Jumping on horseback gives you a great adrenalin rush and is a challenge for you and your equine friend. It’s also a whole bundle of fun. So whether you and your horse are heading for the county show or just want to tackle a clear round in the field I’m here to help.
- Never jump alone. Have a friend on the ground, preferably somebody qualified if it’s your first time jumping. This is important for a number of reasons (safety included) but if you keep on hopping on and off your pony to change the jumps your horse will get bored and think this isn’t that fun of a game.
- Show your pony how to do it. One of the best ways to increase a nervous or shy ponies confidence is to have a more experienced horse jump successfully in front of them. Horses are herd animals… you get the gist.
- Warm up. As with all riding activities it is important that you do a little groundwork to warm your horse up. If it is the first time a horse is attempting to jump, place the jump in the centre of the field (or sand school) and walk/trot your horse in wide circles around it. Continue your normal warm ups but getting closer to the jump. This is to accustom your horse to the foreign object in their environment.
- Start small. If you’re a newbie I recommend you put the cups lower down in the wings. Trot for the first month or so of jumping as that encourages your mount to jump correctly. Jumping from a standstill sucks, but wait it out and he, or she, will kick the habit. And if you want your horse to love jumping just as much as you do make sure you don’t go pulling on the bit when you approach the jump. Instead grab his/her mane or neckstrap and lean up and forward.
- Make sure you’re in the correct position (see below). Rise forward and up in the stirrups and your weight should naturally fall to the balls of your feet. This is not good! 😉 Shift your weight from the balls of your feet to your heels and you’re good to go! Shorten those stirrups by a couple of holes too, just don’t forget to lengthen them afterwards. When you lean forward your arms should be further up your ponies neck to give him, or her, plenty of room to stretch out and make that jump. If you feel insecure practice beforehand at a walk or trot as horses can sense when you are nervous.
- Don’t sit down (at least not until you’ve landed safely). If you’re doing a close double/triple stay in the jumping position until you’ve come out the other side. Bouncing between jumps is great practice for you and your equine companion.
- Jump safely! Ensure the jump is properly made (if it isn’t a vertical that the back pole is higher). Any stray poles are properly spaced according to your horses stride (which you will learn in time) and the ground is safe and all gates are closed. Although jumping is a great activity it can also be dangerous so it’s important that you wear protective gear, such as a hard hat and a body protector. See here for the Highway Code rules for riding.
- Say thank you. Always look to yourself before blaming your horse. Although it is nice to have a rosette fluttering from your horses bridle there’s always next time and everyone deserves praise however little the win. Your pony is star for even trying.
Whether you can jump already or are a newbie to the jumping universe I’m here as a helping hand but I don’t replace a qualified instructor. If you’re serious about riding consider riding lessons, or if they are too expensive you could always volunteer at your local stables in exchange. Stables are always in need of extra help.
Why not call in to talk to us about our Hacking Around range (bridleways marked). If we don’t produce maps for your local area and you wish to stock them then we are happy to produce them for you (no extra charge and a starter pack of ten titles)!
Photo credit: RS photography