only do verticals in lessons?
            Yes, I am crazy. Is that an issue?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Bobblehead View Post
              Maybe I should go back to crossrails in practice and only do verticals in lessons?
              I read this to mean that you are jumping by yourself outside of lessons?

              I would strongly suggest that you only jump ANYTHING in lessons. Stick to poles when you are by yourself. You're not doing your horse any favors by trying to jump her on your own. You can learn a LOT from poles and even if they seem simple, they WILL help you learn what you need to know to adjust her stride when jumping real fences.
              Originally posted by tidy rabbit
              Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community.

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              • #8
                Agree with a lot of others have said. I would also add that some horses figure out that the "long" spot is a lot easier, physically, than being buried at the fence. Is she a bit lazy?

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                • #9
                  One of the reasons I emphasized waiting for a jump to come to you is that I think one of the things that is taught, especially in hunter land, very often does more harm than good. This whole concept of "seeing a spot" and riding to that spot usually just means that people are changing the rhythm and taking away the horse's ability to smoothly jump the fence in a misguided effort to ride to the magical, mystical "spot." I know, it goes against what millions of hunter riders consider gospel-truth, but...

                  Your horse sees a distance wayyyyy before you do. And sometimes, even with all the training and practice is the world, you can still be crap at "seeing spots" (like me, it still makes little sense to me, even though I've ridden hunters, jumpers, eventing for many years. I always suspected, and this was drilled into me at a Wofford clinic -- we are trying to work too hard. Let the horse do his job. He knows how to jump.

                  If your horse is consistently going for the long takeoff spot, then you can practice with ground poles, sitting and keeping a canter quiet rhthym, UNCHANGED over your poles. Don't make the jump a big deal, ride it like it's just another canter stride. Then ride to a crossrail -- and stay soft, in a rhythm and sit and wait. Keep a quiet contact that asks your horse to wait. And don't be afraid to get left behind. Better than than jumping up the horse's neck. My guess is that your mare is taking these long spots because you are anticipating the jump at the canter and beginning to move your upper body forward too early when you really want to keep your upper body still and not move it all, but let the horse come up to you.
                  Life doesn't have perfect footing.

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                  • #10
                    I like what wildlifer had to say...I might also add a few things too that could help...

                    "Seeing the spot" is definitely over-emphasized...if you are looking and looking for it, you are not riding the canter that you have...you aren't in the moment...you are ahead of it by virtue of searching for the distance. A chip is from over correcting and ditching a good plan...also not in the moment.

                    Relax, stay in the moment. A little easy exercise is to pick up a canter while you are doing your flatwork, play around with your horse's stride. Ask her to go forward (count 1-2-1-2...get that into your head, think of a song that has about the same tempo to it) adjust her back to a slower tempo (continue counting, you might think of another song to relate it to) You do this until you figure out what gear your horse's optimum canter is...this will be your horse's working canter. You will know it when you feel it. It will be comfortable for you to keep this rythm...this is you very best friend! Now you just have to get in sync with this rhythm. The counting 1-2-1-2 around the entire course will help keep you in the moment. Now, a quick trick. If your horse has a naturally long stride, look out of the corner a little early, the jumps come up quicker...stay in the moment, just look a little sooner. If your horse is shorter or average strided, ride into the corner then look at your jump. To keep your canter consistent around the course remember to press or squeeze with your legs at the middle of each short end of the arena. Hope that helps

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                    • #11
                      I completely agree that seeing the spot is overemphasized, to the point that I will not play if asked to count down from 7 to 'practice seeing a distance' or whatever. It just completely messes up my feel to get hung up on a number, and imo trainers who ask their students to do this are missing the point- which is the quality of the canter.

                      As for what causes the long spot, usually it is a lack of quality in the canter. You want a smoothly packaged, 'bouncy' canter, not a long flat one. You want to be lightly in the middle of his stride, not at one end (long) or the other (really short) so that the horse has room to make a subtle adjustment as you keep the rythm and 'bounce' the same.

                      You also want the horse to wait politely under your seat, and not barge ahead of you if you relax the reins. He shold STAY under your seat. That way you can turn up to the jump and hold the rythm, pace and path largely with seat without interfering with the hand. As the jumps get bigger and life gets more technical you may need to be more proactive, but at 2'6 it is all about straight lines, a politely waiting 'bouncy' canter, and a consistent rythm.

                      The best advice I ever got about riding to a distance was given to me over a decade ago and I have never forgotten it: "Just count 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, and try to get there on 1, or 2." To this day I ride around going 1, 2, 1, 2, ...
                      The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
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                      • #12
                        Thing with the long spots is, even over tiny fences, they can get you and the horse hurt.

                        I'd have you go back to just ground poles and learn to lengthen and, especially, shorten your strides. No jumping until you can manage to get to the base.

                        IMO you should be using placement poles all the time, even in lessons. Your trainer should be teaching you NOT to have to have her talk you over a 2' fence. Not doing you any favors there. I would not be jumping anything outside of lessons either, just do ground poles.

                        Hit the flatwork and learn to manage the stride BEFORE you ask her to jump something.

                        Ummmm, can this horse jump? Has the trainer, or anybody else, navigated a course with her without the long spots?

                        I ask because some horses just do not have the conformation to rock back on their hocks. Too straight angles, too short hip, too steep croup, hocks set too far back..all sorts of things that make it impossible for the horse to get in close to the fence and rock back. they just cannot do it unless they leave from way back to compensate.

                        Other horses have the physical ability but are suffering sore hocks, backs, ill fitting saddles or rider position that makes it impossible to do it correctly.

