Jumping Tips for Western Riders
Are you a western rider who might want to play around with jumping? Maybe you are
an avid back country trail rider, or a mountain trail competitive rider, both of whom need to be able to hop over a log, narrow creek or bale of straw safely.
Article by Desiree Johnson for Smooth Stride Riding Jeans
But you are concerned because you don’t have an English saddle. If the western saddle horn is not too long, you can jump low obstacles if you learn how to position your seat and leg correctly.
Stirrups need to be adjusted so that when you hang your leg out of the stirrup, the stirrup bar is right at your ankle bone. The
stirrup needs to be held on the ball of the foot so the rider keeps a gentle bend in the ankle and knee, to help absorb shock.
The shorter length allows a rider easily carry his seat out of the saddle. “Jumping Position” or “Half Seat” is a position
approximately a hands’ width between the saddle and the rump, which is also the amount of lift your seat produces at the height of a normal upbeat while posting.
The rider must be able to hold Jumping Position or Half Seat in and out of trot and canter before you try to present to a jump.
Incorporating a strap around the horses neck can help with your balance in the beginning, helping keep the rider from falling
back in the saddle as the horse takes off. The rider should gently sit back down in the saddle only after the horse has
completed the jump. I find it very helpful to stay in this position, especially if the horse lands cantering. Often, the horse’s head
is up as they land, so its back is hollow and sitting at the canter will not be comfortable for horse or rider. After the horse
returns to a trot, the rider can gently sit in the saddle. The rider should eventually be able to feel the horses back rounding more
after the jump as they relax into the exercise and sitting will be much more comfortable for horse and rider.
Contact with the bit is also very important. The rider should be able to feel the horses mouth lightly with both hands through the
reins. Normally western riders hold the reins in one hand. But when jumping, it is best to have a rein in each hand. This gives
the rider more control if the horse veers to avoid an obstacle. An athletic, kind, intelligent feeling contact is needed and this
should sound familiar since it is needed in every aspect of horsemanship, not just jumping. Once you know that the horse has
committed to the jump or begins to leap, the rider should give the horse his head. There are so many reasons why this is
important. The horse needs to have the freedom to look at what they are jumping and the freedom to jump. If the rider has too
tight a grip on the reins and doesn’t give enough slack, the horse won’t be able to successfully accomplish either.
Remember to start small. Keep the schooling jumps low, as green horses have a tendency to ‘jump with spook.’ In the photo
(very kindly shared with me), the horse looks happy and is using his back well. The rider is up, out of the tack correctly and
has a nice straight line from elbow to bit, which I also like. Her heels are down and chin is up. The horse is over jumping a bit,
but that is not a problem. It just means he is trying hard and with more time and experience jumping, the horse will gage the height better.
The jump height can be in increased as the horse and rider gain experience and confidence, when the horse is no longer over
-jumping and the team has a smooth transition over the jump and back into the saddle. Safety is of the upmost importance so it is always wise to wear head gear while schooling over jumps!
Safe and happy riding,
Event Rider and Owner of Smooth Stride Riding Jeans
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