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- Before Jumping Your Horse -

By: Sally A. Nolte

For a lot of people, one of the best things about riding a horse is the thrill of flying over a fence. Nothing compares to the feeling you get of having your horse approach a fence and jump it perfecting. Jumping an entire course of fences is even better!

Before you begin even thinking about pointing your horse towards a fence, though, it's very important that you be confident in your riding, and that you can walk, trot, and canter both in and out of the arena.  This is because jumping takes balance, coordination and a good seat.

If you're not totally secure in your saddle when your horse jumps, you can both make it difficult for him to jump, as well as increasing the possibility that you'll fall off.  You must be able to have complete control of your horse on the flat before you even think about jumping.

This means that before you start, you need to spend a lot of time working with your horse on the flat.

You must know what it takes to get your horse to trot or canter, and you must know how much rein pressure is needed to make him slow down or turn in either direction. If it takes yanking on your reins to stop him, you probably shouldn't be jumping your horse quite yet.

You also need to have "quiet" hands when you jump your horse. Practice keeping your hands down low, next to your horse's withers. If your hands are flying around when you're trotting or cantering your horse, you can bang him in the mouth mercilessly, causing him a lot of pain. Grab hold of the horse's mane, or hook your pinkies under the front of your saddle to steady yourself.

See if you can do the following, and be honest!

Can you....

  • slow down and speed up instantly?
  • stop easily?
  • turn smoothly?
  • control your horse when you're riding with others?

How about you, as a rider? Are your legs strong? can you ride without stirrups for ten minutes or so?  Can you post without stirrups? Your body should be fit and strong enough to jump. Spend plenty of time in the saddle before jumping, and you will be able to build up the muscles you need. When you are first learning to jump, you will most likely start slowly - spending several lessons trotting over poles on the ground. Don't' get frustrated  - it's all part of the process that prepares you for jumping 3-foot fences later on.


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