Training & Practice
We get a very lucky chance here to learn about show jumping from one of the best! My friend Kai, from Germany, shared with me a video of one of his competitions as well as his top tips for good show jumping. I hope you enjoy the video, and be sure to check out the tips below!
In this video, I show you how to properly lunge a horse. Lunging is a great way to exercise a horse, as well as work on communication.
- lunge line
- watch for timing workout
- saddle if desired
- side reins if desired
- make sure you’re properly dressed too!
Remember, small circles can be tough on a horse’s joints, so you really shouldn’t lunge for more that about 30 minutes.
Reins aids aren’t just a matter of pulling–HOW you pull is very important. The goal is to apply pressure straight back on the bit, rather than push down or yank up. By keeping the bit, your wrists and elbows all in a straight line, you maintain the most control over your rein aid and also engage the biggest and strongest muscles (your back muscles) rather than trying to rely on your biceps/arm muscles.
I’ve had a lot of questions on how to correctly do a half-halt; this video shows you how to properly so all rein aids, including half halts.
Now, don’t be afraid to practice this motion a lot in the mirror to begin with, or have someone video you practicing in the saddle. Seeing myself in this video and where I get my arms or back out of alignment is really helping me improve ;)
Many horses, especially school horses, develop bad habits when it comes to tacking up. Horses may try to lift their heads away from bridles, clamp their mouths closed, or even get nippy when you try to tighten the girth. Today, we’ll talk about ways to work with a horse who moves his head when you try to put his bridle on.
It’s sort of depressing to list all the things you can mess up in the canter, but it’s a good way to become aware of things you might not realize you’re doing. As they say, recognizing that you’ve got a problem is the first step towards fixing it! Plus, after every mistake, I offer one possible way to work on improving.
1. Rocking your shoulders. As I mentioned in my first post about the canter seat, it’s very easy to let your shoulders or even your whole upper body rock back and forth as your horse rocks back and forth underneath you. However, if you do this, you get very out of balance and throw your horse off-balance too! Also, it makes it very difficult for you to do anything with the rest of your aids, as you’ve got nowhere from which to work.
A: Imagine a string pulling you up from the top of your head. Pretend you are a marionette puppet, and someone is constantly drawing you upward. As you stretch upward, you’ll automatically stop moving back and forth. Read more on Top ten cantering no-nos–and how to fix them!…
The good news about sitting a canter is that it’s a whole lot less bumpy than the trot. The complicating part is that it’s also a whole lot faster (If you’re anything like me, that’s the fun part).
The canter is a three-beat gait. There are six phases, but you can only feel three of them. This is because the horse’s different legs hit the ground at three distinct points. Look at the diagram. At step one of a right-lead canter (we’ll talk about leads in a second), the horse’s left hind foot is touching the ground. This is beat one. At step two, his right hind and left front feet (known as the “diagonals” because they are diagonally opposite each other) both hit the ground at the same time. This is beat two. Then in step three, his left hind foot leaves the ground, but because there is no impact (no new foot is hitting the ground) there is no beat. You don’t really feel this step. In step four, the horse’s right front foot hits the ground. This is the third beat. In step five, his diagonals (the right hind foot and the left front foot) leave the ground, but again you don’t feel this and it doesn’t count as a beat. In step six, all of his feet leave the ground. This full suspension in mid-air prepares him to put his left hind foot down again to start a new stride, with a new beat one.
It’s never too early to start riding right, right? Of course, the endless stacks of books on just how to ride right is downright frightening–especially when you consider that they usually don’t even agree with each other. So what is a beginning rider to do?
First, recognize that each rider and each horse is different. So what is “right” for one pair may not be right for you! And any trainer or horsey guru (yes, even me…) who says that she or he knows the one right way is wrong. There just can’t be one right to do anything, let alone something as complex as riding.
However, having said all of that, there are general principles that can help guide you toward riding success. And getting to know these, like a hiker taking a good look at the map of mountain trail, can really help you see where you’re heading and how to get there.
Dressage is considered the foundation of pretty much all English riding. Although Western riding has somewhat different end goals, it still shares the principles of dressage training. And at the bottom of dressage, with all its fancy moves, is this simple training pyramid.
Don’t worry if the words don’t mean much to you now. Let’s go through it, piece by piece. Today we’ll just tackle the first step–rhythm.
All that rhythm means is that your horse moves at a steady, even pace and you move in time with him. Your horse should move his feet evenly, with a clear beat. Remember, a walk should be four beats, a trot should be two beats, and a canter should be three beats (see “The horse’s gaits” for more). You should move at the same time your horse does. At a walk, you let your right hip move forward with his right legs, and your left hip with his left legs. If you move your hips faster or slower than your horse, you will push him into moving faster or slower (you can do this on purpose if your horse is too slow or too fast!). The same is true with posting at the trot.
Parts of rhythm.
Try this yourself–start walking around the room. Now, lean forward as you walk. What happens to your speed? You have to move your feet faster or you’d fall on your face. The same thing can happen to a horse. If a horse keeps getting faster rather than holding a steady rhythm, he may be falling forward–he has to stumble faster and faster just to catch himself. However, your horse will have to do the same thing if YOU lean too far forward. By pushing your weight forward, he’ll have to speed up to catch you! So the first part of rhythm is balance. You and your horse must be balanced if you want to move with a steady rhythm. For you, this means staying centered over the horse’s back, and keeping your seat in line with your shoulders and heels. For your horse, this means that he is balanced more on his hind end (rather than falling forward onto his front end) and pushing from his hind legs (see the “Horse Power” article for more).
Another thing that can make a horse move at an uneven rhythm is being nervous or excited. So the second part of rhythm is relaxation. When your horse is tense or scared, he will move in a jerky, rough way. You can’t expect him to keep a good rhythm like that!
As a rider, if you are out of rhythm with your horse, you will mess up his movement; if you are instead riding at the same tempo at which your horse is moving, your aids work with his movements. Imagine the difference between your dance partner trying to turn you left right in the middle of you twirling right, and him waiting until you’ve just finished your spin and as you pause he glides you easily into the next move.
Exercises for rhythm.
As funny as it may sound, riding with music can really help. Start with the trot. Pick a song that’s got the same speed at which you’d like your horse to move. Trot in lots of nice, big circles, listening to the beat of the song and posting at the same speed. Try a few different speeds of songs, and see if you can ride faster and slower with relaxation, balance and finally rhythm.