|Training - Sporthorse - Jumping
Expert Margie Goldstein-Engle USET
Questions (For answers, scroll down or click on
My pony is a fantastic show jumper and does fantastic flying changes, perfect leg yields, and shoulder-ins. My friend has very little confidence and is very scared of my pony and thinks she is a lunatic. I think this is only because her own horse is very slow and she never want to put up skinny bounces or uneven jumps. What could I do to help her try new things?
My 14 year old Anglo is a fantastic show jumper, except that she cannot do flying changes properly. When I ask her, she changes her front legs, but not her back ones. She can do them over a pole on the ground and her canter is always very balanced. Any suggestions.
My pony Natasha is still getting very excited when I ride into a jump. Recently, I did a two-day event on her. She was perfect in dressage but horrible in showjumping, It was in the indoor arena and the jumps were a little bit scary for her. The main problem was that she was shying at the jump stands rather than the actual jumps. How can I make her concentrate more?
I recently began jumping my horse at a nearby ranch. Everyone tells me I would be great in a Hunter/Hunt Seat class. The only problem is I have no idea what a Hunter class is. Can you please explain what takes place in a Hunter class show?
My 13 year old draft/thoro cross recently had a corneal graft as a result of a fungal eye infection. He has been eventing and show jumping. The extent of his vision loss is not certain. What help can you provide re: training?
My pony Natasha is a very excitable pony. She rushes into jumps and every time she refuses to stop after them. It is very hard to do a jumping course without her being bad. Any suggestions? Another question that can be answered along with this one is: My horse is an absolute lunatic! I have major problems getting her to jump. She runs sideways and throws her head up coming into a jump even though I have a martingale. She behaves only at the last stride. Any ideas?
I have a very talented TB gelding who jumps nicely at home but is very much a chicken away from home. We still haven't made it to a show because just schooling is impossible. I have had two professionals look at him and they think he is very afraid. He doesn't run out, he just stops and no amount of encouragement will even get him over a pole on the ground. What can be in his head that is so bad? He is very agreeable in most other things.
I am very short (4'10") and most saddles that I have tried on my horse "bridge." What kind of saddle do you use, and do you have a recommendation as to what kind of saddle I should be looking for? Does anyone make a flocked saddle that can be adjusted to the horse's back?
I have a 6 year old DWB/WH gelding who had a lower suspensory strain last year. We put him in a stall for 8 weeks, then when the ultra-sound was great, he was turned out by himself for another 6 weeks. I have slowly brought him back over the past six months on the flat. What are your recommendations for a program for returning to jumping? He has had no filling nor swelling in the tendon since returning to work. He regularly bucks and jumps in his pasture with no ill results.
I have just started my 4 year old Holsteiner jumping. His flatwork is quite nice, but he tends to be a bit spooky and has very fast reactions. Over 4 sessions, 5 or 6 days apart, we have progressed to trotting an 18" cross-pole with 9' ground rails on either side. He was doing very well (always working in a quiet arena) till now... Can you give advice on restarting exercises for a young horse and the approach to be taken when problems crop up?
I am looking for the secret to "finding the spot" in
jumping. I try to relax, I do pre-stretches, I watch the videos of pros I admire. I do
deep breathing as in Tai-Chi and I practice Tai-Chi periodically. I try to use the
peripheral vision but sometimes I find I panic when I can't see the spot and make a move
when I shouldn't. Any ideas?
Questions and Answers
A: There are no short cuts to "seeing a distance". But you can try to develop the skills through different exercises and many hours in the saddle. If you do not have many horses to jump, you can practice over poles on the ground. Set the poles up in your ring and practice over the poles. This way you will not panic or get nervous if you don't see the perfect distance. It is important to keep an even rhythm to the pole or jump and you're bound to see something even if you're only one stride away. If you are too far away from the jump, lengthen your horse's stride to get to the pole more comfortably; if you are meeting the pole too quickly, then shorten your horse's stride to meet it more confortably. You can then practice over small jumps when you are comfortable with the poles. Another exercise would be to set two small jumps about two feet in height and 72 feet apart and practice cantering the jumps in a comfortable six strides, then steadying to seven strides and going back to six strides. Remember practice is the key and don't go longer with the jumps than you are comfortable with.
