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Excercises for teaching to bring up those front legs?

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  • Excercises for teaching to bring up those front legs?

    I have a lovely young hunter whom I would like to train to bring her front legs up a little higher and tighter over the hunter fences. I realize her natural ability will always be to lift her head and "reach" a little over the fences rather then staying round and really bringing her knees up to her chin but are there any specific things I could work on at home to try and improve the overall picture over the fences. Trotting poles, back strengthing excercises, gridwork patterns ?????

  • #2
    Landing rails. Lots of larger trot fences with landing rails, canter oxers with landing rails. You also want to avoid draw reins to the chest, but do a lot of your work in draw reins to the belly (through a yoke if you are jumping obviously) or a chambon. The rider too has to be very careful to stay way down, past the point where a rail would be even if there isn't one. You can put a little reach in them, but as you say, stiffness through the neck and shoulder is very hard to fix.


    • #3
      Slicing fences helped one of my horses learn to jump better. Rolling out the ground lines a little to teach them to jump from a bigger, longer spot (gives them time to clear their shoulders). Take off and landing rails set a tad on the longer side (set too short will make them jump over their shoulders). Some horses respond well to grids. One BNT would have someone drop the rail (opposite idea of poling) when the horse went over and he didn't like the sound so he learned to pick up his feet (and went from a $20k horse to a $200k horse).

      Make sure the saddle fits and the horse is comfortable. Back and shoulder pain will make it difficult to get desired results.

      Always wear a helmet!! Good luck.


      • #4
        Cboylen's suggestions are dead on. So are the others...and I'll add small, square oxers with some width to them sharpen most of them up.

        I'd avoid repeating the same jumps too many times or making a big deal about jumping in general as well as not just drilling, drilling, drilling back and forth up and down the same line.

        If you make the jumps and the excercises more interesting and less repetitive, it may keep her more interested in using that neck to learn to look and judge. An awful lot of them are just dull because they are bored and see no need to pay much attention to where their feet are or even care if they rub.

        Try spicing your fences up a little too, flowers, tarps. Make her want to reach down to take a peek and get those front feet well over. Your landing and take off rails will do the same thing, make her have to be a little careful and start looking instead of evading.

        Hit your flatwork too-she has to round for you and reach out and down a bit there first before she can arrange herself that way over a fence.
        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks CBoylen..I was hoping you would respond with your excellent suggestions as usual And everyone else too.....thanks guys. I don't use drawreins (just my pet peeve on those) nor does my trainer. But I think one of you had it bang on...I think she is bored. Her temperment is so quiet and she takes everything in stride and can jump anything so easily anyway I guess she figures why bother to put in the extra effort.

          I will try to make the fences more interesting to her and of course the landing rail idea is an easy remedy too. I ride her on the flat almost in a dressage frame already as she naturally tends to go that way but I can drop the reins out and let her extend for more of a hunter way of going. She usually pins quite high in the flat classes.

          As I mentioned when the fences go up her whole jumping position changes....perhaps more of a challenge for her? OK off to try your ideas....


          • #6
            Ramped jumps and hogsbacks on a lunge line so the rider/saddle are not interfering with form. I use a lariat headstall so the horse can't learn on me and so I can give a correction immediately (reward is doing nothing). I start out low - 12-18" - and work up over a few weeks to 3' -4' depending on the age of the horse. I end a session when the horse has 2 or 3 jumps in good form. I make a big fuss over the horse after every good jump. I say nothing for bad landings, take-offs, etc. I will stop the horse if I think their approach is dangerous. I yell if they try to run out (never allowed!). I do not let the horse jump under saddle until the lunge line jumps are exactly what I want.
            Cindy Bergmann
            Canterbury Court


            • #7
              Canterbury Court - LOVE this idea. (Was lurking on thread! ) Thanks very much for the tip. I'd always rather use something that helps the HORSE figure it out. This will serve nicely! Thank you!
              "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


              • #8
                IMO, the huntery wide jump with the gappy distance is a large part of why some can tend to get drapey or lazy. Yes, it works in the ring because there's lots of time to bring those shoulders up, but if you use that style of fence and ride every day in training they can become lazy because there is so much room, they don't have to bring those legs up.

