Thursday, September 1, 2016

When is it time to jump?

I think it's funny that quite a few us here in blogger land have "discovered" an important part of jumping all at the same time, so I'm curious to get everyone else's take on how important flat work is before moving on to over fences work.

Now I'm not just talking about how you go about warming up before you get to your jump school, though it would be fun to touch on that, too. How long do you warm up before moving on to jumping? Are there certain exercises you do on the flat to get your horse using his or her body better? Or do you just coast and put in the bare minimum before moving on to the far more exciting things (Honestly, still sounds like the best option even though I'm trying to do better.)?

What I'm really curious to read about though is how confirmed you feel a horse needs to be on the flat before you really start to jump the big jumps. Is a fairly reliable w/t/c good enough for you to start popping over 3'+? Or do you feel like your horse should be a solid First level horse before jumping more than 2'6"?

Personally I feel like it's a pretty case by case basis. For instance, there are two horses at my barn I'd call green over fences.

One of them is a five year old Morgan who got broke out last year. He's super confident, smart, and naturally well balanced. While he can w/t/c, it's not the prettiest thing in the world, and he gets bored with flatting so quickly that he usually finds something naughty to do to amuse himself. He spends a lot more time jumping because he likes it, and he doesn't even have to try over 3'. Does he need to be more schooled on the flat? Oh hell yes. But it doesn't seem to hinder his jumping ability.

The other one is a 14 year old OTTB that BM bought a couple months ago. He came in with jumping experience, but was so poorly trained, under weight, and incorrectly muscled that it was like restarting him from square one. He absolutely cannot get away with not going correctly on the flat before he moves on to anything more than the 2'-2'3" he schools now. He would literally fall on his face if he tried. He literally falls on his face sometimes just walking around.

Weigh in! I want to see what everyone else thinks!


  1. Uh I guess my theory is you should start with a horse that wants to jump..



  2. I think any green horse from age 4 and up that is a reasonably suitable prospect can safely be introduced to 3' with the right rider. Without a competent rider, no amount of flat work will "fix" the jumping, because at that point it's really not the horse.

  3. I agree that it's on a case-by-case basis, especially with those horses who get bored or unhappy drilling flat work all the time. I mean, little jumps are easy for most horses to manage, and I think they can improve a horse's confidence (provided your horse isn't some kind of weirdo who spazzes out about poles on the ground...not that I own that horse or anything).

    As far as the warmup question goes, again, definitely case-by-case. I w/t/c Moe in each direction for maybe 10 minutes total, then jump 2-3 warmup jumps. He totally loses his shit if he does much more than that.

  4. I've been on very seasoned jumpers with little to no flat work. I'm talking jumping 4-5' with no topline to speak of and no idea on how to carry themselves. They can do it, of course, but it makes for a very uncomfortable ride and I am very certain that they obtain injuries and break down faster than a flat schooled horse.

    I don't jump any more, but my 4* event instructor likes to only jump school around once every 10 days. The rest is flat work.

  5. Lately my thoughts are something like this: I want to feel all the pieces working. I want to feel like the horse is on my aids. It doesn't have to be to the same degree as a purely flat school - but I want the horse to be soft, pushing evenly from both hind legs, accepting the bridle and accepting my legs, bending both directions, and generally taking a half halt and staying in front of my leg.

    At least with Isabel, some of the above would occasionally become more difficult once we started jumping bc she would get eager and energized and anticipating since she knew "we are jumping now!" So it was really important to establish all the basics and test all the buttons FIRST since I knew it would only get harder the more we jumped.

    Exercises to help with this include trot-halt transitions and walk-canter transitions (esp useful for a horse behind the leg), small circles, and the occasional spiral in, leg yield out practice.

  6. I am also on the ''case by case'' bandwagon. Although, I'd prefer to have a horse who can w/t/c with some form of dressagery.

