This is an introduction to a new series in my blog – Jump Academy! I will periodicallly blog about jumps that I see and ride on courses throughout the seaon. I will try to educate all y’all about why something is difficult, why there were problems at that jump, and basically disect the jump to the nuts and bolts on how to ride it.
I thought I would blog about a jump that figured prominently at the Twin Rivers event this weekend. It was a combination that was on the training and novice courses, and it was very influential for both divisions. I only thought of this blog on Tuesday after the event, so I missed taking photos of the jumps when they are all gussied up. But, squint and the jumps are much more impressive with brush on top and flags up.
When I’m walking a course, I look at the overall gestalt of the jump first – how does the horse see the jump? What feelings will the horse get from the location of the jump, and therefore how must I ride it to support the horse? The first impression I get is that the jump is nestled into the trees, tucked away into a corner. Most horses will react to that. They will have jumped jumps 1-3 in the wide open field and then the track takes them into a wall of shade and foliage. Right away you know that you will need to support your horse’s canter into this situation, nearly all horses will back off from their gallop when presented here. The horse will also naturally get behind the rider’s leg due to the fact that there are multiple jumps to look at, including upper level ditches to the left of the combination and also terrain changes! Lots to see!
Now, lets look at the more technical side of the question. One of my favorite questions to pose to myself is: “What is the course designer testing me on?” Answer it for yourself now, and see how you do with my explanation.
For training level, this is the first combination on the course and you need to make sure that you have some rideability as you come into it. Very simply, “rideability” means that when you ask for a change you get it how you want it, when you want it. I would want the horse to stay in front of my leg despite being impressed with the visual eyeful here. I would want a more bouncy canter rather than the gallop that I had for fences 1-3. My personal goal on Lear was to have 7 even strides between these two fences. I wanted to treat this like a simple show jumping question. I wanted consistent, regular strides with a balanced canter through the terrain changes with soft communication through the turn.
Easier said than done, right! I could feel Lear back off ever so slightly one stride away from takeoff, but fortunately, he is an experienced preliminary horse so it was not dramatic. If it was a green horse, I would have had to very quickly responded with my aids to help tell the horse “Go on, you are fine. Believe me.”
For novice level, it is a little more difficult I think. They only had a single jump as #4, not a combination, but it is still a stiff question. Novice horses lack the depth of knowledge and can be surprised by whole complex, especially the gaping ditch on the left. Novice level riders might not perceive quickly enough how to support the canter with a stronger leg as they approach to the jump, even if they are on an experienced horse who may or may not cover up for their mistake. They also might lose their position with the terrain changes and that will jeopardize the horse’s balance.
Letty made a very good observation about this jump. She said that she did not appreciate enough how steep the landing was after the novice jump. The steeplechase jump is a very friendly type of jump, very rounded and forgiving in it’s face to allow an awkwardly jumping horse to recover quickly without fear of leaving a knee on the front side. But that also means that the riders might have too forward of an upper body position and only discover this flaw on the dropped landing. And gravity then controlls the situation! Ideally, with a landing lower than the takeoff, the rider will open up their hip angle a little sooner to shift the center of balance toward the rear as the horse lands. Picture the USEA logo for this scenario, you can clearly see how the open hip angle helps prevent the rider from going A over T. Obviously, the steeplechase jump does not have the same extreme drop, but the principle is the same.
Now that we are talking about hip angles…I found these two interesting photos in my archives. They are nearly taken at the exact same time in the bascule of the jump, and yet my upper body is very different for each one. The jump with Lear is an extreme version of Twin Rivers #4 taken at Rebecca last year. It was a brushy Weldon’s wall with a bending 4 downhill strides to a skinny. Terrain and bending line are extremely similar between the two situations. And the lowest photo Tilly and I jumping a giant Intermediate table at The Fork that is by itself on a gallop. See the difference in the hip angle?
I hope that you like this new series! If you send me photos of yourself or of jumps, I’m happy to include them in the Academy!
Other posts in this series...
- Jump Academy #5 (May 10, 2017)
Its a new season, and a new opportunity for me to blog about cool things that I see on the cross country course. Letty, Moxee, Viki, Lanie and me all
- Jump Academy #4 (May 12, 2016)
Jump Academy is a series of blogs where I contstantly forget remember to take a photo of a cross country question at an event that I am attending. The
- Jump Academy #3 (July 10, 2015)
I have another very cool jump to show you. This combination was on the Preliminary course at Inavale HT in Philomath Oregon. And like the previous Jum
- Jump Academy #2 (July 3, 2015)
Another installment of Jump Academy is here! For the last 3 shows, I have been finishing up on Sunday, packing the trailer and generally trying to sco
- Jump Academy #1 (April 14, 2015)
This is an introduction to a new series in my blog - Jump Academy! I will periodicallly blog about jumps that I see and ride on courses throughout the