                What I would do is jump around a jumpery or eq type course - square oxers, true verticals, bright poles, a liverpool, etc. The idea is to sharpen their form up so that they can go in the ring and still have those nice knees. This also keeps their attention and interest. Longer distances forces a high drapey knee by necessity; quiet distances to square oxers and verticals creates strength and technique that are lasting and applicable in a variety of situations.

                I also like to jump off circles, do bounces and gymnastics set quiet (using either oxers or verticals) to tune up a front end.

                When they're all sharpened up at home from good schooling, then you can go float down the lines over the wider trajectories and still maintain those beautiful high knees, which will be accentuated by the hunter ride and fence construction.
                It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)


                • #9
                  You have to be very careful; there is a big difference in how you train a horse that is slow with the front end and stiff through the neck, versus one that is lazy with the front end and loose below the knee. I was under the impression the OP's horse was the former, although only they can make that determination in person. Making a horse that doesn't have a lot of freedom in the neck and shoulder much sharper and quicker up front with bounces and short groundlines will create that "I ran head-first into this invisible brick wall mid-air" look, and the horse will try to compensate for lack of quickness up front by bringing its lower leg up tight like a jumper, often causing the knees to point further down. Certainly you want the horse sharp so it is inclined to back off the jump so that it has time to bring the front end up, but you need to accomplish that without putting it in situations that its form can't handle.


                  • #10
                    Just want to say that I always look forward to cboylen's advice
                    Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.


                    • #11
                      Why, is she god. Do you have no idea. I'm a little floored, you are awaiting advice, good grief, I forget this is a forum to train off. If anyone saw Sapphire in her formitive days no-one would have ever thought she could jump. she hanged her front end and look at her now. Guess what she figured it out. I would be waaaay more concerned about hind end any day than front. I just hate how you guys are in awwwwwwe about advice. Cboylen no hard feelings and this is absolutely not about you.


                      • #12
                        OK I read my reply and thought a clarification was in order.

                        You have a trainer, why does he/she not know what to do?

                        If the OP was looking for advice on her own it would have been different.

                        Why is OP validating for the trainer, maybe this should be a new thread.


                        • #13
                          By landing rails you mean a rail one stride out on the other side right? How does this encourage higher knees?
                          ~*~Life is short!! Hug your horse!!~*~

                          *~*~*The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears.*~*~*


                          • #14
                            I mean a rail 9-10 feet out on the backside. It encourages a horse to be slower in the air, and land reaching down and looking for the rail. Basically it asks them to finish their arc completely through their neck. Combined with a rampy oxer in particular, asking the horse to be slower and rounder gives them more time to bring the front end up, or, if not, they will hit it looking down at the rail and will bring it up the next time.


                            • Original Poster

                              First of all for those that are questioning CBoylen's advice. I have had previous off the board conversations regarding this particular horse. She knows the breeding and knows where we are with the training of this animal. I find the disparaging remarks concerning her comments and ability quite hurtful. I think she makes excellent suggestions, is very well written and I agree with her on this one as well. The landing pole after the jumps seems to have helped me so far this weekend already

                              I do have a professional trainer. But there are always different options to every problem and my trainer had no concerns with me trying CBoylens suggestion at all. BTW I ride and train at home myself and have my trainer catch ride at the shows in the pro divisions.

                              And yes CBoylen you were correct in your first assumption. This horse is not lazy with her legs dangling down etc. Her knees are even and level every time. It is her "stiff" neck (not reaching over the fence during the bascule phase) and her inability to really bring those knees up past parallel that is the problem (ie: slow to bring them up). Her tack fits perfectly and she receives weekly massage. There have never been any medical concerns whatsoever. The hind leg take off and follow through over the fences are just about perfect as is the rest of her trips, its just the darn overall form I have to try and make a little nicer.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by tailgate View Post
                                Why, is she god. Do you have no idea. I'm a little floored, you are awaiting advice, good grief, I forget this is a forum to train off. If anyone saw Sapphire in her formitive days no-one would have ever thought she could jump. she hanged her front end and look at her now. Guess what she figured it out. I would be waaaay more concerned about hind end any day than front. I just hate how you guys are in awwwwwwe about advice. Cboylen no hard feelings and this is absolutely not about you.
                                "Cboylen no hard feelings and this is absolutely now about you." but you start your reply by saying "Why, is she God." sounds like it is about Cboylen. Getting tips from people with more experience is not about making them, "God", it is just asking a question and someone else taking the time to reply.