A: Try to keep the pasture fencing at least 5 feet high and if you have a horse that jumps out, I would increase the height. Use either wood or other durable material and stay away from wire, rope, or anything your horses can get through or get hurt on. Check with a fence builder for a more professional look into what would suit your needs. You can find them advertised in horse publications such as: The Chronicle, Practical Horseman, and Horse Play.
Q: I have two Patents on jumping equipment. Where can I find a manufacturer willing to look at them?
A: You should check with some of the places that supply jumping equipment: such as tack shops, mobile shops at horse shows, etc. I'm sure they can help you out with such matters and give you some names of manufacturers. If they like your product, maybe they could even help you to sell your product in their shop. You could also check with some of the catalogs such as State Line Tack, Inc. and see if they can help you.
Q: I went back to riding five years ago as an adult. I now have a horse who will soon be suitable for showing, and both my instructor and I are receiving conflicting information as to whether judges of hunter classes want to see the rider on two-point or three-point position the majority of the time while riding a course. Can you clarify which a hunter judge wants to see?
A: Most judges want to see an even pace, smoothness, good jumping style, and nice movement in between the jumps. The two-point or three-point is really an individual judge's preference, but I think most judges prefer the two-point with the hunters. Most important for a hunter's round is the position which interferes the least with the style and smoothness of the hunter's round. In an equitation round I believe most judges prefer the three-point. I would suggest using the position that benefits your horse's performance.
A: A grob is a ditch in the middle of a V shaped decline/incline. It is a very gradual decline to a ditch and then it comes back up to ground level. The best way to ride to it is to stay a little behind the horse going down towards the ditch and keep a strong feel of the horse's mouth so he doesn't look down into the ditch. You should use your seat and leg to drive him forward. It may be a good idea to let a young horse follow a more experienced horse over it if available.
Q: I need to know basics of setting up a gymnastic for a young horse. I am currently trotting crossrails and small verticals, but would like to set up a gymnastic of three to four elements. What should distances be between elements, etc?
A: There are many exercises for young horses. I will give you a couple, but if you want more there are many articles in magazines such as Horse Play, Practical Horseman, etc. There are also many books on this subject. I just did an in-depth article last month on gymnastics with drawings and a long explanation in Horse Play. I would only start with two jumps in a row with a young horse, then you can add more once they understand. Never overface your green horse. One exercise you could do in a small x or verticle 18 feet to a small oxer then you could add another oxer 20-21 feet after the horse becomes comfortable with the two elements. I would also put a trot rail 7-8 feet in front of the first element. Another good exercise is bounces or no strides and the distance for those is about 9-10 feet.
Q: What is the best way to deal with a horse who likes to leave out a stride at the jumps, taking off early? He's very athletic and makes it over the jump, but it does not make for the smoothest hunter performance. I use a lot of half-halts, as my instructor advised. Is there anything else I should do?
A: I would first start with the basics on the flat. I would work on transitions at the trot and canter. First regular trot/canter, then collect, then lengthen, etc. Try to teach your horse to collect his stride on the flat so you can shorten his stride. If needed, get someone who is good at dressage to help you. Then I would work over two poles on the ground. Let him canter the comfortable distance between the two poles, at least 5 strides, and then make him add a stride between the two poles. When your horse becomes comfortable with this exercise raise the poles to two small jumps still working on the regular distance between the jumps and adding a stride between them. You can also do some tight gymnastic exercises to teach him to shorten in front of the jump. A small verticle (troting) 18 ft. to an oxer with a rail 9 to 10 feet on the landing side. Bounces are another exercise which is good to teach your horse to shorten in front of the jump. The most important thing is to be patient and persistent.
Q: My Thoroughbred gelding, a previous race horse, has just been started over fences. He has done well until the poles were raised to small verticals, now he refuses to jump them. I have tried everything and it does not seem to have any affect. Do you have some helpful suggestions?
A: First of all, make sure your horse is healthy and sound. You want to be sure he has no physical reason to refuse the jump and that he is not in any pain when he jumps. Also start with a small x before making a vertical with ground lines on both sides. I also think it is a good idea to get a professional to start a young horse or a green horse when jumping. A good professional will help to give your horse confidence and guidance when learning to jump.
