Trotting over a line of poles is the second step toward jumping. After this you can add a small jump to the end of the row.
Re-positioning the poles
Once the pony picks up his feet over the poles in walk you can try trotting over them. For this you have to re-position the poles -start with three or four about 130cm (52in) apart.
Go over the poles, lengthening and shortening the distance until your pony can trot over them in an easy rhythm, without having to stretch or shorten his stride awkwardly.
When you are confident in this pace, and used to the rise you get when the pony goes over the pole, you’re ready to jump a low fence.
To make your first jump, you need something to lift the poles off the ground. If you don’t have any jump stands, use a pair of milk crates, oil drums or even upturned buckets.
The jump need only be a few centimetres high at this stage. The best fence to start with is a cross-pole. This consists of two overlapping poles – one raised at the left and the other raised at the right.
Aim for the centre of the cross -it is the lowest part of the jump and it teaches the pony to jump straight. Keep the centre point about 150m (6in) high.
Using a cross-pole
There are two ways of using this small jump. One way is to have the cross-pole on its own. The other is to have three or four trotting poles before the jump. Either method can work well just compare the two ways and decide which would suit you best:
If your pony. stays well-behaved and calm, jumping over a single cross-pole is an easy way to start jumping. Remember to approach in a straight line and at an active trot – exactly the same as for trotting poles.
Using trotting poles before the jump . makes sure your pony keeps a steady rhythm up to the cross-pole. If he tends to rush a bit then trotting-pole practice will keep him calm.
You need someone on the ground to straighten the line of poles if the pony knocks one of them. It’s always best to have at least one other person around when you’re practising, otherwise you spend more time adjusting the jumps than you do going over them!
Having practised the jumping position, you can now put it to full use. Go into forward position as you approach the fence, taking hold of the neck strap or a
handful of mane. Tell yourself – look up, ride forward, lean forward, heels down! Keep repeating these commands to yourself and you will find it helps you as you go over the jump.
The next stage Now think about using the jump as part of your schooling plan. Try riding a circle, going into a straight line over the jump and then riding forward to a circle again. Circles before and after jumping keep the pony’s mind occupied and are good preparation for riding a course.
Circles are also an excellent way of keeping the pony’s rhythm and speed even. You can only be sure of a smooth jump from a calm approach.
Ride your circle in an active trot – but don’t worry if your pony breaks into canter just before take off. You will be jumping from canter soon so this is good practice. If your pony goes too fast afterwards, the second circle will slow him down.
A small course of jumps
As your balance and confidence improve you could make a small course. If you can, arrange a jumping lesson in an indoor school, a small well-fenced paddock or an outdoor arena.
With your instructor’s help, plan the course carefully to avoid sharp turns and either very short or very long approaches. The best way to start is by building a line: two or three low jumps of the height you are used to down a long side of the arena.
You will need help to gauge the distance between them. For one non-jumping stride, it should be between 4.5-6.3m (15-21ft) depending on the size of your pony. Make the last jump about 230m (9in) high.
Letting go of the reins
By moving along the open side of the jumps as you go over, your instructor can make sure your pony stays straight and goes forward. If you feel confident
enough, now is the time to knot your reins and let go all together. The mane or neck strap are quite close if you need to grab at the last minute.
Although holding the mane makes you feel safe, the aim of the exercise is to be well-balanced enough not to need to hold on. Keep your hands in ‘rein position’, but don’t pull on the reins and put your pony off jumping. If your reins are knotted, you can quietly pick them up to regain control before you come near a corner.
When you build jumps, however small they are, remember to make them look inviting. Ponies don’t like flappy things like sacks, especially plastic ones that catch the light.
They are put off by jumps which slant. toward the take-off side, leaving the high point of the slope nearest the pony. Also, they dislike flimsy-looking jumps without a ground line on the take-off side to guide them.
Rest another pole against the jump stands -but on the ground – to help the pony judge the height. And use cones to fill in the fence – the more solid the jump the better.