Question: My 6 year old Oldenburg over-jumps everything then lands in a big heap with a grunt. These are 18″ to 2′ jumps. On occasion when she jumps correctly she is lovely and talented, but has this over jumping quirk that manifests itself especially over a new fence. We have changed fences, flowers, coolers, etc without long term success. Help please!
Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: Many horses jump too high when learning. There are many reasons for this:
1. Some horses are very careful not to bang their legs
2. The horse is too green to understand the fence being presented to them and need additional work before being ‘fenced’
3. Some horses are just bored and need a bigger challenge
Jumping too high is more of a bonus than a problem, but the ‘grunt’ is an added feature I have seen occasionally. It has not been a detriment other than it’s annoying. I think it is an expression of the horse more than anything else.
Many Warmbloods land in a big heap. Not all young big horses have the athletic ability to land gracefully or softly, such as a thoroughbred cross would. A bit more ‘hot’ blood in the breeding often lends itself to a more graceful athlete. Over time with more training, the bigger horses often gather the strength and knowledge to be able to perform with more elegance. Your mare is only 6, so you have a few more years to watch her grow and mature into a graceful jumper. If she is showing some talent once in a while, you need to be patient and persist in your training and you will find that the grunting and awkwardness will be quickly replaced by that hidden talent. Long-term success in jumping is over the years, not months.
A few exercises you could do to help her become more athletic are bounces (gymnastics). At her level I would stay away from single fences and focus on bounce lines once a week, with the odd single fence thrown in every third week or so.
Spreads and oxers also help with bascule and teaching a horse to stretch and lower over the fence.
Lots of flat exercises, along with lateral flexion and longitudinal flexion (poll to tail) will help her with her form.
Form to function plays a big role with young Warmbloods. They don’t often mature into their frames until the age of 8, and their big legs and hooves often make them appear gangly and clumsy (landing in a heap over the fence).
If you have ever ridden an Andalusian or Lusitano, you will find they over-jump a lot. It seems to be a standard they have and as a rider you just get use to it. Each breed and age has it’s own style, which later separates the horse into the jumper or hunter categories.
Another reason some horses over-jump is because of the use of cross poles at the beginning of their training. Cross poles are very effective in getting a horse to lift the legs and clear the fence, because they do not judge the lowest part of the fence, but instead judge it a bit higher, where their eye sees it as a higher fence. Often they carry this habit into their new fences, including their vertical rails and oxers.
Another thing to look at is her landing and what happens after she lands. If she is allowed to land on the front end and stay there for a good number of strides after, she will learn to lean into the fence and canter off flat. Try to work on flatwork that teaches her to lift when you ask. When you land off the fence, allow one stride to retain balance and then ask her to lift and lighten. It’s a form of collection, but in a young horse I like to think of it more as connection work.
I have an article on my blog that deals with connection and collection that may help you. Here is the link: How to collect horse.
Near the end of the article are some good exercises you can work on, especially the counter canter. I do a lot of counter canter work with all my horses, young and experienced. It helps them to learn balance and get lighter on their feet. It’s especially valuable for any horse that jumps.
Read the article over; it is quite long, but I simply cannot write short articles. There is so much to say and teach. Enjoy! And if you have any further questions don’t hesitate to email me back. Thank you for choosing me as you online helper.
Another article you might be interested in for jumping: My horse rushes and lands on her forehand