Q: We have had our 14 year old TB mare for about 2 years and she has been a fabulous jumper. Recently, however, she has begun to buck (really big) after the jumps and she swishes her tail rapidly. Sometimes, she kicks out with both feet at the jump as she is going over. My daughter rides her at training and prelim level cross country. What could be the cause of this problem? Is she tender from her cycle? Is she sore and needs a different equigel type of pad? Is she turning sour and not interested in doing the work?
A: It could be any one of these things. I would first have your Veterinarian go over her and do a complete exam. If there is nothing wrong, I would try putting her on regumate or Depo-Provera to see if the soreness is coming from her cycle. If this doesn't help, try to change her regime and not jump her too much. She could be getting sour and just needs a break. But my first thought would be that she is possibly sore somewhere.
Q: I am having trouble with a horse picking up the correct lead over fences. I've drilled on flying lead changes and putting up fences in a figure eight pattern to practice further. The student has also tried to put weight into the stirrup, nothing is working. Any suggestions?
A: If you have worked on getting the horse's lead over a rail by doing a figure eight pattern and he is very adapt at this, I would slowly raise the rail to a small fence, then a little larger and so on. If he doesn't want to land on his leads when the fence is up, I would get a vet to check him out and make sure he is not hurting anywhere.
Q: I just purchased a 5 year old thoroughbred gelding. Although he is broke on the flat, he has never jumped before. It has been a long time since I started a baby. Do you have any helpful suggestions?
A: I would suggest getting a good professional to help you to start your 5 year old since it has been a long time since you have started a young horse. If this is not possible, then I would start over cavalletis and very small gymnastics. I would get a book on gymnastics and go from there. There is much too much in starting a young horse than for me to tell you in one paragraph. My best advice would still be to get a good professional.
A: Some horses get nervous when jumping. I would practice gymnastics that are set a little on the tight side and let her understand she doesn't have to hurry to the jump. You can also practice adding strides to the jump and also exercises where you circle in front of the fence both directions as in a figure 8 until your mare doesn't anticipate getting quick to the fence and relaxes. When she is very relaxed, then let her jump, but try to avoid moving up to a long distance, let her go to the base of the jump.
Q: I love eventing and have just got a really good horse for the job, but I have one problem - jumping ditches. He stops at them and starts to rear if I hold him in front of one? How can I teach him to jump ditches confidently?
A: Start by putting a rail over the top of the ditch and ground lines on both sides of it. The rail over the top should be very low, about 2 feet high. If there is a professional rider in your area, I would ask him/her to help you if possible.
A: Start by doing lots of good flatwork and getting him to use his back and hind end on the flat. Do lots of collected flat work with plenty of impulsion. As far as jumping, I would do tight gymnastics with square oxers in the middle and also no strides or bounces to teach him to jump off his hind end.
A: Make sure that you have practiced anything you are going to do at the show at home first. For instance, if your horse is in a flat class and you normally don't ride with very many horses, get him used to company or hacking with other horses around him. Whatever class or division you do, make sure you are able to do it at home first.
A: Start with cavaletti's on the ground, then move to a very small cross rail with ground lines on both sides. You can use ground poles or placement rails if your horse is used to them. I would then gradually move to a small gymnastic, a cross rail to a small vertical then make it a small oxer when the horse is ready. With a young horse I would always keep the exercise small and simple and only do a small amount at a time.
A: First of all, make sure he is using himself correctly on the flat. You have to make sure his hind quarters are under him correctly on the flat and that he is muscled up enough to use himself over the jumps. Then, I would do gymnastic work including bounces or no-strides. They are very helpful in making a horse use his hind end.
Q: I have a 20 year old appaloosa mare. I love jumping, but she hates it. We're starting over small jumps and she hardly tries. After we jump, she always swerves around and tries to canter back to the fence. Is there any way I can train her to like jumping?
A: Some horses just don't like jumping as much as others. I think, at 20 years old, she may be hurting to some extent and it is just not very comfortable for her to jump. You could always try putting a professional on her and see what his/her advice would be. It is difficult for me to tell much about her without seeing her.
