8 Common Jumping Questions Answered by Coach Sue Byrne

Us Girls at No Bucking Way have had our fair shares of ups & downs when it comes to jumping. From refusals, to over jumping to simply bold behaviour on an approach to a fence. Learning how to perfect your jump can be challenging. With young horses not only are you trying to teach them to jump properly but you are also trying as best you can to give them the best start in their jumping career while not giving them any bad habits along the way. Having a horse with scope won’t always help the problems, technique & practice is what it is all about!

Having Sue Byrne as one of our coaches has taught us a lot, so we thought it would be an idea to compile a few questions for her based on what we have faced in our jumping, getting her opinions & her solutions to a few simple jumping problems that the majority of riders have to deal with on a daily basis!

Where do you start when first teaching a young horse to jump?

The most important part of training a young horse to jump is to make sure you have good foundation of flatwork. Good Rhythm and balance go a long way when you first introduce them to a fence. Before attempting a small jump you should have your horse trotting over trot poles. Then you can introduce a small upright after your trot poles. I don’t like using Xpoles as they tend to get fixated on the height of the cups and its a lot to take in. Simple upright/vertical around 60cm. Height will depend on what you are comfortable with but keep it low. Always use pods under the trot poles to prevent slipping and injuries. Directional poles are great for helping your young horse to keep straight and always use a ground pole.

What are common mistakes riders make when jumping?       

There are plenty of common mistakes that riders make. I would first focus on the Horses way of going. If your Horse is riding long and flat you will have poles down. You need to set up your rhythm and maintain that rhythm adjusting it as you go around your course. Another common mistake is the riders jumping position and not giving the horse some rein over a fence. A lot of people balance off their hands and to prevent this they should try to establish an independent balance of the Horse. A good exercise for this is riding in light seat.

If you have a careless jumper, how can this be improved?

Go back to flatwork, establish a rhythm . Grid work is great for horses that tend to drop a leg over a fence. Bounces in particular will help them to learn a quicker action in front and behind. Always start off with one and add fences as you progress.

How would you stop a horse from barging/grabbing hold of the bit on approach to the fence in the last few strides ?       

Some horses get very excited when they turn to a fence or they can pick up a bad habit of rushing. This can be exaggerated by the rider kicking a rushing horse towards a fence and the horse learns to ride every fence in rushing mode. If your Horse has developed this habit try trotting into the fence and halting or circling away from the fence nice and calmly. If they start to barge straight away then pick a point about 8 strides after the fence (put down cones to mark it) and make your horse trot at this mark. Progress to making your Horse halt at this point. Then decrease the distance to 6 strides and use the same method and then 4 strides. Always progress slowly with horses they learn better this way. The purpose of this exercise is that when a horse approaches a fence he starts to learn that there is no point rushing because the rider is going to stop me after the fence anyway.

What are the most common jumping problems most riders are faced with?       

The most common problems would be riding off a corner. I see it all the time when I’m at shows. The horses head is cocked to the left while the horses shoulder are pointing the opposite direction. Straightness is so important from the tail to the poll. The horse should always ride around your leg when you are bending or turning. Your hands control the head your legs control the barrell of the Horse.

What pole work exercises would you recommend to someone to help improve their jumping?   

There are so many polework exercises to choose from online and in books. Riders tend to forget about flatwork when they are focused on showjumping . Lateral work is amazing for your horse and often under-utilised. Lateral work like shoulder in, leg yielding or half pass can sound difficult but are actually not hard to learn and they are so beneficial for your horses so much so that Racing Yards are now hiring dressage riders to work on the suppleness of the race horses.

How should you deal with a horse that refuses or spooks at fillers or water trays?

Horses need time and patience when it comes to new objects. They learn by smelling first then they give their head and then they give a foot. Practice, practice, practice at home. Build their confidence. You may know what the item is but to them it’s so unnatural to see big blue painted plastic thrown on the sand. Reassure them, ride around the item slowly decreasing from the outside track to make your horse feel happy. I always get off my horse and lead them to the item. I stand on it, give them treats , encourage them to move forward. Any sign of danger and off they go in flight mode ! Your horse should be well capable of riding a track of fences before you introduce a water tray. You can always bring them to the beach first.
A horse that refuses a jump may be ridden wrong into the fence, might not have had a chance to see the fence or could be one of the bold ones that has a habit of refusing. If your Horse is spooking at everything you need to reassess things. How often is he getting out of the yard to different outings, are you practicing at home, try renting different areas so that your horse gains confidence etc .

How do you know what level you should be jumping your horse?

If the rider is a very confident and capable rider then it depends on the experience your horse has, the groundwork you have put into your horse, how fit your horse is, and knowing what it is capable of doing. 

Always start off in the smaller classes 60cm or maybe your small class is 90cm whatever floats your boat. Make sure your horse is jumping well and getting some clears and a couple of wins before you go to the next level. I spoke about foundations earlier, well these are the building blocks all the work you do at home and at shows. If you go straight into 1.20m classes or put the roof on a house without the walls things will not end well. However you may have bought a 1.20 Horse and that is fine. Build your horse up slowly with confidence and patience. Always recognise and reward your horse with a pat when they are doing things right .

I hope the above questions & answers help you, our readers with any jumping problems you have been having lately. 

If you have any other questions you would like answered do let us know in the comments below. 

Once again, thanks for reading & a massive Thank You to Sue  for taking the time out of her busy schedule to help us answer our questions! 

Darielle & Orla

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