Horse Riding Lessons Blog

Can Your Beginner Level Horse Teach You How to Jump?

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Maybe you’ve been taking riding instruction for a while on a horse that makes you feel safe and are wondering whether you’ll be able to learn how to jump with him in the future? This is the equine which helped you learn to ride a horse, and you don’t want to switch animals for your jumping lessons.

Good Jumping Breeds

Theoretically all horses are able to jump, but some are better at it than others and bred especially for the job. The German warmbloods are a great example of versatile horses able to perform dressage and jump well.

Irish Draft horses are another great jumping breed, often crossed with Thoroughbreds to produce lighter and more agile mounts for dressage and jumping.

Back to Your Beginner Horse

However, if you want to take jumping instruction on the horse you’ve learn to ride on, it doesn’t matter if he’s not able to jump high, as long as he’s had sufficient training to teach you the basics.

Even a horse with natural jumping ability needs to be trained properly under saddle. Having a rider on his back completely changes a horse’s balance and he needs to relearn how to jump with this unfamiliar burden.

Your Horse’s Jumping Experience

Chances are you’ve learned horseback riding on a school master, which is a big plus. So find out from your instructor what jumping experience your ‘comfort zone’ horse has had.

Once he’s taught you the basics of jumping, it won’t matter if he can’t jump higher: he’ll have given you the tools and the confidence to move onto another horse that can.

Since a general rule of thumb is that a horse should be able to jump approximately three feet, you should have no worries. Your current horse will be able to take care of your jumping requirements for a long time before you need to switch.

Riding Your Horse on the Bit

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Your initial riding instruction will focus on getting you to ride ‘on a contact.’ This means using your leg and seat aids to drive the horse forward into a definite but gentle contact with the horse’s mouth.

On a Contact

If your hands are quiet and steady, the horse accepts this contact willingly, and you now have control of your mount. You never want a dead weight in your hands. Don’t hang onto the reins: hold them firmly but ease the tension slightly when you feel the horse give. This is how you reward him for his submission.

When you first learn how to ride a horse it takes a while before you feel that moment when the horse ‘gives.’ It’s when the horse becomes softer in the hand by relaxing his jaw.

On the Bit

A horse on the bit has a supple, rounded back and neck, and the contact becomes much softer than previously. His hind legs come more underneath him, closer to his center of gravity, and they’re carrying more weight. The poll (top of his head) is now the highest point and his nose is either on the vertical or slightly in front of it.

How to Get a Horse on the Bit

The way to get a horse on the bit is by riding him forwards into the hand. It is not achieved by forcing the horse to place his head in position, which is like putting on the brakes the whole time and wondering why the horse doesn’t move forwards freely!

More energy is created in the hind legs using your seat and leg aids, while the hands ‘contain’ that energy with a steady hold on the reins. This keeps the horse round, and sustains balance and impulsion as he becomes easier to ride.

Once you learn to get a horse on the bit, you’ll find him far more comfortable and controllable. Your transitions into trot and canter will be smoother and over time your aids will become more subtle as you become attuned to your mount.