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Learning to Ride over Jumps

By: Galadriel Billington

10:51PM Apr 21, 2004


approach image When a horse jumps, the rider must follow the movement of the horse. Let's look at that movement: First, the horse plants his front hooves at his "takeoff point." All of his weight is on his forelegs and he may duck his head.
approach image
kat on approach
Next, he brings his hind legs under, as close as he can to the forelegs (but without kicking himself). This causes a "rubber band" motion of his back; it pops the rider up much the same as in a posting trot.
approach image
kat going over rolltop
Next, he rocks back and puts all of his weight on the hind legs. He will push up with his forelegs; this lifts his upper body so that his body will "point" up and over the jump.
approach image
approach image
kat going over ditch
Next, he pushes off with his hind legs. He'll begin tucking his forelegs to go over the jump. He will stretch his neck forward so that his body can curve as he goes over the jump. (When he lands, his head will be looking down, not up!)
approach image
approach image
approach image
In the next movement, he will sail gracefully :) over the jump. You should get a nice half circle (bascule) from the takeoff point to the landing point. The horse will tuck his forelegs as his head and fore goes over the jump itself, and will tuck up his hindlegs as his hind end goes over the jump.
approach image
approach image
approach image
As he lands, the horse will extend his forelegs to take his weight. He lands heavily on his forelegs; the pasterns extend quite a bit to take the shock of landing. His neck is lowered, and his hind end is still up in the air.
approach image
approach image
He'll bring his hind legs down, again close to his forelegs. As his hind legs land, he'll bring his neck up and take weight on his hind end.
Once his hind legs are on the ground, his forelegs leave the ground again and he takes his first stride away from the jump.


The horse shifts his weight around a lot while he's jumping; if you're not following his movement with your own body, you can get thrown around a bit. Also, if you're off-balance, you may pull him off-balance too. Usually you will learn to jump over low jumps, on a steady, experienced horse who can compensate for you while you learn to balance.

I think it is good for riders to learn, at first, riding in two-point for the whole jump. In two-point, you are off the horse's back. It is easier to move with the horse, because you do not have to get into two-point, "release" with the reins, and then sit again after the horse lands.

Two-point means that you have your weight on two points (your two legs: knees, calves, and heels) instead of three points (your two legs, and your seat). To ride in two point, "stand up" in the saddle; take all your weight in your legs and stick your rear end out behind you :) "Fold" your torso a little--that is, lean forward from the hips. Make sure your knee is still nicely bent. Your knee is the "shock absorber" that allows you to follow the horse's movement.

While learning to jump in two point, you'll also have your hands about halfway up the horse's neck. You can either grab the mane with both hands, or rest your fists along the horse's crest (where his mane grows).

You want lots of slack in the reins. As the horse jumps, he extends his head and neck forward. If the reins are too short, then he doesn't have room to move forward; he will reach the end of the reins and hit his mouth on the bit. He will not be able to extend any more. He needs that room to extend in order to have a nice "bascule"; if he can't extend his neck, then his balance is compromised and he is punished (hitting the bit) for trying to extend his neck. Alternatively, if he keeps pulling, he may yank you off balance. Eventually you will learn to follow the extension of his neck with your hands as you jump (moving your hands forward and back). But while you are learning, just make sure that there is lots of slack in the reins.
You'll go into your two-point position and approach the jump. When the horse goes to jump, you need to simply maintain your balance with your upper body. Lean forward a little as the horse goes up and over, and get back in standard two-point as he lands.
Riding this way you can learn how it feels to go over a jump, before you need to add actually going into two-point on takeoff and releasing the reins. You will probably need someone to lead the horse, or lunge the horse, while you are learning this way; while you have lots of slack in your reins, you will probably need someone else to direct the horse over the jump.
Part Two: Once you accustom yourself to the feel of a jump in two-point, learning to ride the jump.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.