I’ve seen a few variations of jumping position over the last couple of weeks so decided a blog post was in order.
How to Teach Jump Position
When I’m teaching kids about jumping position I usually break it down into different components to make it easier and then they can focus on different aspects of it and practice that.
Initially I get them to stand up in their stirrups whilst walking and trotting to secure the lower leg. Once this is easy I introduce the fold part.
I tell them to push their bum towards the back of the saddle and fold from their hips, keeping their backs straight, so that their shoulders go towards the pony’s neck.
Once they get used to folding we stand up before we fold. Finally, I get them to think about pushing their hands forward along the pony’s mane to let them stretch over the jump.
We then practice jumping position round the school and over poles, using it as part of their warm up.
I saw one kid yesterday who didn’t fold, but rather stood up over a jump. I think in her case this was when she worried about the jump, so I had her thinking about going forwards over a small cross until she’d changed her mindset and it became normal to fold.
Some riders struggle to fold sufficiently in which case I show them an exaggerated fold and we work on the flat improving their flexibility and balance so that they learn the new, correct position and feel confident and secure there.
Others curl up into a foetal position, looking like a hedgehog and often using a well fitting body protector can help keep their backs straight.
Another person I taught was swinging her lower leg back. I found she was gripping with her knees too much, so we practiced jumping position with her thinking about stepping into her feet so that she changed her focus. I also got her to imagine she was unlocking her knees.
Some people press into their toe and their heels come up over fences, whilst others can be so focused on keeping their heels down that their lower leg swings forward. I usually get these riders to focus on having heavy feet and to imagine their feet are on the ground and as they go into jump position they need to stay standing on the ground. If they tip onto their toes they’ll pitch forwards, and if their heels go down they’ll fall backwards.
The final problem I find when teaching clients the jumping position is that they wobble with their hands. Some people tug back with their hands which is a balance issue. To counteract this I often do jumping position without hands and get the rider to push their hands forward slightly. Going without hands also stops the rider relying on them to balance on the neck.
At the other end of the spectrum are those riders who throw their hands forward. This has the detrimental effect of making them look like superman and the leg swings backwards. I’d rather see the riders hands fairly fixed with secure leg position than the hands shooting forwards and unstable leg; it is easier to improve the hands with a good leg position. I tell riders to have elastic elbows and allow their hands to follow the movement of the horse’s neck.
I spend a lot of time with riders practising going in to their jumping position and maintaining it for periods of time to build up stamina and muscles. Then working over small fences and grids to build competence and security.
On another note, what are people’s views on body protectors? Some riding schools don’t let clients jump, or even go over poles, without a body protector, which I find can be restricting as I quite often get beginners to steer over the pole and use poles to help structure lessons. If people jump regularly, or at least a jump able height rather than a step-overble cross. I encourage body protectors but am my own worst enemy as I hate wearing them so don’t set a very good example!