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Horse Jumping for Beginners
Not as easy as it looks
Horse jumping isn't as easy as it looks. When you start to jump higher than 3 foot 3 inches you will have to have the perfect distance, if you don't the horse is more likely to hit a rail. You have to release so the horse can use it's neck. Horses use their neck as a counter weight while jumping.
If you are just a beginner at jumping horses I would recommend, that you start low and work your way up, pretty much like any other sport. As a beginner, when you start taking horse jumping lessons you will likely need a different type of coach than a more experienced rider. When you start receiving riding instructions you need a coach who is very patient and willing to work with you. It also helps if your class is filled with similar skilled students of approximately the same age.
It is important to note that the type of coach you get may make all of the difference to your horse jumping. While one generally starts off with one coach who is close to your home or was referred by a friend, as you progress you may find that you and your coach are not a good fit. Some coaches are great with kids while others try to avoid them at all costs. Some instructors prefer to teach adults vs children as the emotional aspects of riding and horse jumping can come out a lot when kids are riding and many instructors do not want to put up with children crying when they cannot master basic horse jumping skills.
While your ultimate goal is to be able to jump your horse over a variety of jumps, you first need to train your horse appropriately. This includes ground manners as well as a lot of flat work. Many trainers will school their students extensively on flat work even before beginning to get their students to jump their horses.
Part of the training can consist of lungeing or longeing your horse on a lunge line. This can assist you in helping the horse identify who the boss is, working your voice comands as well as letting your horse get a lot of energy out of them before you start to ride.
As your horse jumping skills progress, there will come a time when you get the feeling of jumping horses and start training your eye to see distances. You can then start angling jumps and doing roll backs to jumps. At this point you may also need to consider switching instructors as your first instructor who taught you the basics may not want to teach you as you advance up in skill level.
When people talk about horse jumping distances in the horse world, they mean the place where your horse's front hooves leave the ground to clear the jump. A good exercise to start training your eye to see distances is by doing grids, which are a series of jumps lined up with a certain amount of striding in between all the jumps. Normally grids are designed as a bounce to a bounce to a 1-stride.
Once the grid is set up, ride your horse to the base of the first jump and following the natural rhythm of the horses stride. Your horse should be able to jump the rest perfectly. If grids are new to your horse, it may take a bit longer to figure them out, because it is something new. But once the horse is calm and quiet, you do the same, sit quietly letting the horse do his thing, giving you the advantage of just watching and feeling how it is done.
As you get better and want a new challenge when horse jumping, you may start going to horse shows. There are two categories, which you can jump in. Hunters and Jumpers. In Hunters you are judged on your form while in Jumpers you are scored on speed. The less time you take to complete the course without knocking down a rail the better your chances of winning.
While I use to compete in Hunters, I now compete in Jumpers. I find it way more amusing and it gets your adrenaline rushing. In horse show jumping you need a fast time and to place in the bigger shows you need to go clear. In horse jumping, all riders are given a set time in which they must complete the course. If you go over this time period you get a time fault (1 for every second passed). In most major events, if you want to win, you will need to jump your horse over all of the rails without knocking any of them down and complete your ride in the stated time period.
Again what counts in jumpers is the speed, going clear and coming in on time. But just because you are fast, go clear and come in under time, you may still not win if you are unwilling to find the shortest route through the course. Most riders will play it safe and take the easy way through. But if you want to win, you need to find the fastest way through.
A way to get a faster time is to do roll backs and tighter turns. A roll back is considered a tight turn normally leading to another fence, roll backs save valuable seconds in the jumper ring.
To improve the horse's ability to clear the jump, make sure your horse is not flat and has lots of impulsion (jumping up and has his rear end underneath him). The horse's rear end is where his power is, he jumps with his rear feet and he turns on it so you have to make sure it is underneath him and pushing off to win.
The jumper ring adds a lot of pressure and they normally have cash prizes if you win (in the bigger tournaments) but the temptation of wining lots of money sometimes takes your concentration off horse jumping and you will find yourself hitting rails down. Believe me it has happened to me before. For instance, when Renegade and I were jumping at the 3 foot level in the Harvest Classic at Spruce Meadows we always had some of the fastest times. But my 'head got to big' and I lost my concentration so I would always hit a rail on the first or the last jump.
But then again when jumping horses the first and the last jumps are the hardest out of all of the jumps. To keep your mind on the course and not the money just get your mom or dad to take the money if you get it, then they'll give it back to you after you are done the rest of your classes.
Remember, to avoid stiff legs after you have finished your horse jumping,walk your horse out and keep him warm by putting a horse blanket or cooler over their back.