Progression: Jumping

This has been mentioned time and time again in my posts over the last few months, but I’d like to take a minute and devote some time specifically to this:

Frankie consistently jumps much better now than he used to.

I don’t just mean that he jumps prettier- though he absolutely does. I mean that he jumps better- more strongly, cleanly, and powerfully. The “pretty” is a lovely side effect of these improvements.

So let’s take a little stroll down memory lane to see where we started together, and talk about some of what we’ve done to get to where we are today.

First time I tried him, March 2016


Our first show together, Loudoun Benefit, June 2016


Our second show, HITS Culpeper, August 2016


Working hard over the winter, November 2016


Playing over the bigger jumps, January 2017


NEVER NOT SHARING THIS PICTURE. First big outing in our new division, HITS Culpeper, April 2017


Warming up at Upperville, 2017


Let’s go ahead and contrast an early and more recent one together real quick:

The height of the fence isn’t a factor here- in fact, the warmup fence on the right is quite a bit lower than the one in the show ring from last year (same venue, funny enough).

What we had early on was a horse that knew to get to the other side of the jump, but didn’t know how to use his body to do that efficiently.

What I see more recently is a horse that pushes off more powerfully from behind, uses his back and neck more actively, and is tidier with his front end.

And I think this speaks to a couple of different factors: (1) fitness and (2) knowledge.

Frankie has now spent roughly 18 months in a consistent professional program- he was certainly in training before that, but transitioned to a stricter program when he was put up for sale (which has continued since I bought him). Through that steady increase in fitness, he’s better able to power off the ground by rocking back instead of “pulling” himself over the jump. His back and neck muscles have developed the strength to use them in different ways. I’d still like to condition him further and fitness will be our main focus in the coming months, but the consistency of our program has been good thus far for his muscle strength and endurance.

In terms of knowledge, we’ve tried to build exercises that set him up to jump well- that make it clear what the “right answer” is. This means lots of grids set fairly short- asking him to rock back and collect his stride to carry himself through. This also means lots of lateral work on the flat, to unlock some of that motion and get him stronger in his hind end and over his back.

I think those shorter lines and grids are absolutely crucial for Frankie. He has a naturally big stride- not fast, just big- and it tends to get bigger and more strung out as he gets tired. By building the strength he needs on the flat to carry some collection in his stride, we are able to set him up to carry himself to the jumps. These shorter lines also force him to rock back on his butt to launch off- there’s no room for him to lurch over. And these lines make him fire a little faster to get his front end up and out of the way.

These are not often big jumps- we jack the jumps up 2-3x a month, if that. We only jump 1x a week, and most of the time they’re kept at 3’ or (usually) lower. We spend the time working on more efficient turns, adjusting our stride, playing with our track, and setting ourselves up to make jumping easier for him. So while I think Frankie gives a better effort over the bigger jumps partially because he has to in order to make it over, we have built up his fitness and ability mostly over smaller jumps and on the flat.

I will say that Frankie still prefers to gallop up out of stride instead of riding to the “jumper chip.” Doing that makes his life easy, since he has plenty of time to get his legs out of the way and doesn’t have to shift his weight back as much for takeoff.

The big difference now is that even though he doesn’t love the close spot, he can still give me a powerful effort. In the past, he simply didn’t (1) know that the close spot was the right answer or (2) have the fitness to give me that answer even if I asked (which I didn’t because I also didn’t know what I was doing and mostly still don’t so luckily he does now womp womp). It used to be extremely weak and lurchy and gross and icky.

In the spirit of total honesty- it is still sometimes totally icky. This is a work in progress, and I definitely need to back up all of my asks with a crapton of leg, otherwise he says HAH I CAN HALF-ASS THIS TOO MAHM. Which is fair.

So I definitely think there’s plenty of room for improvement here. As mentioned, fitness is going to be a big priority for us moving forward, to continue building that ability and willingness to rock back, adjust, and power off the ground. We’d like to shift that close spot to more of an automatic answer for him instead of automatically looking for an out-of-stride spot.

I think this is a great example of form following function. We’ve never tried to make Frankie jump prettier- we’ve just tried to get him fit for his job and set him up to answer the different questions he’ll be asked on course.

Hopefully as we continue to build our muscle and endurance, we keep improving together!

Especially for those of you with young/green/inexperienced horses: what have you done to develop their jumping abilities? I’d love to see any progress pics y’all have to share!

