We are intending to run a joint Pony Club rally day at Berry Sporting Complex once a term.
This first rally is an introduction to jumping and we appreciate the help of Karen Harrison, Nick Sheehan and Sidney Roberts in providing some quality instruction for our riders.
We acknowledge the use of the equipment and patronage of Berry Riding Club who have made this rally possible. For more information, contact: President WMPC, Judy Sweeney, 4464 1143 Senior Instructor WMPC, Penny Rose, 4464 2384 Some useful theory: The horse uses his head and neck to maintain balance.
The addition of a rider changes this natural balance and he must learn to balance anew.
How well the horse does this is to a very large extent influenced by the age and experience of both the horse and the rider.
The first lesson in riding is to learn to be in balance at the walk, trot and canter.
It is a “feel” and the time it takes to achieve a balanced position varies greatly; however the more experienced the horse, the easier this is. Once the rider has gained sufficient confidence to ride off the lead, he or she will be immediately keen to jump.
At the lower levels this is not so different from riding on the flat, at E grade a jump is no more than a canter stride.
For a beginner, trotting over a pole is equated to ‘jumping’.
However, you need to realise that jumping one obstacle is not the same as negotiating a whole course of jumps at that height. There are five phases of the jump, Approach, Take-off, Suspension, Landing, Depart (get away). Approach: the horse canters towards the jump and lifts his head to assess the height. The rider sits up, looks ahead and to the centre of the fence, hands still and soft (this does not mean loosening grip on the reins but rather following the movement with a relaxed elbow). Take-off: the horse first shortens then stretches his neck, raising his head as his hocks come under his body to provide the spring needed for lift off, the front legs fold to avoid hitting the fence. The rider’s body will “fold” from the hips, the calves remaining close to the horse behind the girth and the heels deep, the hands will lift ready to follow the horse’s neck movement. Suspension: the horse’s head and neck stretch to full extent forwards and downwards, his forelegs remain folded and hind legs open out behind. The rider must sit still and balance with his arms stretched forward towards the bit (using a neck strap or rein ‘bridge’ to balance if necessary) and with the head up and looking forwards. Landing: the head comes up, neck shortens again and the forehand (legs and shoulders) take the full impact of both his weight and that of the rider. The rider should gradually “unfold” from the hips, taking care to wait until the horse’s head starts to come up and hind legs touch the ground, using his seat to remain balanced to he can push the horse forward into rhythm again (3-point position). And the final (fifth phase) is Departure: the horse takes his weight back on the hind legs ready to head to the next obstacle. The rider resumes his 2-point position and looks to the next fence, at the same time maintaining the rhythm. Where to begin: Rider Position: In order to “fold”, the rider needs to shorten the stirrup length and get used to riding with shorter stirrups without losing balance.
This needs to be done by one hole at a time; it can be a “game”.
Note that the faster the horse is expected to go, the shorter the stirrups must be for the rider to remain balanced (compare the dressage rider and the jockey).
The calves should remain close to the horse’s side and the weight should be in the rider’s heels with his “seat” slightly away from the saddle.
This is a 2-point seat (2 calves in contact with the horse) and can be practised on the flat.
It is often likened to the rise at the trot but as most riders “stand” in the stirrups when posting this is actually a little too high.
Good idea to practice trotting without stirrups! Normally, the length of the stirrups when jumping should be between 2 and 4 holes shorter than for dressage. Rhythm: At all times, the rider should practice trotting and cantering without changing the horse’s rhythm.
This can be on the flat as well as around the jump course using wings alone or poles on the ground.
Horses rush when nervous or carrying a nervous rider, they want to get it over and done with.
Establish confidence and rhythm before anything else; there is no hurry to jump ‘higher’. Arms and hands: Riders should not use the individual reins to balance themselves over the jump, a neck strap (done up so that it rests at least a third of the way up the neck) or bridged reins or the mane are better safety options and cause minimal interference with the horse’s ability to negotiate the jump.
These aids also prevent the rider “getting left behind” and protect the horse from a jerk in the mouth, something that sends them ‘sour’ very quickly. Looking to the line: Riders must ride with their head up, and looking on the line they wish to travel; the horse also has two eyes but unless directed he has no idea of the direction for the course. Some problems: Weight too far back: where the rider is not completely balanced and in an independent ‘forward’ , light seat, he lands in the saddle before the back legs come back to the ground causing the horse to pull the rail. Weight too far forward: (rider “eats” mane), horse cannot get his front up far enough – down goes a rail with his front legs and, if he trips, out the front goes the rider. The bascule is the ‘arc’ made by the horse as he jumps the fence.
The further away he takes off, the higher he may have to jump to clear the fence, thus unseating the rider.
If he is not travelling in rhythm, taking off too far away can cause him to flatten out and take the rail with front or back legs. If the horse loses rhythm or goes too slowly at the fence, he won’t have the impulsion to complete the ‘arc’ and may come down too soon, dropping a rail or even taking it between his legs and falling. Cutting corners may mean that the horse doesn’t approach the fence straight and he takes a rail.
Riders must practice taking jumps in a straight line.
No corner should be less than 20m diameter. Try to recognise the problems for yourself.
Make sure the courses available to you allow you to practice the basics.
After balance and correct stirrup length are understood, ride lines. Suggested combinations or grids for schooling are given below.
Note that the distance between fences will depend on the size and temperament of the horse, the gait (trot or canter) of approach, and the height of the fences (which should be limited to 60cm or less).
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