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How to Balance a Horse as You Approach a Jump and After Landing

Submitted by member: Southengland5005

I would like some advice on how to balance the horse as you approach a jump and after landing, as you approach the next jump.

Answer by: Natasha

Hi Andrea,

I would like to know more about your horse and some specifics of what you are encountering in the canter. Does your horse get too hot or too slow and heavy to the fence? Do you often feel a change in the rhythm that makes it difficult to find the distance to the fence? I would love to know a little bit more as far as the trouble you are encountering so I can properly answer this question for you with depth and detail.

Meanwhile, I highly suggest looking back at Linda Allen’s remarks on a green horse that gets unbalanced at the canter in this blog post:

Training a Green Thoroughbred Who Gets Hot and Unbalanced in the Canter

In this post, Linda highlights the importance of the German Training Scale that should be used by riders to help build physical development through progressive training. This pyramid of training, essentially used in the education of dressage horses, can be applied to the training of jumpers to establish a fundamental foundation in your flatwork and training. I find it a useful tool to fall back on when training horses and to ensure that my horse is physically prepared and mentally understanding of the balanced, rhythmical, and adjustable canter I am seeking.

If you’re feeling that your horse gets heavy and unbalanced, placing weight on the forehand as you approach a fence and/or canter away from the fence, it may be beneficial for you to watch Bernie Traurig demonstrate the “nip-up” technique that encourages a more uphill canter. This is a great technique to learn and to use on course when you need to rebalance your horse without sacrificing stride length and rhythm.

Encouraging Your Horse To Have An “Uphill” Canter

Going back to basics, working more transitions into your flatwork can help strengthen your horse’s gaits and improve self-carriage. Upward and downward transitions should be part of your daily routine: canter to walk, walk to canter, trot to canter, canter to trot, trot to halt, halt to canter, etc. You should also be incorporating poles and cavaletti into your daily training. These are of great benefit to you and your horse to work on schooling and practice “courses” without overjumping your horse. Setting a course of ground poles that imitates the questions asked in competition is a great way to work on rhythm, balance, adjustments, distances, and reaction to the aids as part of your everyday training. For videos that exemplify the importance of basics, watch “Fundamentals of Flatwork” with Bernie Traurig, parts 1-3. Start here:

Fundamentals of Flatwork – Part 1 – Basic

I also recommend you learn from Julie Winkle on self-carraige in her video Self Carriage. Julie will show you some exercises to improve self-carriage and explain to you what exactly self-carriage is. These exercises will be of great advantage to you to use and teach your horse better balance and connection, and maintain this consistency on course. I always say to my students that it doesn’t matter so much the distance you arrive at, rather the balance and engagement in the canter is of utmost importance. With the correct canter and balance, a horse can deal with any distance. I think Julie gives some light to this philosophy in her video topic.

Self-Carraige

I hope this helps you and your horse. If you are still having trouble, please don’t hesitate to contact us again.

Follow up by: Southengland5005

Hello Natasha!

I have been riding for 20 years but with not a lot of consistent instruction. I had a Trakehner out of a stallion named Apache who passed away at age 20 about 2 years ago. He was an awesome horse that I was not able to compete with after a few years and I only did so below beginner novice. I was jumping 2′-2’9″ in the  arena about five years ago once in a while.

I am leasing a 12 year old 18 hand large horse. I don’t recall the breed. Perhaps there is some Thoroughbred. He is lovely, normally not very forward but on Tuesday it was a brisk 54 degrees in Florida with a nice breeze so he was forward, light, and lovely to ride.

After circling in front of the jump, we come out of the circle to approach the jump and my trainer was saying, “Balance the horse.” I assume that means support him with the reins somehow, perhaps at the shoulder,  but I can’t tell you exactly how we were out of balance and I am not sure how to balance the horse. And after the first jump as we head to the second jump, which is just a few strides in front of me, I don’t feel that the horse is balanced and I always find the second jump comes too quickly (I am not as organized as I would like).

The horse named Santiago is an old soul. He never refuses. He was a bit go-ey to the jumps on Tuesday because of the temperatures and I did ask him to slow his canter at the front of each jumps. He did slow some.

While I can jump higher, I am not going to the Olympics and I am content to let the trainer chart my path. Obviously my position needs improvement and I am good with taking it slow.

Thank you for listening!

Follow up by: Natasha

Ok, great! First, I highly suggest that you speak with your trainer and ask him to demonstrate to you what he means when he says to balance the horse. That way he can show you the exact aids to use in your particular circumstance. It sounds like your horse may get a bit too forward to the fence—at least, as you said, after the fence. In this instance, balancing your horse’s canter means to regulate the stride length and rhythm. You can do this through contact and adjusting your horse’s stride length by having firmer contact and taking off leg pressure. Making sure your aids are not conflicting or confusing the horse is key.

Think of using your circle to prepare the proper canter: rhythm, balance, engagement. Then exit the circle with the goal to maintain this canter as you continue straight to the fence. If you feel your horse speeds up, check in with contact and make sure you are not anticipating the fence early and adding unnecessary pressure from your leg. If you exit the circle and you feel your canter “dies,” it may be best to add leg and ride up to the fence. Finding this balance and rhythmical canter is key not only to create consistency on course, but to also allow for better distance options.

If you are ever confused with what someone asks of you, never be ashamed to speak up and ask questions. Asking someone to demonstrate to you the task is a great way to learn as you can watch and imitate. Hope this helps some more!

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Natasha Traurig Ferrara

Raised in the barn, Natasha Traurig Ferrara developed her riding career under the tutelage of her parents, Christine and Bernie Traurig, establishing an esteemed foundation in horsemanship at a very young age. At the age of 18, Natasha claimed her “professional” status and continued her education and career under the direction of prominent riders like Mandy Porter, Simon Nizri, and Michelle Parker, and running the sales and development of horses for Neil Jones Equestrian. She now operates Traurig Tradition Inc., specializing in the development and training of young horses to Grand Prix Show Jumpers, and is based in Parker, Colorado.

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