23 thoughts on “Progression: Jumping

  1. Jenn 07/12/2017 / 7:51 am

    When you have a Roger, you basically have to keep up with his athleticism, bc homeboy is a super talented jumper and usually jumps the snot out of everything. He’s very tidy with his front end and very, very rarely knocks or pulls rails. And, height is definitely not an issue for him…a horse that can easily bounce a one-stride and doesn’t even try over 3′ is plenty athletic for me! I’m the one that needs the developing, not him 😉


  2. Centered in the Saddle 07/12/2017 / 10:09 am

    I love the progression! I should try and dig up photos of Drifter. When he started over jumps, he literally did not understand the concept of picking up his feet. He just went through them. Mind you, these were maybe 12-inch “jumps.” After two years of work (lots of grids, work on the flat to develop balance and adjustability), he was jumping about 3′ and even up to 3’3″ with tidy knees and plenty of scope. Not that those are huge jumps but when I started him I questioned whether he would ever figure out how to jump!


    • hellomylivia 07/14/2017 / 3:12 pm

      It’s so cool to see the youngsters start to figure it out! I would love love love to see Drifter’s progression all in one place

      Liked by 1 person

    • hellomylivia 07/14/2017 / 3:13 pm

      Thank you!! Lion’s share of the credit goes to my trainers 🙂


  3. Karen M 07/12/2017 / 12:56 pm

    Favorite progression post ever ❤


  4. Hillary 07/12/2017 / 10:38 pm

    He looks awesome! Annie is usually plenty tidy and has all the scope the struggle is getting her to jump with power in the right places. Grids are god for her. I love to set an exercise that Lainey Ashker did with us at a clinic with a small vertical then a number of low raised poles set about 9′ apart. It makes the horses really think before they get to the last fence (an oxer that gradually increases in size).

    With Houston it was a lot of what you said you do with Frankie but he never really picked it up in a way that made me want to keep pushing him in that direction. Some times I think about giving it a go again now that he’s older and more mature but we’ll see. What I do with him now is mostly just fun.


    • hellomylivia 07/14/2017 / 3:15 pm

      I’m a grid fanatic- I think they’re so so so good for so many different types of movers and jumpers. Tweaking them or even just adding a few poles throughout- like the one Lainey had you do- can shift the focus of the exercise to target what a specific horse needs to practice!


  5. Stacie Seidman 07/13/2017 / 10:17 am

    It’s funny the different approaches for different types of horses. Frankie is totally my preference (or at least it sounds like he is) as I like one that you can leg up to the fences, yet he still takes you along. As you’ve just mentioned, you’ve worked on building his strength so the jump becomes more powerful. Sounds like you and your trainer are doing everything right!
    My baby horse, on the other hand, came out of the womb jumping with power. It’s tough to hang on, and we’ve had to teach him to chill out a little. Oddly enough the exercises are similar. Grid work and quiet steady lines.
    I love following along with you and Frankie. You’ve both really come a long way in a short time.


    • hellomylivia 07/14/2017 / 3:18 pm

      Funny how we’re all searching for that happy medium of powerful but controlled!
      I’m pretty sure Frankie is your preference, but I’m also biased and think he should be everyone’s preference 😉 Because I am obnoxiously obsessed with him. Oh well.
      Glad you’re enjoying the journey, I’m definitely enjoying sharing it!!


  6. Kelsey 07/13/2017 / 4:30 pm

    It’s easy to forget the progress we’ve made sometimes. I love that you have the before and after pictures. Fitness is exactly the right way to keep up the fantastic progress y’all have made. I know you said you’re thinking grids, but have you looked into just ground pole exercises with cavalettis? The little lifts do wonders for keeping both of y’all aware and build great strength with very low impact.


    • hellomylivia 07/14/2017 / 3:20 pm

      We love ground poles! Well, I love ground poles. Frankie has no emotions about them, he just goes. We incorporate them semi-regularly, but I definitely want to make use of them more often.


  7. T. A. Eyo ¥ 07/14/2017 / 11:25 am

    Not from my own experience, but we had a substitute trainer sometime this past spring who came and taught my team lesson. We had two horses in the ring that were feeling rushy. For the pony, it was new. For the horse, he was a known rusher. He’s also just a big horse; tall, built up, TB with a hard mouth. This trainer helped us take a stab at the issue by really making him get to the base of the fence. We don’t jump anything large, so it was fine for him to get close, but it made him back off the fences so easily.


    • hellomylivia 07/14/2017 / 3:29 pm

      We often practice really focusing on getting to the base when the jumps are lower, because it helps Frankie develop a bit more power and fire off the ground-I think it’s so interesting how a similar exercise can teach a sluggish horse to fire up, and a rushing horse to back off. Really all trying to come to center and find a good balance of both.


  8. Liz 07/18/2017 / 5:50 am

    I loooove this post. You’ve done an oustanding job bringing him up the levels and developing his body to be stronger.


    • hellomylivia 07/18/2017 / 8:07 am

      Thank you! I wish I could take more credit, but there’s a whole team of people much wiser than I am making it all happen 🙂


  9. L. Williams 07/18/2017 / 11:10 am

    It’s always nice to lay down photos as side by side progressions


    • hellomylivia 07/18/2017 / 1:20 pm

      Definitely helps make the difference a little more visible


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