Jumping is one of the most exciting activities you can do with a horse but, like all equestrian disciplines, it takes time, patience, training and application to be successful. Any experienced show jumping rider will tell you that jumping is 99% flat work, it’s all about the quality of the canter, the pace of the fence and the straightness of the horse. A good solid base of flatwork means that you will progress much faster with your jumps. Here are 19 simple tips to get you going and help you progress toward your ultimate goal, whether it’s jumping a simple sand hurdle course, riding cross country, or entering competitions.
Get down on the ground before you think about jumping
- Don’t run before you can walk – Early jump training at the beginner level will be much more effective if you have established firm, safe work first and can ride at a good pace and control the horse’s straightness. You should be balanced with an independent seat and hands on all three steps.
- Start incorporating poles into your flatwork sessionsthis provides good initial training for jumping courses later on and will help you understand approaching and moving away from an obstacle.
- Always learn to jump over a stable school teacherIf you have a young horse that is quite green then learn to jump on something else – resist the mantra that you can learn together as nothing could be further from the truth. Your safety will be seriously compromised if you learn to jump on an inexperienced horse and neither of you will make any progress.
- Make sure you have a suitable hat. It is not necessary to wear a different riding hat to jump, although some people do. However, you should change your hat if you are riding one that has a fixed peak, as it is dangerous when you jump. If you fall during your jumping lessons and hit your head, then you should throw this hat away and buy a new one.
- Do you need a jump chair? If you have your own horse, you may need to consider a different saddle, as it is difficult to jump in a dressage saddle or GP saddle. Jumping saddles are designed to mirror the more forward position of the rider’s lower leg with a shorter stirrup, and often have knee and thigh locks to keep the leg in the correct place.
- It is customary to carry a jump stick or whip when jumping.these are shorter than the school whips used for flat work and dressage.
- Put a neck strap on the horse, can be useful for added safety and means you don’t have to rely on the reins if you lose your balance
Work on your jumping position
- Understand the importance of a good jumping position and a secure lower leg and spend time working with a shorter stirrup length to perfect this before you start jumping; you’re out hacking
- Study the theory of a successful jumping position – the stirrups must be shortened to allow the rider to remain balanced as the horse flies over the fence. The cyclist supports his body weight on his lower leg and the cyclist’s body crease is at the hip, not the waist. It is a common mistake for many new show jumping riders not to set the stirrups far enough in a short enough length and it is impossible to balance with the horse over the fence if this is not done.
- Always do your light seat work or bar work in a jump chair. – this is designed with a more forward cut and knee twists to keep the rider’s lower leg safe as the leg will move forward as the stirrups are shortened
- It can be useful to have a series of lessons in fairly quick succession to help get in between them – must be able to ride all three steps in a light sit or jump position and maintain a balanced forward position over a line of posts
- Jumping lessons are best with an instructor or trainer that you already know and trust and know your way of riding, they can do all the prep work with you and this means you can progress quite quickly once you start jumping
- Use a combination of posts and small fences in your first few jumping sessions usually a cross post that invites the rider and makes it easy to stay straight and in the middle of the fence
- focus on grid which is a progressive line of fences with a set stride pattern to make it easier for the rider to know when the horse will take off. They are usually approached at a trot with a setting post and the horse lands at a gallop and jumps over the remaining jumps. Take a look at our post on Cavaletti.
- Cantered island or isolated fences come a bit later as they lack the safety of a setting post or close distance, opens and doubles are also more advanced and will be included once the rider has advanced as far as possible. enough in training.
- Eventually you can build small courses with five or six fences in an enclosed space. Show jumping or sand jumping should always be set before cross country which is a totally separate discipline.
The best tips for jumping
- Always take care of your jumps, a bad session when you miss a fence or on a horse that is too fast and strong can easily damage confidence in a way that just doesn’t happen on flat
- Never be in a rush to jump too highhone the art on smaller fences and the height will take care of itself
- Maintain a quality canter at all times.. Jumping is all about control and if you can maintain a quality canter, jumping will be much easier.