When riding horses over jumps, the rider usually approaches a fence from either the trot or canter. However, jumping from the walk can be a very useful exercise for both horse and rider. Many three-day-event riders use this method and Lucinda Green, arguably one of the greatest eventers Britain has ever produced, often includes it in her cross-country training clinics.
Why Jump from Walk?
• The horse has no speed to clear the fence so must work harder, engaging the hindquarters and producing more “lift” in the jump
• It teaches the horse to think and be careful
• It is a good test to see if the horse is in front of the rider’s leg
• It gives confidence to both horse and rider
• It teaches the rider to sit quietly and wait, keeping their balance behind the horse
• It can help relax an excitable horse
• Without doubt, the rider will get left behind, teaching them to slip the reins and allow the horse to find its “fifth” leg, which is crucial when riding across country
1. When riding this exercise, keep the jumps very small, to begin with, and always use cross rails or uprights for safety. The average horse can jump up to three feet (90cm) from the walk.
2. You can teach your horse on the lunge first, so he understands the idea.
3. Ride lots of transitions in all three paces to engage the horse’s hindquarters, making him more responsive to the rider’s aids
4. Have a neck strap on your horse, so you can hold it if you are left behind over the jump. That way you won't jab your horse in the mouth.
Jumping from the Walk
1. Approach the jump from a forward, but not hurried, walk keeping the reins quite long
2. Sit still and squeeze with your legs. Don’t kick or flap
3. If the horse stops, give him a sharp smack with your stick behind your leg
4. Canter a few strides as soon as you land then quietly come back to walk
5. Don’t worry if the horse knocks the fence down at first. It might take a few attempts for you both to get used to jumping from the walk.
6. Jump a few fences from a trot and/or canter in the middle of your training session to keep your horse alert, then approach from walk again
7. You will know if your horse is enjoying the exercise as his walk will start to feel like a coiled spring about to be released
When the horse and rider realize they can jump from a walk, it will give them so much more confidence approaching a jump in trot or canter.
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