Training Your Horse to Jump Obstacles
Laying the Correct Foundations
Most people who own a Horse just want to go for long hacks down country lanes, use bridle tracks or go to the beach for a long gallop. They love the fact of just owning a horse, whether stabled or on grass grazing they just want to have fun, no pressure and just being able to ride whenever, as often as they want. This is totally fine, as Horses need to be enjoyed and not be used as mere machines, the more you give your Horse the more you will get out of them. However, if you should at any stage want to be able to do more with your Horse, never fear, as it is never too late, you are never too old to start. Riders can ride and compete at top level, in any equestrian discipline well into their fifties, even into their sixties, both Females, and Males.
If you are thinking of moving your riding that one step up the ladder, slowly progressing into a competition, never be frightened of making the move. With the right attitude and correct coaching, you can do it, and do it well. When jumping a horse remember, you are asking a half-ton animal to get all four feet off the ground at one given time. On the one hand, it is difficult, yet once you have done it and you are confident it becomes easier, it is just a matter of building your confidence and getting the feel for your horse and staying focused. In this article, I will give you the insight of how to build the trust between horse and rider without it being complicated or technical giving you the best advice to progress your horsemanship.
Admiring the Professionals
Putting Your Hard Work into Practice
Jumping with a horse is quite simple if you keep it simple, not over-thinking what you are doing making it technical. Then it will become difficult, eventually becoming a chore and you will simply give up and pack it in. That is what happens to a huge number of people that start out with horses they progress and start jumping, after a few years they have made no progress just still struggling to jump 1metres to 1.10metres. They lose heart and due to a lack of progress, they decide to give it up and going back to hacking out or maybe going to the beach and nothing else. All of this is fine if that is what you want, but it is a shame when someone has done a bit of jumping and through bad advice and poor coaching, decide to give it up. So let us get back to jumping, more important than anything do not to rush, never think that you need to speed up to get your horse over the obstacle. A horse does not require speed to get over the obstacle that is placed in front of it. Only if the obstacle is a 10 to 12 feet wide water jump. Imagine watching a horse jumping of its own accord, and how the horse would do it for himself, he would regulate his pace, judge the distance and then pop over the obstacle, simple. That is how it should be, your horse needs to be light in front, meaning his shoulders neck and head. He should not be leaning on the bridle, being heavy on your hands. Ride your horse keeping your hands soft on the reins, then your horse will be soft back to you. This will take a bit of time it is all part of the schooling process, but you need to get this done before you even attempt to jump. If you cannot get your horse light in your hand then change the tack, put a different bit in its mouth play around once the horse is comfortable he will automatically become light in your hand. Also, do not take for granted that in order to get your horse light in front, you need a stronger bit that is not the case. It depends on the individual horse the majority will work with a soft bit. However, some will require a bit that is slightly more severe to get the correct contact in your hand. It is important that you get this right before you start jumping, the flatwork schooling at the beginning will benefit you and your horse immensely in the future. Once you have mastered this, the jumping will be simple for you, and your horse.
Your horse is now schooling well in his flatwork it has a nice slow controlled canter being light in front. Now all you need to do is to cut the canter pace down by another 30%, this will not only slow down the canter, but shorten your horse is stride. In doing one simple exercise (slowing the canter) you have shortened your horse is stride. Again, this may take a little bit of time, but keep at it once you and your horse gets it, you will reap the rewards. Once your horse is cantering slow and short consistently, being light in front you are now ready to jump. Placing a cross pole obstacle in a central position in your arena, giving you enough room from both sides circle the obstacle in exactly the same canter as the one you have been working on. Once you are in the canter you can then approach the obstacle at exactly the same pace. Your hands soft do not kick your horse forward, or then he will extend his stride and your approach will be wrong. Keep the power in their hind legs work between your hands and your heels, keep contact on the reins, and keeping your horse is momentum going. The slower and shorter the canter, it becomes nearly impossible for you and your horse to reach the obstacle at the wrong stride. This method is all about eliminating the risk factor. At lower heights get your horse to take off as near to the obstacle as possible, this will teach your horse to use his front shoulders and legs in getting adequate height over the obstacle. Once the obstacle is above 1.10metre and up to 1.25metre take off is the height of the obstacle. Keeping it simple think of your horse like a ball, being round in shape in the shortest canter possible, with a bouncing action, this way you will not go far wrong. Because your canter is so short, every-time you approach the obstacle your approach will never be far wrong, and your horse will not have an excuse to not jump. Jumping is all in the schooling flatwork that you do if you master that then you will not get it wrong. It is very important that you do not change your approach, just keeping it going, as slow as possible, the stride as short as possible, with all the power in the hind legs. Never kick your horse forward into the obstacle, as this will create fear in your horse making him think there is something more to it, your horse will become anxious and spooky and stop. It is so important not to let that happen. Never kick wildly on the approach, keep your leg on your horse’s side, you will feel it for yourself when your horse is going correctly and jumping well. Be patient and keep at it never let the stride extend, this is very important. Over a period of time you will find that your horse has a rhythm at which he jumps best and once you find this rhythm then your jumping will become so much easier.
Use these simple techniques when riding and I promise you will not go far wrong. Slow canter, short stride being light in front shifting your horse is power to the hind legs. Many experts will tell you that you need to be able to see a stride before an obstacle. Personally, I disagree, you will not see an actual stride. What you will be able to see though is the distance, when you are a certain distance from the obstacle you will know if you will meet that obstacle at the correct take off point. Never be obsessed with the need to count out your strides when approaching an obstacle, just build the knowledge that your take off will be correct. Keep it simple and never panic, take your time and you will have years of enjoyment with your horse. Remember that the advice I have given here is for someone starting out in a new discipline. The more experience you gain and as you get better then, and only then you will be able to change some of the approaches. Like going that bit faster against the clock, or sometimes having to extend your horse’s stride when in a related distance obstacle. But that takes time and two or three years, experience to master. However, stick to what I have outlined here and you will see the results quickly and enjoy competing on a regular basis.
Something to Aim For
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