A compact, almost black, attractive little pony, Magic was gelded late in life
and still thinks he's a stallion. He just loves the girls. He neighs hard and
prances around his stall anytime a mare walks by, and he'll try to get
amorous if he's turned out to pasture with a mare. He'll also try to fight with
horses three times his size. He's so aggressive around other horses, in
fact, that he has to be turned out alone.
For riders, Magic provides a lively mount. He's fast, agile, and a fantastic
jumper despite his size, which is why I've assigned him to you for this lesson.
Since you're riding Magic, I'm going to tell you the truth about ponies. Yes,
they're certainly cute, and some people consider them smarter than
horses. Contrary to popular belief, however, being small does not make
them nicer. In fact, many of them can be difficult to handle.
You've already read that Magic acts up around other horses in the field,
which means you should keep him away from other horses when you're
riding. If he can get into a scrap, he will. Apart from that, you'll find him well
behaved, and he'll give you a great ride.
Dealing with Refusals
After a horse refuses, for whatever reason, you must turn him 90 degrees
away from the jump, go back three or four strides, trot your next approach,
and jump him immediately. You can't meander about getting him back into
the jump. If it's a confidence problem, it must be dealt with directly. Take
my word for it; I've watched literally thousands of refusals.
If your horse veers out to the left, you must turn him back to the right;
reapproach the jump from the same side as before, and try him again. The
farther you get away from the jump, the less likely you'll succeed on your
second try. On the second approach, be sure to avoid a bend. Keep him
going straight and forward.
What to do if...your horse pops, or chips, the jump.
Popping, or chipping occurs when the horse gets too close to the jump
before actually jumping. It forces him to jump almost straight up and then
come straight back down; he has no forward momentum to carry him up
and over. Both horse and rider have to absorb the resultant shock.
All the reasons stated above for refusals can cause a horse to pop a jump,
but the most likely cause is a striding problem. At this stage in your riding,
the best way to avoid this is to be sure to go progressively faster the last
three strides before the jump. You'll learn more on placing the horse for
jumps in the next lesson.
What to do if...your horse lunges toward the jump or takes off too
far away from the jump.
If your horse takes off too early and lunges toward the jump, you may be
left behind. Possible contributing factors include the horse's stride, his lack
of confidence, or his overeagerness.
Remember that your horse must be reasonably collected coming into the
jump so he has enough energy to release in the last three strides before
the jump. If he's flattened out and not collected, lunging will occur.
What to do if...your horse rushes the jump.
If your horse, through eagerness or fear, goes very fast toward the jump,
he generally ends up inverted. A horse that does this usually takes the
jump fast and flat, as in a steeplechase, where riders jump for speed over
fairly flexible objects, such as hedges. But you aren't jumping for speed,
and the poles you jump are comparatively inflexible.
The most logical way to fix this problem is to take a shorter approach.
Another possibility is that your horse has become too keen on jumping and
may require some reschooling.
What to do if...your horse turns immediately after the jump.
This can be very disconcerting. Usually, it happens when a horse gets too
used to jumping in a patterned sequence and anticipates the next jump.
Try varying where you go after each jump.
What to do if...your horse hits or nicks the jump with his feet.
The timing -- your or the horse's -- may have been off, or maybe one of you
misjudged the jump in some way. By far, the most common cause of this
problem is your catching the horse in the mouth or bouncing on his back.
In the case of misjudgement, you probably asked for too big or too flat a
jump, since horses rarely misjudge height. You might have caused this by
slowing him down before the jump or not making sure he had enough
impulsion to go over the jump.
Also consider the possibility that the horse has jumped too much; he could
be tired, bored, or just plain lazy.
You're on track if you can:
- Know when the horse in going to jump (so you don't get left behind).
- Jump the jump and stay mounted.
- Stay straight and keep your position throughout the entire jump.
Approaching Different Types of Jumps
Once you've mastered jumping the cross poles, or X jump, you'll want to try
some other types. I'm going to describe how the horse will normally jump
an obstacle and tell you a little bit about what can go wrong and how to
approach each type of jump.
When jumping verticals under about 2 feet 3 inches, you won't have much
trouble if you follow the instructions detailed throughout this lesson. Once
you exceed that height, however, it's not uncommon for a horse to try
crawling up underneath the jump. In other words, his front feet wind up too
close to the jump to jump smoothly. It's also called chipping in. A horse
that jumps a vertical this way will break stride and jump in a very steep arc,
at the risk of dragging a rail with his hind feet.
To jump a vertical, then, try to set your horse back off the jump -- move
your take-off spot farther back than where your horse would prefer. (More
about the takeoff spot appears in lesson 12). This should make the jump
more fluid and more comfortable, even though the horse's instinct isn't to
jump it this way.
When I say " set your horse back," I don't mean you should change his
speed. What I mean is that well before those last three strides, adjust the
horse's frame and thus his stride. Be sure you don't pull back on the reins
in the last three strides, or you'll be setting yourself up for a refusal.
The oxer is really two verticals set close together. Although it can be
intimidating for new riders, it's actually the easiest type of jump. The height
usually matches the depth, and horses seem to prefer this.
Horses often jump an oxer in an almost classic, perfect jump, tracing a
smooth arch over the top.
A hog back features a middle element that is higher than two outside
elements. Horses usually jump this with too much arc. They may look down
into the jump, or the back element may be difficult to see from the takeoff.
The best way to approach a hog back is to treat it somewhat like a vertical.
Stand the horse back off the jump.
Spreads usually entail three or four elements. The height of the barriers
and the depth of the spread determine its difficulty as well as how you
approach and jump. The greater the depth, the longer and lower you want
to jump. The greater the height, the more bascule (arc) you want.
What should you do if you confront a very high and very wide spread? At
this stage of riding, avoid it.
Horses tend not to like roll tops, though I'm not sure why. This is a solid,
curved jump. It's not uncommon to see a horse get too close before
jumping and then jump very high with no extension.
To counteract this, make sure you go aggressively forward toward a roll top.
Diagonal jumps have one end higher than the other. Jumping competitions
include them for one primary reason: They can set you off course, and
there lies the challenge.
The design of the jump naturally leads you to one side or the other. The
horse thinks it's a great idea to jump the low side of the jump, which will
invariably put you in trouble for the next jump on the course. I guarantee
that if you encounter a diagonal jump in a competition, jumping the low spot
won't be to your advantage.
Jump the exact center unless you have a good reason to deviate -- for
example, because you can't set up for your next jump without clearing the
higher end. While you're learning to take this jump, however, go for the
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