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Stirrup Adjustment and Ground Poles

Now that you can easily jump your horse on the ground at both a trot and canter it is time to move on to under saddle work. To begin tack the horse up and do some groundwork, adding a few jumps to remind him of your previous lessons.

Stirrup Adjustment

Once he is ready to ride you will need to adjust the stirrups shorter so you can practice your jumping position over the ground poles. There are two ways to do this; the first is from the ground. Stand at your horse’s side facing the saddle. Place your right hand under the saddle flap, touching the buckle on the stirrups leathers. With your left hand place the stirrup iron under your arm toward your armpit. The stirrups should reach just to your arm pit for regular riding on the flat, for jumping adjust them two holes up. The second way to check your stirrups for the correct length is from atop your horse. Mount your horse and let your legs hang loosely at his sides. The bottom of your irons should touch the bottom of your ankle bone for regular riding. For jumping they should touch about an inch above you ankle bone. Have a friend check that your stirrups are even from the front of your horse while you are mounted. Also, while standing in your stirrups make sure you have enough clearance between yourself and the saddle, without pushing you too far above the saddle. You should be able to fit your fist between your seat and the saddle.

Trotting Poles

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Adjust your stirrups by placing your stirrup underneath your arm. The stirrup should touch just under your arm pit for regular riding. When practicing two point you will want to shorten your stirrups two holes.

Once your saddle is adjusted you are ready to trot over rails on the ground. Start out with a single rail at a walk. Remember to look up where you want to go.  Pick a spot across the arena to focus on as you ride straight over the pole. Let your horse look at the pole or sniff it if he needs to, take your time but know when he is calm and you can progress. Once you are walking consistently over the pole in both directions, start practicing your two point position over the rail. Stand in your stirrups. Keep an even contact on the saddle with the top of your calf, knee, and bottom of your thigh. Keep your weight in your heels and incline your upper body slightly forward. Do the same thing as you did when walking; looking ahead and keeping the horse in the middle of the pole. Start trotting over the single pole, practicing both posting and two point. After you can trot both directions over the pole it’s time to add a second pole about 4 to 4 1/2 feet away depending on your horse’s stride. Start again by walking then trotting over both poles. Once you are consistently straight and your horse’s rhythm is even at both gaits continue to add poles until you have a line of six. Practice both posting and two point over the line of poles.

Figure Eights

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The bottom of my stirrup rests right above my ankle bone.

Patterns of poles on the ground are very helpful in teaching horses to pick up their feet, stay straight over an obstacle, listen to your directions, and see a distance. An easy one to begin with is a figure eight with a pole in the middle. Set up one pole in the middle of your arena so it is perpendicular to the long side. Start by trotting a big circle to one side of the pole, once you’re ready aim for the pole and trot over it. Continue on the same circle a few times then when you are ready after crossing the pole change directions and make another large circle. Add difficulty to the figure eight pattern by changing your posting diagonal over the pole, getting into a two-point position, and making a smaller figure of eight.