We get tons of letters to our problem page. A lot of them are about jumping. That's why we decided to answer the top five questions you ask us about popping over a fence.
1. How can I stop getting left behind when I jump?
Make sure that your stirrups are one or two holes shorter than for flatwork. If your stirrups are too long, it's easy to get left behind. Short stirrups help you keep your heels down, so you're more secure in the saddle.
Use a neck strap when you jump until you feel more balanced. Fasten a stirrup leather around your horse's neck like a collar (but not too tight), and hang onto it to stop yourself from bouncing around. It's better to hold onto a neck strap than to yank on your horse's mouth if you lose your balance.
As you approach a fence, get into jumping position about three strides away from the jump and grab hold of the neck strap or mane. Holding on to something will help keep you in jumping position and if your horse jumps big, you won't get left behind.
2. How can I stop my pony getting out of control and galloping up to a fence?
Do some flatwork before you jump again. Practice slowing your pony down at the trot and canter, and then let him go his normal speed again. Once you can slow him down at the trot and canter on the flat, you can think about jumping.
Place trotting poles about five feet apart and walk your pony over them until he does it calmly. Then trot him toward the poles, then ask him to slow down in front of them and walk over them.
Set up a small fence about 10 feet away from the last trotting pole and try the line again. If your pony speeds up, walk him through the poles and pick up your trot once you have stepped over the last one. Then pop over the fence. After landing, let him trot or canter one or two strides then come back to the walk.
You can also place a pole about nine feet in front of a jump and pop over it several times. This is a "placing pole" and it encourages your pony to slow down in front of a fence.
3. Why does my horse keep refusing and running out of fences?
You may be asking your horse to jump fences that he's not ready to jump. Go back to jumping smaller fences to help your horse gain more confidence before you try bigger ones. Make sure that you are not causing the refusals. Are you getting left behind every time you jump and jabbing your horse in the mouth? If he gets hurt every time he jumps he won't want to do it anymore. Use a neckstrap and stay off his mouth.
Are you being wimpy when you jump? If a horse senses that you're nervous, he won't feel confident about jumping. Be bold and brave when approaching a fence, and your horse may jump better.
If your horse is just being naughty and refusing tiny fences, carry a crop and use it on it right in front of the fence. Tap him on his side, behind your lower leg.
4. How can I stop my horse running out of fences?
Lower the fences for a while so your horse is less likely to run out. Keep your reins fairly short, and always aim toward the middle of the fence.
Don't get into jumping position until right in front of the fence. You need the weight of your bottom in the saddle to push him forward.
If he tends to refuse to the left, carry a crop in your left hand and really push him over to the middle with your left leg. Take a firm hold on the right rein and steer him back to the middle of the fence. If he tends to run out to the right, carry a crop in your right hand and push him over with your right leg. Use your left hand and rein to keep your horse straight.
If he runs out, turn him around quickly and pop him over the fence right away. Don't make a big circle and give him a lot of room to run out again.
5. My pony is a real slowpoke. How can I make him jump with more energy?
Check his diet. He may need to switch to a high-energy feed with oats in it. Is he getting the correct amount of feed? If he's not getting enough feed, he won't have a lot of energy.
Before you jump, school your pony for at least a half an hour. Get him moving at a decent speed before popping over any fences. Hand gallop around the ring a few times to wake him up.
If your pony is ignoring your leg aids, carry a crop and use it behind your lower leg. You may need to use the crop as you approach a fence.
Your pony may be bored. Take him on fun trail rides once or twice a week. You could also set up some jumps out in a field instead of in the ring. Vary his work and he might not be so slow.