Jumping is great fun, but it can be tempting to make the fences higher and higher – it’s all about how big you can jump, right? Wrong! What’s more important is technique, and that you build on your jumping foundations gradually to make sure both you and your pony are happy and confident before moving up a level.
Too much, too soon
Don’t feel pressured into jumping higher than you want to. Confidence takes lots of time to build, but can be lost very quickly – whether it’s yours or your pony’s.
Jumping bigger than you’re ready for can result in an awkward jump, a refusal or a run out, which puts you in a more vulnerable position in the saddle and can worry your pony, too.
Taking time to gradually build your jumping skills gives you the chance to develop your position and makes you a more experienced rider. It also allows you to gain trust in your fave pony and him to gain trust in you, which is invaluable when it comes to jumping confidence – you need to believe he’ll jump and he needs to trust that you won’t ask him to jump anything that’s not safe.
It’s always tempting to make the fence higher than normal when it comes to getting a good photo. But it looks much better when you’re in a strong position and your pony’s jumping cleanly than a photo of you both not jumping your best over something bigger! Nail your jumping technique over smaller fences and you’ll find you look picture-perfect every time.
Don’t forget to think about your flatwork! A balanced canter with plenty of impulsion creates a strong jump – if your approach is unbalanced or rushed, it’ll be harder to meet the fence on the right stride and produce a clean, rounded jump.
While you’re warming up, ride plenty of transitions, changes of rein and shapes in walk, trot and canter. You’ll soon find your pony’s much more responsive to your aids and in front of your leg, which helps when it comes to jumping, no matter what size the fences are.
Top tip – Your instructor is the best person to turn to for advice when it comes to increasing the height of fences, as they’ll know exactly what you and your pony are capable of jumping and when you’re ready to move up.
Cross-poles are a great place to start when it comes to jumping well. Their shape guides you to the centre of the fence and they’re super-inviting, too. Plus, as the part of the fence you jump is lower than the sides, a deeper cross-pole encourages your pony to pick up his front legs more, so you’re improving his jump as well as yours!
Break it down
You can ace your jumping technique by thinking of it in three separate sections – approach, jump and landing.
Even though you haven’t left the ground yet, this is the most important part! An accurate approach requires a balanced turn to give you a straight line to the fence, as well as plenty of impulsion to allow your pony to push himself into the air. Look up and over the fence rather than down at it, as this can encourage your pony to look down, too.
As your pony jumps the fence, focus on your position – use your legs as an anchor to keep you central and secure in the saddle, while folding slightly at the hips and giving with your hands to let him stretch his neck. Remember to keep your eyes up!
Top tip – Push your weight into your heels as you jump to help stop your lower leg slipping back.
Pull your shoulders back to stop your body tipping forward as you land. If you’re jumping a course, keep your eyes on the next fence. If it’s a single fence, canter away in a straight line with plenty of impulsion, rather than letting your pony wobble or stop afterwards.
Top tip – If you have an awkward landing when you’re schooling over a course, it’s a good idea to ride a circle and get your canter back together before approaching the next fence.