Q: The gelding I usually ride is really lazy and jumping is usually a hard task for the rider. He usually has pretty good impulsion heading into a fence, but he is also very 'spooky' and usually 6 or 7 strides away he slows down drastically while looking at the fence, usually so drastically that by the time we reach the base he is practically stopped, and there is no possible way for him to jump it. Even if we do manage to jump it, his form is horrible, because we had no impulsion going into it. How can I keep him from not looking at the fences so much and/or keep his impulsion going right into the base so that he can jump it nicely?
A: First of all, I would have either a vet or eye specialist check your horse's eyes, since you say he is so spooky, maybe he has an eye problem. If his sight is OK, I would ask a professional rider to school him a few times and help you evaluate him. Maybe he is getting to the incorrect distance and needs his confidence built up or it could be a number of other things that are difficult for me to evaluate without seeing or riding the horse.
A: It totally depends upon the horse and rider's capabilities, as far as how much to raise the jumps. A good ground person or a trainer would be the person to evaluate this. While a horse is just starting to learn to jump and is jumping small fences and not very many, you may jump him two to three times a week at most. A more experienced horse, I would not jump more than once, at the most twice a week, mainly enough just to keep him jumping fit and riding well; possibly one day a week over gymnastics.
A: I'm not sure if you mean Grand Prix Showjumping Classes or Steeplechase races. I do not know much about race horses. But, in showjumping, three of the largest or most important Grand Prix are the American Invitational worth $150,000; the USET Festival of Champions worth $100,000; and the American Grand Prix Association Championships worth $250,000. There are also many more important Grand Prix, but these are a few. Some of the winning horses in these Grand Prix, were Hidden Creek's Alvaretto, Macanudo Deniro, and Rhythmical, respectively in order of the Grand Prix I mentioned. Other top horses, included right now on the computer list are Belladoma, Clover Leaf, Raphael.
Q: I have just started my 4 year old Holsteiner jumping. His flatwork is quite nice, but he tends to be a bit spooky and has very fast reactions. Over 4 sessions, 5 or 6 days apart, we have progressed to trotting an 18" cross-pole with 9' ground rails on either side. He was doing very well (always working in a quiet arena) till now. There were two pretty hot horses in the arena at the same time, however, he seemed unphased. We started with poles on the ground, he got distances and rhythm very well. When we put the X up, he veered out to the side at the last minute. This is the first time he has evaded the exercise. He repeated the evasion coming from the other side. We immediately put the X back on the ground, he went through well several times, and then jumped a smaller X twice and we left off there to rethink this. He has done this exercise four times in total, the third time he did it beautifully. Is his evasion an indication of his suitability as an honest jumper? I have been riding and competing mostly Thoroughbreds over fences for 14 years in eventing and jumpers. As this is the best quality and most suitable horse I have ever owned, I want to make sure he has the best possible start. Can you give advice on restarting exercises for a young horse and the approach to be taken when problems crop up?
A: As your horse is only 4 years old, I don't find his evasions to be a total indication of his attitude. I would probably start off with the trot rails closer to 7 or 8 feet and make sure you give your horse groundlines on both sides of the X to make it more inviting. I would start off very small and then raise the X only after your horse has jumped it at the shorter height. You can also put guide rails on the sides of your jumps to help him focus while he is starting out. Warmbloods generally mature slower than thoroughbreds. If you have a good professional in your area, it would also be a good idea to get them to help you.
Q: I have a 6 year old DWB/WH gelding who had a lower suspensory strain last year. We put him in a stall for 8 weeks, then when the ultra-sound was great, he was turned out by himself for another 6 weeks. I have slowly brought him back over the past six months on the flat. What are your recommendations for a program for returning to jumping? He has had no filling nor swelling in the tendon since returning to work. He regularly bucks and jumps in his pasture with no ill results.
A: I would start your horse back jumping after he is very fit with flatwork. Lots of strong trot working and collection making him very "muscled up". Then start jumping very small jumps for at least 6 to 8 weeks (more, if the strain was moderate to severe). Monitor the leg and if you have one, use a therapeutic ultrasound for therapy. As long as the leg stays in good shape, progress with caution and re-ultrasound the leg by a vet and ask him when your horse is OK to go onto regular jumping.
Q: I am very short (4'10") and most saddles that I have tried on my horse "bridge." What kind of saddle do you use, and do you have a recommendation as to what kind of saddle I should be looking for? Does anyone make a flocked saddle that can be adjusted to the horse's back?
