Friday, April 13, 2012

Jumping (Intentionally)

Now, to be honest, I haven't got much of a "jumping education".  I went straight from western to dressage.  I have had a few jumping lessons, but it is not really my thing.  My last jumping lesson was in 1999.

While my interest has never really been with jumping, for about a year I worked at a barn where the head trainer was a Olympic level eventer.  Employees got a discounted rate on lessons with her, so I jumped on that.  Realistically, at the time, Olympic level eventing dressage was much farther than than I had ever ridden, so she had much to offer as far as my dressage education went.   But, she recognized that my heart wasn't in putting horses over fences.  As a matter of fact, my Olympic level eventer instructor decided after only a few lessons that I would be better off just sticking to dressage.  I took her advice and have never looked back.

But, now I've got a horse who has suddenly decided that he wants to jump again.  And I do think that jumping is a good exercise.  It also breaks up the monotony of arena work.  I'm a firm believer in doing things other than dressage a few days a week to prevent boredom and make a more well-rounded horse.  To this end, I frequently take Spider for trail rides through the woods behind my house and gallops through my neighbor's hay field.  But, if it's been raining, we can't do those things and get stuck back in the arena.  If I could fashion some sort of jump for Spider, we could jump in the arena where the footing is always good.

I started looking around the farm for things to make a jump out of.  Key features would need to be portability, ease of set-up and not too sturdy in case of a wreck.  Not that I was thinking we would wreck, but considering my lack of aptitude, it was certainly a possibility.

The rails were easy, I could just use my cavaletti poles.  But what to use for the upright part? (Standards?  I don't know what they're called.)

And then, in a fit of genius, I had the perfect solution.  Not too tall, stable, and sort of squishy (just in case I fall on them): Rubber feed tubs.

Stop laughing, this is brilliant.  


In spite of the spectacular rednecked-ness of my jump, Spider seems to like it.  I've added it to our schedule once a week.  I am greatly amused by his enthusiasm, and very grateful for his tolerance of my bad jump riding.  He is truly a "packer".

Things I have noticed:

When Spider jumps the jump as it is, I have no problem following him with my hands.  When Spider gets too enthusiastic and jumps my jump like it's a 3'6"er, I bang him in the face.  I have heard people who jump talk about "release", but I really have no concept of that.  I know what release is in dressage, it usually involves giving the one rein and keeping the contact with the other.  But, releasing over a jump?  No clue....  I know when he's going to over-jump, because I can feel him gathering himself up to do it.  When I feel this, I immediately give my reins as though I were riding a horse through a rear.  This is obviously not the right way to do things, because I usually bang him in the face as he's landing.  Any suggestions here would be welcome.  Luckily, he doesn't usually over-jump, and, when he does, he tolerates my ignorance.

Spider has a beautiful canter after the jump.  Forward, round, perfect. He would really like to canter over my jump, too.  But, my jumping lessons never progressed to cantering over fences, so I have not allowed Spider to do that.

I own 7 saddles.  None of them are jumping saddles.  Five of them are dressage saddles, one is a children's pony leadline saddle and one is a western saddle.  Spider's saddle is a Custom Saddlery Wolfgang Solo, with the short knee roll (not pictured, but you get the idea).  It's a good saddle, it fits Spider very well.  But, it is impossible to get out of.  So, I can't really two point over the jump.  I pretty much just do my best to get out of the way, and let Spider do his thing.  Like I said, my boy is a packer.

It's times like these when I wish I knew more about his life before he came to me.  This horse is so amazing, I can't imagine how I ever ended up with him.  You'd have to be insane to sell a horse like Spider.


22 comments:

  1. I love it!

    Jumping in a dressage saddle is always going to be a challenge, balance-wise. The location of the seat and stirrup-bars are not in your favor, but you already know that. ;)

    I broke down and purchased a used jumping saddle for fun days. That saddle basically closes my hip angle for me, so all I have to do is follow my horse. I guess the only other advice to give is to "grab mane".

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    1. Yes, you're right. I should purchase another saddle. One can never have too many saddles!

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  2. Sell one of those dressage saddle and get a jumping saddle! Then you are set to go Eventing!!! LOL ok maybe that is not a goal but still you never know :). My advice is to simply keep your shoulders back, your legs forward and stand up out of the saddle and like Val said grab mane to avoid the mouth bumping. Cantering to a jump is just as easy as trotting. You just focus on rhythm and just like a cavaletti the jump just should fit right into your rhythm. You are such a good rider that jumping probably is not going to be a big deal for you to figure out.

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    1. Sell a saddle?!?! Blasphemy! You never know when you might need it......

      One of these days when I'm feeling brave I'll have to try cantering over the jump. Good thing my "jump" is nice and squishy for when I fall off!

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  3. It's very hard to jump in a dressage saddle . . .

    To avoid banging him in the mouth, or throwing away your reins, use a crest release. As you approach the jump, rest your hands on the crest about half-way up the neck - grabbing a pinch of mane can help stabilize your hands - and take them back off the crest as you land. As you get used to it, you can just put your hands on the crest as the horse takes off.

