Young Horse Jumping Form Dilemma- lacks form over low stuff

Hi, I’m currently re-training a 6 year old 17hh OTTB sale horse. Let me start by saying my background is in eventing, but I view this horse as being more of a potential hunter/eq prospect since he is spooky outside the ring and he has auto lead changes, and he carries himself on the flat like a hunter. He’s been off the track for 2 years and has a lot of flatwork training, and I started jumping him over low stuff 3 months ago, and once he understood what I was asking him he really took to the jumps and he is now coursing 2’6 and 2’9 singles. He has plenty of scope- here is the problem: when there’s a new jump or a scary obstacle under the jump or a higher jump than he’s used to, he jumps the jump with perfect form and bascule, but he does rush a little. But as soon as he gets acclimated and confident to new obstacles/height so that he’s not rushing at all, he gets lazy with his knees and hind end. Doing gymnastics is helping a little, but his jumping form over the low stuff (under 2’9) just isn’t great. But I don’t want to move him up too fast and scare him especially given he has a tendency to rush. Advice? Suggestions? Thanks!

You can move him up. Low fences encourage sloppy form and many of the bigger names in the business don’t work much over them once past the baby stage. Fact all 4 feet are not even off the ground at the same time until you get around 3’.

Set your fences around 2’9" with some to 3’. Make the width equal to the height though and find some filler for them. Good idea, though a PITA, to change your courses up frequently, at least once a week. Keeps them interested and guessing.

Obviously, don’t over drill but 3’ is pretty normal for the average 6 year old. Most jump twice a week but not all that many fences. And fix the rushing with flatwork-ride the horse the same way around jumps as on the flat, same aids, same expectation of obedience.

I’d do what F8 suggested, but would do grids that are a little higher first. Start with 1 or 2 strides, bump the jumps up to about 3’-3’3, make them square oxers Raised gradually during the jump school. Get him comfortable with the height while in a grid, then add a jump 3 strides away from the grid, then move it out so it’s 4, then 5 strides away, to get rid of the rushing.

I’d also spend a lot of time making small jumps spookier so he will learn to relax about them. Then work on raising them.

Because he is a tall horse, his form won’t look good until he is at around 3’-3’6".

Does he jump up with his body when he is losing his form? Consistency in form takes some time for some horses. I’m not a big grid person but we like the 9ft take off and 9ft landing rail to encourage jumping around the jumps. If he’s already rushing then I think he needs more basic flatwork. Young horses should be relaxed when jumping. You don’t want anxiety as that can escalate into a big problem quite quickly.

Is he rushing the jumps with poor form, or jumping lazy with poor form? If the latter, put the jumps up. If the former, focus on flatwork, rhythm, and don’t worry too much about his form for now. Grids can help, but don’t obsess over him being perfect.

The good news is that it sounds like he CAN use himself well, just on his own terms. For an athletic, talented horse, that’s okay. My own OTTB, now 6, has just started to lift his knees at 3’6" courses. I’ve done grids, bounces, placing rails, all sorts of exercises to tighten him up since he was four. He just likes to jump high with his body and dangly with the front end-- not dangerously pointing down, just sloppy, and he compensates by jumping higher with his body. As he’s gotten stronger and the jumps bigger, he’s starting to take the job more seriously and put more effort into it-- he’s just now learning that it’s not necessary to jump 2’ higher (over 3’6" that’s substantial!) if he folds his front end properly.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread, it is nice to see what you have to say. I have a 17h TB as well, and mine is jumping about the same height as the OP. I have some similar issues, although my horse doesn’t rush. He’d prefer to crawl to the jumps so I always have to work on having enough impulsion.

We do grid work and that does seem to help some with the front end, but I have a lazy horse and he isn’t really even trying very hard at 3’. We do get occassional awesome jumps, especially when the fill is a little scary, but we also have some that are not very impressive.

One thing exercise we did is to put two poles in a V formation on a vertical (or A, depending on how you look at it). That really made my guy tighten up in front, at least for those particular jumps. Oxers in gymnastics have helped us as well.

I shot some video the other day and I noticed that at 2’9" or perhaps 3’, it seemed like my horse’s front end looks good for a portion of the time. It seems like he really doesn’t have all 4 feet off the ground in an upward motion for very long. By the time his hinds leave the ground, it looks like his front end is almost ready to start its descent, and he untucks his legs to prepare for landing.

I’ve noticed with mine that he is less able to organize his front legs when he gets a deeper distance, but if he gets a good distance or a little long, his front legs are square and his forearms are nicely up towards his face. My horse does have weirdly long legs which might contribute to this- he’s 17h and wears a 78"-80" blanket- so he’s all leg and with a shorter body.

As in interesting aside, my horse’s belly is more than 2’6" high. I like to have the mental image of him standing and a 2’6" jump being up under him. Wow. No wonder he doesn’t need to pick his legs up much.

I’m hoping that my horse’s form tightens up eventually, and maybe it will as the fences go up. I’ll watch this thread to see if there are more helpful comments!

He may be too young to have a definitive answer, but some horses just aren’t as neat up front. Agree with the posters that really getting him going correctly on the flat and having a pro help evaluate over fences (2’9 +).

Low, wide oxers. Gymnastics.

I have a whole lot of proof that this isn’t actually “fact.” Your point that jumping small means less effort, however, is fact. :wink:

Most forms of rushing to me spells more work on the flat for balance and control, lots and lots of transitions and listening exercises and putting the jumps down. Incorportate lower jumps more frequently but not as many repititions.

The rusher’s I have ridden were typically inexperienced over larger fences.
Based on what I felt they would get nervous, in turn, they rush to get it over with quicker or I have also seen them react to the rider becoming tight and nervy and the horse doesn’t have enough experience to soothe himself.

My mare’s form over 2’6 and below are pretty lack luster, she isn’t huge but she is smart. She knows she doesn’t have to use her precious energy to give me a ‘10 jump’ over an obstacle in her way. To her, it is not a ‘jump’.

I had similiar thoughts of moving up more quickly, but do yourself a favour and stick with the smaller jumps to allow him to gain confidence and figure out how his body works. And less frequency is usually more. Once a week for a horse learning to jump is fine. You can use poles/raised poles for just about anything.

Gymnastic’s will be your best friend for awhile. Less intimidating for the horses to be able to gradually move up in height.

Going to disagree on the once a week is enough for this 6 year old that has been going under saddle for several years.

Most of them at that stage benefit from jumping 2 or 3 days a week. Not over jumping, not endless courses but certainly a few singles worked into the flatwork one day, a simple line repeated several times another and a day with some course work is not overdoing it with most.

Plus it is a sale horse. Better performance will get it a better home and the owners clock is probably ticking away since they don’t want to keep it.