This post has been brewing for some time now! Over the last few months I wanted to pull together a post about where I currently stand with Dante’s jumping. The most annoying part about this post comes down to the fact that the things I have learned on my jumping journey come down to me the rider & my bad habits…
On a positive note, I have began to see a huge difference. From the way Dante collects himself, approaches fences & even lands afterwards, to how I as a rider ride him & position myself over fences I think we have really started to show progress.
Keep reading to find out what I have been doing to get to where I am know..
Without basic flatwork you have no foundations to work from. Jumping is not just about jumping a fence. Balance, rhythm, straightness, it all springs from your horses ability in his flatwork. I spend a lot of time at home working on transitions in walk, trot& canter. This not only gets Dante listening to me, but also help to engage his hind end.
The ability to lengthen & shorten your horses canter stride as well as pushing them forwards & holding them back is very important. This can all be practiced during your flatwork sessions, using the long side of your arena to lengthen & the short side to shorten up your horse. I am focusing on doing this using my body movements in the saddle.
When practicing for a jumping session, it does not necessarily mean you must jump. Sometimes doing pole-work, or jumping smaller fences can be more beneficial.
I find scattering poles around the arena, letting Dante approach them randomly helps him learn and appreciate me more as a directional giver. Basically he needs to wait & rely on me for where he is going rather that rushing off or tanking off across the arena doing his own thing.
Not only that but it will improve your eye for a stride & help establish your canter as you move over the poles. You will start to see yourself holding & pushing for the longer or shorter stride without even realising!
Jumping Position Over A Fence
This is something that needed some minor adjustments. From my 3 years of Dante, I have had a number of different instructors with nearly all of them having a different opinion on how I should ride his jump. To be fair they have all been extremely helpful, from everything I have learned there is nearly a bit of everyone’s advice in my jumping position, if that makes sense!
Firstly lets mention that no drastic hand throwing is needed. Something that needs practice to get rid of, I think we all fall victim to this at some stage of our riding. A common issue amongst a lot of equestrians, the “Throwing your hands half way up your neck” was certainly not one that worked for me. When it comes to jumping your horse you don’t necessarily need to throw your body or entire self at your horse whilst going over a fence. Your jumping position should be a natural movement, moving with the horses body giving them enough freedom to clear the fence comfortably.
Keep My Toes Pointed In
A terrible terrible trait of mine. Another habit to add to the list. I have a tendency to ride from the heel, in turn I point my toes out. Not only does it look horrific but it stems to a list of other problems such as constant leg on from my heel, which could be a reason behind Dante being dead to my leg at times. Riding with such pressure in my heels has effected my overall position, It has resulted in me gripping with my knees rather than with my lower leg & calf.
Fixing the problem is currently ongoing! Constant shouting to tell me turn my toes in really works when it comes to fixing this one. That and no stirrup work. Something I am neglecting… When I do start thought, this will help strengthen my calf & lower leg muscles & help with my overall position in the saddle.
“Your heals and lower leg are your seat belt. If they aren’t on there is not much keeping you in the saddle”- this quote I read recently really did make me feel better about my heel issue though, I cant be that bad!
Once you achieve the “Quiet hands” phase you will begin to see a lot of improvements in your riding. Don’t get me wrong, it is probably one of the most aggravating, tedious things to try & perfect, but time & patience is key. And trust between you & your horse!
Focus on riding with your hands out in front, in line with your hips. I tend to ride with quite open reins, the width of my hips also. I find this opens Dante in his movement. You are focusing on getting your horse to ride into your hands from your seat & your leg. Technically your hands are just there to establish a light contact to the horses mouth. Pulling the mouth off your horse is what you are aiming NOT to do.
You need to work your horse up into your hands, basically your legs do all the work here & after your first few days of focusing on this your legs will be dead!! But trust me.. it is worth it when you see the results you get.
My Body has a mind of its own… if that makes any sense! Landing after a fence for a while became extremely troublesome, I put this fear of turning right into my head, and it did not look pretty.
Body position plays a massive role in how Dante lands correctly, I have the worst habit of leaning over his shoulder & looking down at the floor. I do this for a good 3-4 strides after a fence in the direction that he lands. Looking back on videos it is so horrific to watch. No wonder we were having such difficulties!!
My focus is to keep my body centered in the saddle!! Sitting up tall & keeping those shoulders back.
The Canter – Rhythm & Balance
You have nothing without a forward going canter . Dante’s canter work is coming along well but it still need loads of improvements. My main focus is getting his engine turned on, once I have that moving & activated,maintaining a forward canter is key, he is a divil for breaking into trot from his canter.
Once the ignition is turned on it makes jumping & maintaining a steady forward going pace much easier. Loads of focus on getting Dante moving from the leg is key. Maintaining an even rhythm whilst keeping Dante balanced in his canter is another thing that is improving, but still needs work. Lengthening & shortening his stride is so important, all whilst keeping a maintained rhythm & balanced canter, my work is really cut out for me over the next few weeks as I focus more on these points.
I try to get these reactions from using my seat & legs! Interfering to much with his mouth only results in him getting pissed off at me. I tend to hold on to his mouth as he moves forward in the canter, the fear of him bolting off always comes back to me! This is a fear I need to let go off, he isn’t that crazy 4 year old anymore.
Don’t Look At Your Fence
Look up, look up, look up!! Why do we just not listen to this? How many of us out there put the absolute fear into ourselves looking at fences we are about the jump, looking at the ground pole, or the scary filler as we approach instead of looking up and giving your horse direction as to where they are to go to next, well I am Guilty!!
Look up and & over your fence, basically looking to where you want your horse to go. I didn’t realise how much I looked at the jump until I started to focus and pay attention to certain aspects of my riding. Once you start looking up & not at the fence, the difference you will see, not only in your riding but in your approach to fences!
No wonder we knock so many !!
I have been focusing a lot on improving my position & my over all approach to jumping with Dante. The above of some of the main point I have been focusing on. And they have shown an overall massive improvement in our work together.
I will also like to mention that everyone should also invest in a neck strap for their horse! Everyone needs a Jesus Strap!! Expecting the unexpected with horses is something you should always anticipate, I still get reared & spun around at times.. you can never be too careful, & well sometimes when your grabbing the mane it tends to get pulled out….
I hope you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments below if any of my tips will help you in your riding & be sure to keep an eye out for my next post, I will be running through my 5 top tips for riding the best Showjumping Round!
Until Next Time,