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Learning to Ride over Jumps (Part 2)

By: Galadriel Billington

10:34AM Apr 22, 2004

Now that we've looked at the motion of the horse, let's examine how that motion affects the rider. We will see how the rider must move to stay in balance with the horse.

You can see that 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. You will likely learn to jump by going into two-point on the approach, and staying in two-point until you land. This is quite suitable for a school horse who is trustworthy.

If you're learning to jump, or around horses that jump, you've probably noticed that you can't usually just point a horse at a jump. Normally, you will not be able to just get into two-point and ride around a course of jumps. You'll need to be seated in the saddle to help control direction, speed, and balance.

approach image Look at the jump until you are about two strides out (20 feet or so) and then look past it. Look at where you plan to go after you jump the jump. If you are jumping several jumps, look at the next jump you'll be jumping.

As you approach the jump, you must look forward! If you look down at the jump, your body will follow your head, and you'll actually be asking your horse to stop.

You should have your seat in the saddle (not riding above the saddle in a hand-gallop or in two-point). However, all your weight should be in your legs, none in your seat--just like if you were about to rise into two-point or to post. When the horse begins to jump, he will push you off his back just like when you are posting.

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 (stretch out his neck toward the ground).

What you need to do here is maintain your balance and keep sitting up. Don't lean forward or back. Keep your weight in your legs. Look straight ahead.
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kat ditch approach
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kat over rolltop
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. Then 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.

You should feel his back start to lower a little, and that will bring you very slightly out of the saddle. Then, his back will pop you up out of the saddle, very similar to the push of the back in the posting trot. Let him push you up--but don't try to lift yourself out of the saddle when you *think* he is going to start jumping. You may miss on the timing, and be "ahead of the jump" or "left behind"--neither of these is fun!

As you ride from the saddle, keep your knees bent. Your knees will act as your "shock absorbers" as you go over the jump. You will stay in approximately the same position (the two-point position) while the horse's body rises, curves, and lowers under your seat.
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kat over ditch
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 pushes off, it will make your upper body lean forward a little ("folding"). You will move forward and up as he does. You'll need to keep balancing yourself so that your legs stay under you, so you don't slide forward or back. Don't grip with the knees or the calves, but keep the leg softly on the horse's side for balance.

As you "fold" and your upper body moves forward, your hands will also move forward, giving the horse more rein. He needs to stretch his neck out quite a ways to stay balanced as he goes over the jump, so allow him that extra rein. You can move your hands even more forward if he needs it. Try to keep the same light, even contact that you had when riding on the flat.

As the horse goes over the jump, his neck rises toward your chest, then his body straightens under you, then his hind end rises and his neck lowers. You will keep your two-point position throughout.
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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.

He stretches out his neck as his body curves. This is where you must be sure to allow him as much rein as he needs, to extend his neck forward.

As you keep your knees bent and ride the two-point, you will feel that his body is rising up to be more centered under you.
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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.

Staying centered over the saddle, you will now feel that you are leaning slightly back. The horse's body moves forward under you, and your seat touches the saddle again.
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He'll bring his hind legs down, again close to his forelegs. Once again there is the "rubber band" effect of the back. As his hind legs land, he'll bring his neck up and take weight on his hind end.

The "rubber band" effect should put you back in the saddle, just as it pushed you out at the beginning of the jump. Return to a normal (upright) riding position, prepare to balance him, and gather your reins as his neck comes up.

Once his hind legs are on the ground, his forelegs leave the ground again and he takes his first stride away from the jump.

You're one step ahead of him, because you gathered your reins and regained your normal riding position already. All you have to do now is ride off as you usually would.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.