Jumping fences at a full gallop is thrilling for all experienced riders. Mastering this exercise takes a lot of practice and control from both horse and rider.
Your horse first must be physically fit to gallop over long periods. Gradually add more galloping work to your horse’s training program. Start small with a goal in mind then build up from there. Many charts and examples of exercise routines for horses are available online. Find one that fits both your schedule and most importantly your horse’s fitness level and ability.
When jumping at speed, you must remain in control of your horse the entire time. A helpful exercise is to practice transitions within the gait as well as between gaits. Doing many transitions makes your horse think about you and gets him in the habit of allowing you to control his speed. Do not attempt jumps at speed until you can confidently jump low courses which require you to increase and decrease speed at the canter.
Mechanics of the Jump
The reason for jumping any fence at speed is to conserve energy. Instead of having to slow down and speed up after each fence you can save time and energy by continuing to gallop instead. This is comparable to driving in a city. To travel in a city it will take you longer than traveling the same distance when driving on the highway. During your cross country or jump off round you want to keep your horse traveling on the highway as much as possible.
It is important to remember when starting to jump at speed that the horse will not be able to jump as high as they are carrying more weight on their forehand. This is because the footfalls of the gallop are different than those of the canter. The canter is a lateral gait originating from the hind end. A canter on the right lead begins with the left hind leg followed by the right hind and the left front at the same time and finally the right front. While the gallop is preformed much like the walk. The gallop also has leads, for example foot falls on a right lead would start with the left hind leg followed by the right hind, then the left front and the right front leg. At the gallop, much of the horse’s weight is shifted to the front legs, with about 60 percent on the forehand to 40 percent on the hind end.
Also, as you go faster the ideal take off spot will be a little farther away from the fence than usual. The take off spots change from the usual six feet to eight feet as a rule of thumb. Let your horse take care of the fence and he will either find a good spot or he will chip in and add a stride. Remain still and have confidence in your horse.
- Sit still and do not interfere with your horse’s jump.
- Let your horse do the work and stay out of the way, especially if you are unsure. Horses have a strong sense of self preservation and he will try to take care of himself.
- Stay in control of your horse at all times.
- Do not lose impulsion.
- Focus on the fence and getting to a good take off spot, but try not to be too particular and allow your horse to negotiate the fence on his own.