    To implement jumping INTO the flatwork is a pretty sneaky - and smart way to do a lot of dressagey things without having to literally be on the flat all the time. Things like cavaletti, small x-rails, and even trot poles all have their time and place. I think that one can safely and effectively choose ''both'' provided the horse is already going at all the gaits (this doesn't necessarily mean that they need to be collecting and extending yet)

  7. While I think a lot of horses can jump bigger without the flat work, and certainly there are lots of talented horses who just move right on up through the levels without it, I think eventually problems will arise as a result. Most horses don't need to know how to do a beautiful shoulder-in or even understand halfpass to jump well, but at least a rudimentary understanding on both the horse and rider's part can only improve the jumping and more specifically course work. My jumping warm up looks a lot like what Emma described, but my flats, especially in the past few months, have included a lot of attention to detail and I've seen some big differences since I renewed my focus on really correct work.

  8. Case by case. When I warm up, I make sure all of my buttons are working before I jump. If they aren't working before I jump, they surely aren't going to work when I start jumping. If I have all of my buttons in flat work, I have no problem hopping over a 2'6" jump and then immediately tackling bigger.

  9. I am going to ditto Karen. I know that plenty of people don't agree with what I do with Annie but I have a happy and willing horse by keeping things fun and interesting for her. We don't jump more than 2x a week and often its more poles or Xrail work. Sometimes after we have a flat school in the jumP saddle I'll pop over something small bc that always makes her happy.

    Annie might not be perfect but if I just drilled flat work all the time she would kill me.

  10. Case by case for sure. I think at the absolute most basic level you need to know that your aids are working. Does he go when you put your leg on? Whoa when you use your hand? Next level importance, is the hind end underneath or is your horse dragging you around on his or her front end? You can get away with that up through 3' probably if the horse is scopey enough, but you're not going to find good distances and you're going to get pulled out of the tack.
    I think for horses that get bored, cantering over poles and raised cavelletti is a great way to get their mind on you. It's not REALLY jumping, but they think it is kind of. And it can also show you where your holes are in your flat work before getting to something bigger that might invite a problem.
    The horse I have that actually jumps right now is old, so I know he has all the right knowledge. His biggest problem is being lazy and unfocused. Sometimes throwing a jump in front of him helps the flat work improve. But this is only because the basics are already installed. I just need to find an interesting way to get the buttons unstuck.

  11. I have almost no opinions about this as a dressage rider so obviously take this with a grain of salt. But I think something that hasn't been touched on yet is the strength that dressage brings, it's like weightlifting for horses! My main goal with TC is to have him be sound (lol not doing a good job) long term. Rico is 20 and while he isn't the soundest thing, he didn't need injections til 16 and despite no injections for 2 years, is still sound. I do not want to spend money on injections on TC any time soon! Preferably ever (he'll be for sale before he's 12).

    So for me then, if I were to jump, I would want my horse to be at a fairly high level of dressage, have a strong topline, and generally feel really solid to avoid wear and tear as much as possible. Muscle supports the structures of their legs and their joints so well, protects them from injury. So if the horse isn't strong enough to go on the bit and do some collected work, I can't help but to wonder how much more wear on the joints the horse is getting when they land from those big fences. I dunno, I'm also quite cautious given the number of injuries I've had to deal with!

    Also man Rico was easy to jump as a GP horse! I saw like 15 different spots to jump from (and still missed! But that was more on me than him lol).

  12. I have no advice. I generally don't jump higher than 2'. Back in my High School days of jumping 4' I rode a lot of fresh OTTBs and training projects. We'd start jumping as soon as there was any vague semblance of control. The horses I was riding all loved jumping and it was a way of focusing them. If we'd just done flat, they wouldn't have progressed as quickly and probably burnt out. But if they don't like it and jumping doesn't work as motivator, then I'd wait.

  13. I agree most with Stacie here! Slow and steady wins the race and if you get good intro flatwork down first (go, whoa, listen to leg, etc) introduce jumps. Now, introduce, not jump 3ft right away. Playing with poles, cavaletti, small grids, courses--get them used to jumping and having a jumping frame of mind. When they're younger, I like to keep them 1x week max. After about a year I think its OK to jump 1-2x week and flat/fitness/hack the rest of the days.

