I think almost anyone who enjoys jumping dreams of a day where they will be jumping at heights of 1.6 metres just like you see the athletes doing on television. Before we get there, we need to improve our skills so that we are able to jump clean.
One of the biggest things for me, which can sometimes still be a problem is looking down at the jump. While we are approaching the next obstacle, we seem to have a natural tendency to look down at it until we are at the base of the jump and are about to take off. The problem with this is that it throws ourselves out of balance and makes it a harder job for the horse to jump it clean. When we look down, we lean forward and we get ourselves ahead of our horse. This usually also leads to another common problem where we jump before the horse does which ruins our jumping position and stability.
Instead of looking down, look forward. It's okay to look at the jump when you are turning to get in the centre, but once you are in line lift your chin up and look past the jump. As you get closer and closer to the jump, let your peripheral vision and your senses tell you when you are about to jump. Stay tall and patient. Once you feel your horse take off, get into your jumping position. You would then fix two problems at once; looking down and jumping ahead.
Another common problem we have is judging distances. Many of us think that the take off point in usually a stride before or after where it actually is. The problem with misjudging our distances is that it often leads to a rail down or a refusal. Being able to properly judge our distances develops over time. To help you, try walking the course before riding it. Find the take off point on the ground so you have a better idea of where it is. Putting a rail down next to the jump where the take off point should be may help you to better judge your distances as you learn to get used to the feel.
When you watch a show jumping competition on tv, sometimes you think that that's the right position to take over a jump. This isn't always the case. Depending on the size of the jump, a horse will need a different amount of release. If you don't give enough release, you'll be restricting his head and causing him to jump straight instead of in an arc. If you give too much release, you might hit your face on your horse's neck or you might find it difficult to regain control after the jump. Practice giving the right amount of release while jumping over your jumps. If you aren't jumping too high, sometimes just placing your hands on his neck slightly above where they usually are is enough. If your horse is in trouble, sometimes letting go of the reins is the best thing you can do to get out of a situation. Just take Richard Spooner's example in the video below.
So I hope this has been helpful and has given you some tips on how to fix some of your jumping mistakes that so many of us have. Like most things, you cannot expect anything to be fixed instantly, you need to take the time it needs and be persistent. Eventually, your problems will be fixed. Thank you for reading Pure Horse Sense and I wish you all a wonderful weekend.
Until next time, happy riding!