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    1. Ahh, up the neck! I've been going straight forward in my "release", not up. Good advice!

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  4. Grab mane over the jump. That's what I do. :) Keeps me from hitting him in the mouth in case he jumps really huge or I just totally biff it.

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    1. I sense a trend here. Grab mane ;)!

      I think I've had my hands too wide and low over the jump. Darn you, dressage training! ;)

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  5. Oh! You should enter my contest! George Morris' book covers this question in considerable detail and with lots of pictures.

    But yeah, the above advice will basically do the trick.

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    1. Oh, such a grand tome would be lost on me. I'll leave it to those who can truly use it. I have no aspirations of George Morris-ness, I'm just going to grab mane, squeal and giggle!

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  6. There are all kinds of ways to offer a release, but grabbing mane is an A-1 solution for now. It is possible, though not ideal, to jump in a dressage saddle. If you are going to do a few, shorten your stirrups two or three holes that will help you get out of the saddle a little more. But more than standing up in the saddle, think of "closing your body" down and forward at the jump. The big thing about the dressage saddle is that the pommel tends to "get in the way" if you go too much into two point and landing on it can hurt.

    Again, if you set up a series of trot poles before the jump, that will help.

    I borrowed this from another site:
    "example of trotting-pole distances before a jump(gymnastic jumping):
    4 trotting poles 1.35m(4ft 6") apart, a 2.7m(9ft) hole before the first jump.
    You can add another bounce 5.5m(18ft) after the first jump, the another after 6m(19ft6") and another after 6.4m(21ft) ask for one stride between each jump, the horse will enjoy to take longer and longer strides, but it's great for practice :)
    *this one is safe for both horses and ponies, you can put a pole half opening between the jumps if your horse is taking 2 short strides instead of one*" (http://www.petsask.com/horses/gridworkgymnastics.html)

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  7. I've only been shortening my stirrups one hole, next time I'll do three. I may end up over the jump before Spider!

    Funny you mention "closing your body", that's exactly what I've been doing! I can't get out of the saddle, so I've just been sinking my body inwards and forward to try to get out of Spider's way over the jump.

    Thanks for giving me those measurements! I'll definitely be trying that out for our next session.

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    1. Oh, and while I'm at the Horse Park this year, I'm totally hitting Jean up for a jumping lesson!

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    2. Uhm.....haven't jumped much in the last 10 years or so myself. It might be a case of the "blind leading the blind." *G*

      So, when ya goin' to the Park, eh???

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    3. At this point, even the blind leading the blind is better than what I've got: "the idiot just trying to stay on"!

      We probably won't be up the Horse Park until the fall. Unless my friends convince me to go sooner. It will definitely be one of the ESDCTA three day shows, just too long a haul for a day!

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  8. Love the git'r'done soft serve jump standards Shannon! No advice from me about jumping, though I remember from way back when I was braver, the mane usually stays attached to the horse. ;)

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    1. "Mane stays attached to horse". Good advice! Now, how did I get to this age without thinking of that? Grabbing mane could have saved my bacon on many occasions, but somehow I never think of it! I blame the dressage training....

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  9. I know you already have a ton of advice given to you on this subject, but I think I can give you a pointer or two to help you with Spider's over jumping. You mentioned that you can feel when he is preparing to jump big, so when you feel him rushing to the jump or taking longer strides give him a half halt or two. This will help remind him to slow down and collect going into the jump, and hopefully help him not to over jump. Another thing that may help if you feel him prepare for a "big" jump is to gently and purposefully turn him away from the jump a few strides before you would jump. Turning him into a gentle circle as soon as you feel him gathering up can help relax him and remind him that you are jumping an itty bitty pole instead of olympic height jumps.

    I hope this helps! I'm more of a novice jumper myself, but I have picked up a few things in my lessons ;)

    p.s. I don't really know you, but I've always enjoyed reading your blog :) I think you and Spider are an amazing pair. Thanks for the interesting reading!

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    1. Thanks! That's good advice!

      Sometimes it's the novices that have the best advice to give, because a novice still remembers the nitty gritty of the lesson. I often find that I have difficulty explaining the basics of riding, just because it's been so long since I learned them. The basics have become automatic to me, it's something I just "do". I don't think about them anymore, so I have trouble putting them into words. But someone who is just learning still remembers how it was explained to them, and can share!

      And thanks for the compliment! Spider loves compliments ;)

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  10. Sounds like you are becoming great partners; exploring other disciplines of riding! :)

    Since people have already offered the advice I would give, I won't reiterate. However, even with all the good advice people have been giving you, I would still urge you to get more jumping lessons, just so you will be more comfortable with jumping itself, and so you can really get everything right. Maybe you misinterpret something someone says... That would fix it :)

    Have fun! :)

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  11. I did this search on Practical horseman... plenty of crest release ^-^
    http://www.equisearch.com/?s=release+jumping

    Have fun with Spider!

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  12. Can't add much here, I think everyone pretty much covered it. Jean has some very good tips and there is a soft book with many good beginning exercises for jumping. 101 Jumping Exercises for Horse and Rider. You might like it.

    Good luck, have fun and love that jump you made.

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