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
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
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
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,
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 center.
|Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156 fax: 301-421-9049