                        Sorry but, if you are leaving one to strides out? You should not be jumping until you find out why and fix it.
                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          These have all been VERY helpful. Gofish asked if my horse is lazy, YES. It never occurred to me that that could be part of the reason why she likes the long spots, but for sure, whatever is easier is what she'll do. And yes, I jump outside of lessons, but am not too proud to stop.

                          My horse doesn't barge ahead if I relax the reins, if anything I need to encourage her energy. This probably was part of the problem with the too-big jump the other day, we've been working so hard on getting that better quality canter that I overdid it. Wildlifer, my problem has always been being left behind, I'm sure I'm not jumping ahead, but I do get nervous before the jump and tighten up.

                          Crosswinds, I know I don't set up for the jump early enough, my instructor tells me the same thing about asking for more energy sooner. Meupatdoes, right now 2-3 is a challenge for me, 2-6 looks too scary. Yes, I'm a coward.

                          Okay, I ride tonight hopefully, so I'll work on this 1-2 1-2 rhythm, and on adjusting the canter. Ground poles.
                          Yes, I am crazy. Is that an issue?

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                          • #14
                            It all comes from having a good, forward canter. Get the canter right and the jumps will come right.
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                            • #15
                              I have no depth perception, so there is not option to "see a distance." I know what's going to happen about 1-1/2 to 2 strides out but before that? Not a clue. What works for me is establishing the good canter and then counting the rhythm, 1-2-1-2-1-2, etc. Everything usually works out fine if I don't screw with the rhythm of the good canter.

                              Originally posted by kookicat View Post
                              It all comes from having a good, forward canter. Get the canter right and the jumps will come right.
                              Not just a forward canter, but a round canter. The good canter is bouncy as well as forward. Long spots develop from a flat, weak canter or flat, strong canter.

                              OP: work on your canter on the flat and you will see an improvement over fences. You should be able to sit-up, close your legs and feel your horse lift her back up and get rounder in response. Having the good canter is how you close the gap in a long spot (and how you keep a chip from being buried at the base).
                              Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
                              Veronica: "Buy me a pony?"

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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by RugBug View Post
                                I have no depth perception, so there is not option to "see a distance." I know what's going to happen about 1-1/2 to 2 strides out but before that? Not a clue. What works for me is establishing the good canter and then counting the rhythm, 1-2-1-2-1-2, etc. Everything usually works out fine if I don't screw with the rhythm of the good canter.



                                Not just a forward canter, but a round canter. The good canter is bouncy as well as forward. Long spots develop from a flat, weak canter or flat, strong canter.

                                OP: work on your canter on the flat and you will see an improvement over fences. You should be able to sit-up, close your legs and feel your horse lift her back up and get rounder in response. Having the good canter is how you close the gap in a long spot (and how you keep a chip from being buried at the base).
                                Oh, yes. That is very true. You need impulsion in your canter.

                                I was going add more but had to rescue my hubby from the kitchen (or the kitchen from my hubby, lol!)
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                                • #17
                                  ditto on getting the good canter. With the horse I currently ride, I have some of the same issues IF we don't start out with a nice, balanced, even canter. If we're a little choppy 99% of the time we get a long spot. So getting that good canter can sometimes involve cantering lots of circles before starting my course. Oh, and do you ride with a crop/spurs? I've found that with a little nudge from my spur I usually get a good canter right off the bat as she is a little lazy as well From there its just maintaining the 1-2-1-2 in my head. I'm glad I'm not the only one who does that! LOL

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                                  • #18
                                    get a good, round, energetic (does not mean fast!) canter. and WAIT! sing to yourself. do not change the rythm. most of all: get out of your horses way. i know, some horses seem to need a bit of help. i just moved up to a horse who insists you get out of the way. if i interfere, we're probably not going to get the best spot. if i leave her alone and "leg go" .. well, gosh! there's that magical "spot" that we think is so incredible however, i think this does not apply to every horse. (at least regarding the floating the reins and not kicking) my last pony needed direction EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. You can't abandon him in the middle of a line. You just couldn't. You have to remind him EVERY SINGLE STRIDE what you're looking for. But that doesn't mean get in his way, either. You always need to get out of their way, let them do their job--you just have to INSTRUCT them. But don't try to do it for them. Hopefully that's clear.
                                    (|--Sarah--|)

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                                    • #19
                                      Another thing...if I'm consistently getting to a jump long or short, my trainer will have me either shave off the turn or turn a bit wider to the jump. A lot of the time, I'm letting my horse drop his shoulder or bulge in the turn, which can result in that not-so-perfect distance.

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Bobblehead View Post
                                        I can trot jumps all day, can trot in and canter out of a line all day, but cantering a simple line is my challenge right now.
                                        Set some lines made of poles on the ground and practice, practice, practice! Practice adding strides, and making it really smooth. Sometimes I set entire courses of ground poles. Some great exercises are the "wheel of death" which is four poles set about 3-4 strides apart on a circle, or the "clover leaf" which is four poles set in a "t" in the middle of the arena that you make a clover leaf pattern over. (Trot or canter each pole and make an outside turn to get to the next one.) Poles on the ground are fun, low stress on everyone, and teach you and your horse the flatwork that you will need for the jumps.

                                        I agree with everyone that distances = quality of canter. When a horse consistently carries you in a balanced canter to the jumps, the good distances start appearing. It sounds like you just need experience learning how to feel when you have that, and how to keep it all the way around the course.
                                        ******
                                        "A good horse and a good rider are only so in mutual trust."
                                        -H.M.E.

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