                                A hunter is a little different than a jumper - the form over the jumps is everything for a hunter - a jumper just needs to be careful. Cboylen knows about hunters and I would be glad to have a horse of mine to benefit from her knowledge and experience anytime.

                                Tailgate from your post you seem to have some experience. You state Sapphire in her formative days did not possess good form, wouldn't you be interested to learn how the change came about? I don't know if you are correct about Sapphire's green days, but I would be interested about her training.


                                • #17
                                  Tightening up the front end

                                  I would have to agree with both CBoylen and Mac123.

                                  Both techniques work well, now I train mostly jumpers, and my comments should be considered in that vein.
                                  But where I am at, NW, judges are increasingly wanting to see more round, tight and use of neck and back in the HUNTER ring.
                                  Now for me this is a bit new, as for the last 15 years judges have rewarded the gappy form, with a more old fashioned hunting style. with the advent of classes like the "handy hunter" and derbies coming back into fashion, with their traditional courses that reward functiuonality as well as form, I think the focus comes full circle back to what I believe makes a good jumping horse, hunter or jumper.

                                  Using a bounce, brings the obstacle quickly to the horse and he MUST respond in kind QUICKLY. Now sometimes this produces a tighter front end, sometimes it produces a faster, quicker and more frantic jumping effort.

                                  The use of ground poles, both landing and take off, I believe is the best way to determine your horses jumping speed and style.
                                  By this I mean, if, when a placing pole is put 9-10 feet IN FRONT of the obstacle, does your horses back up and "hang" over the jump, or does he "see" his distance and hiot the jump smoothly and in good form.
                                  Depending on how he does this should give you an idea of his style.
                                  Placing landing poles, generally helps the front end by keeping the front legs folded a bit longer, and prevents unfolding too soon, thus "hanging" legs.
                                  work with both techniques and see what helps, hope this helps!
                                  And remember, you cannot change your horses jumping STYLE, but you can refine his TECHNIQUE, especially true for the front end. And give him time to develop his form if you are trying to influence his technique.


                                  • #18
                                    I have no experience with hunters and I know thats what Cboylen does. The reason I said that, is every horse is different. You can't train a horse over the internet. What you might be seeing and what advice you get and end up trying might totally ruin a horse.

                                    I get what she is saying about the wow factor in a hunter and how do you achieve it, but isn't that why its a top hunter. That's the way the horse jumps and that's why you pay through your nose for that particular horse. You can improve a horse with training and exercises, but in my experience you are not going to make a horse that jumps a little flat or whatever to make it put its knees around its ears. I could go into confirmation, but that is another issue.

                                    For instance I have a brilliant 5 year old (he is no hunter) he hangs his front legs but just jumps higher as the jumps go up. He just started 3'9 and doesn't apply himself. Sapphire in her early days did exactly that and they didn't think she would be a grand prix jumper. She just figured it out adventually with time and experience. With my youngster he will figure it out, he has only had 2 rails, trying to make him have rails is not working, he is too smart for that. There are ways that one uses to try and make him pull his front end up, but the risk of him never going near a jump again are huge. I would never do that too him. For one I have seen many a brilliant horse ruined from people trying to cut corners and think they have the answer.

                                    My point is that your trainer should know what to do to improve his jump and landing rails is just such a basic exercise. I know the internet is a very good source for information but are they looking at you and the horse or talking in general. There is nothing wrong with cboylen's advice but it is pretty standand knowledge for a trainer in this particular case.


                                    • #19
                                      tailgate, did you consider the OP does not have a trainer to ride and train her horse every day. Cboylen's answer was correct for the question originally asked. If a horse could be made to change their style of jumping there would be four In Disguises or Rox Denes in every hunter class. Cboylen's suggestion is to make an improvement in a horse with the described jumping style.