A: I use the P. J. Del Grange, a French saddle. It has good support for both the horse and rider. They do make them in a short flap that will help you to get your leg on your horse. There are also custom made saddles if you are not comfortable with other ones you try.
Q: I have a very talented TB gelding who jumps nicely at home but is very much a chicken away from home. We still haven't made it to a show because just schooling is impossible. I have had two professionals look at him and they think he is very afraid. He doesn't run out, he just stops and no amount of encouragement will even get him over a pole on the ground. What can be in his head that is so bad? He is very agreeable in most other things.
A: Your horse sounds as though he has either had a very bad experience with jumping, or has a problem with his eyesight. I would ask an eye doctor to check his eyes and if there is nothing wrong, then ask a professional in your area what they think as it is difficult without me seeing or riding your horse to tell you exactly what is wrong.
Q: My pony Natasha is a very excitable pony. She rushes into jumps and every time she refuses to stop after them. It is very hard to do a jumping course without her being bad. Any suggestions? Another question that can be answered along with this one is: My horse is an absolute lunatic! I have major problems getting her to jump. She runs sideways and throws her head up coming into a jump even though I have a martingale. She behaves only at the last stride. Any ideas?
A: With horses or ponies who rush at the jumps or get very excitable, it takes a lot of slow work and patience to fix them. First of all, horses tend to run from pain so I would have a vet check over them to make sure there is not a soundness problem or pain in the back, mouth, etc. If your horse or pony is fine, I would do lots of slow work at the jumps including trotting fences with trot rails before and after the jump to help slow him/her down. I would also do lots of trotting figure 8's in front of the fence until your horse/pony is not making a bid at the jump. Circle in front of the fence both directions left/right until he doesn't anticipate the jump When your horse waits to the fence correctly reward him. This work will take lots of patience.
Q: My 13 year old draft/thoro cross recently had a corneal graft as a result of a fungal eye infection. He has been eventing and show jumping. The extent of his vision loss is not certain. What help can you provide re: training?
Q: I recently began jumping my horse at a nearby ranch. Everyone tells me I would be great in a Hunter/Hunt Seat class. The only problem is I have no idea what a Hunter class is. Can you please explain what takes place in a Hunter class show?
A: It would be best to go to a horse show and watch or ask your trainer or a trainer. But, basically hunter classes are judged on your horse's performance, way of going, smoothness, style, etc. The equitation classes are judged on the rider's position and style and ability to have his horse under control and make a smooth picture. This is just a short explanation and there are many more details you could learn from a trainer.
Q: My pony Natasha is still getting very excited when I ride into a jump. Recently, I did a two-day event on her. She was perfect in dressage but horrible in showjumping, It was in the indoor arena and the jumps were a little bit scary for her. The main problem was that she was shying at the jump stands rather than the actual jumps. How can I make her concentrate more?
A: I would have her eyes checked first. If her sight is OK, I would try putting some kind of shadow roles on the side of her bridle and see if that helps her to focus on the jump. She also may just need time and confidence that everything is OK.
Q: My 14 year old Anglo is a fantastic show jumper, except that she cannot do flying changes properly. When I ask her, she changes her front legs, but not her back ones. She can do them over a pole on the ground and her canter is always very balanced. Any suggestions.
Q: My pony is a fantastic show jumper and does fantastic flying changes, perfect leg yields, and shoulder-ins. My friend has very little confidence and is very scared of my pony and thinks she is a lunatic. I think this is only because her own horse is very slow and she never want to put up skinny bounces or uneven jumps. What could I do to help her try new things?
A: Every rider is comfortable with different horses. This is why as a professional, we try different horses and ponies for different people. The horse/pony's traits have to match the rider's personality and traits. If your friend doesn't have very much confidence, I wouldn't make her do things she is uncomfortable with. I would let her try new things only on a horse she trusts and one that is very dependable that will help build her confidence. Give your friend time and when she is ready to try something new, then try it. Good luck and always make sure when you try new things to be safe and use a horse that is safe.
A: Let your horse let you know if he is ready or not. If he is doing the 4' division easily and with lots of confidence, I would then try 4'3" before doing the 4'6". Each step you make forward should be easy for your horse. If he feels like it is too much of an effort at the larger jumps or that he is losing his confidence, I would go back to the smaller jumps.
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