    Many wise riders always say jumping is dressage with obstacles in the way, and they're not wrong. As the height increases, a horse NEEDS to have good flatwork, be soft, supple, and responsive. But as almost everyone has said, its a case by case. Feel it out. I also think most of us can also agree its incredibly stupid to jump a young horse (under 5) over anything higher than 2'6ish and more than once a week. Its science folks, their bones aren't fused.

  14. I don't have long warm ups before jumping. Walk trot canter turn and stop. Flatwork is super important and probably school four times a week and jump once a fortnight

  15. I have only ever introduced a handful of green horses to jumping, at that point they had basic "go, whoa, turn" buttons, but that's about it, and at that point I started trotting and cantering them over poles and very small (2' max) fences to introduce the idea of jumping. You don't need much more advanced flatwork than that to start! With a more educated horse that is jumping higher, the flatwork has to be better.

    Jumping Dino, I need to know first and foremost that he is going to GO when my leg goes on. My jumping warmups involve a lot of hand galloping and walk-canter transitions, gunning it up the hill, anything that will get him in go mode. He needs to be balanced off his forehand, or else things will go to shit real quick. He needs to be moving laterally off my leg so that I can help him make balanced turns, and I need to be able to take a feel of the bit without him shutting down and going slower. If I've got all those pieces, we're good to jump!

  16. You can certainly get a horse around a pretty reasonable sized course if the horse has basic steering, but it kind of sucks to ride that. I've ridden SO MANY horses that have been stuffed over 3' fences because they can jump it, not because they are really ready to do it. These same horses don't have a clue about how to do trot poles, or trot an X, or do a grid. If your horse's canter isn't adjustable, if he doesn't stand up in the turns and carry his weight evenly, how can you possibly expect to put in a decent round?

    I do think jumping and dressage go hand in hand, and the better your flatwork is, the easier time you and the horse will have jumping well.

  17. As the owner of a young OTTB, I *much* prefer to err on the side of caution and be overly conservative, than try to max out his potential at 6 years old. Roger has wear and tear in his ankles from racing, so I'm always super mindful of that, and plan his work schedule very carefully. IMO, especially with young horses, I think it's important to have the basics of flatwork down, so they can translate that over fences; introducing the concept of correct flatwork helps them learn to use their bodies properly when jumping, and hopefully avoiding any kind of unbalanced jumping and/or injury. Tense and rushy flatwork often leads to tense and rushy jumping.

    Even though Roger thinks jumping is the best day of his life and is physically able to go over 3'+ right now, I want to ensure that he has a happy and long jumping career, so we're going verrrrrrrrrrry slow with increasing the height of the jumps. In fact, we're only now consistently schooling 2'3" with a few 2'6" jumps thrown in, which is perfectly fine with me. There is absolutely no pressure to achieve some ridiculous height requirement by a certain age, so if we hang out in the Itty Bitty jumpers for a year, so be it... I'd rather take the slow and steady approach to avoid breaking my horse.

    (Really) long story short: just because you CAN, doesn't mean you SHOULD.

  18. My theory is that a balanced horse is a confident horse. So that makes dressage incredibly important. But also jumping scares me so I want to ride a well-schooled, obediant horse if I'm going anywhere near poles!

  19. I think it's just as much about the horse's skill level as the rider's. Basic walk, trot, canter, steering and brakes are necessary to do full courses, but just as important are the skills and confidence of the rider.

  20. lol uhh I dunno I started jumping Ramone over cross rails in the beginning when we got the basics of some manuvering and leg aids. I probably should have installed more whoa but we spent a good long time just jumping from the trot. Definitely the more reliable he got on the flat and over fences we started jumping more and bigger, but its primarily because he was a resale, if I was keeping him I'd probably would have taken a slower approach but still plenty of jumping.


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