When you’re riding cross-country, it’s super-important to think about your jumping position. You’ll be riding over fences that could be up or downhill, lead into water or might not have perfect footing, so the most important thing is to be secure in the saddle, which will help your pony clear the fences well, too.
Moving your hands forwards when you jump allows him to stretch his neck out. Aim to maintain a soft contact on the reins over the fence.
While you don’t want to lose the contact completely by giving your pony too much rein, it’s better to give more than he needs than not enough. This reduces the chance of you catching him in the mouth, which could make him less willing to jump.
TOP TIP – Grab hold of your pony’s mane or neckstrap if you feel unbalanced over a fence to prevent you catching him in the mouth.
Keep your head up as you jump, with your eyes looking ahead to the next fence. This lets your pony know where you plan to go once you’ve landed and gives you both a more confident jump.
Your head is the heaviest part of your body, so if you look down at the fence, especially as you approach it, it’s harder to keep your balance.
Your shoulders affect your upper body position, so think about pushing them back. This helps stop your weight shifting forwards and keeps your balance in the saddle.
When your pony jumps, your body should fold forward and lift out of the saddle. This lets your pony stretch through his back and jump cleanly, and makes it easier for you to stay with his movement, too.
As your pony takes off, think about folding through your hips and bringing them backwards, rather than just standing up in the stirrups. This helps you stay balanced over the centre of the saddle instead of shifting your weight forwards, which can make it more difficult for your pony to jump.
TOP TIP – Try not to fold too early as this shifts your weight forward and can leave you in a vulnerable position. Sit upright on the approach to the fence and only fold as your pony starts to jump.
Think of your legs as anchors when you’re riding – strong ones keep you secure in the saddle and are the foundation of a good position. Think about keeping your leg slightly more forward than you might in showjumping – this means that if your pony refuses or trips on landing, you’ll be in a much stronger position to regain your balance. You should…
- push your weight down into your heels to help stop your leg slipping back
- wrap your legs firmly around your pony’s sides, keeping your leg near the girth
TOP TIP – You can strengthen your lower leg by practising your jumping position when you’re riding on the flat!