Common Mistakes: Jumping

  I think almost anyone who enjoys jumping dreams of a day where they will be jumping at heights of 1.6 metres just like you see the athletes doing on television. Before we get there, we need to improve our skills so that we are able to jump clean.

  One of the biggest things for me, which can sometimes still be a problem is looking down at the jump. While we are approaching the next obstacle, we seem to have a natural tendency to look down at it until we are at the base of the jump and are about to take off. The problem with this is that it throws ourselves out of balance and makes it a harder job for the horse to jump it clean. When we look down, we lean forward and we get ourselves ahead of our horse. This usually also leads to another common problem where we jump before the horse does which ruins our jumping position and stability.

  Instead of looking down, look forward. It's okay to look at the jump when you are turning to get in the centre, but once you are in line lift your chin up and look past the jump. As you get closer and closer to the jump, let your peripheral vision and your senses tell you when you are about to jump. Stay tall and patient. Once you feel your horse take off, get into your jumping position. You would then fix two problems at once; looking down and jumping ahead.

  Another common problem we have is judging distances. Many of us think that the take off point in usually a stride before or after where it actually is. The problem with misjudging our distances is that it often leads to a rail down or a refusal. Being able to properly judge our distances develops over time. To help you, try walking the course before riding it. Find the take off point on the ground so you have a better idea of where it is. Putting a rail down next to the jump where the take off point should be may help you to better judge your distances as you learn to get used to the feel.

  When you watch a show jumping competition on tv, sometimes you think that that's the right position to take over a jump. This isn't always the case. Depending on the size of the jump, a horse will need a different amount of release. If you don't give enough release, you'll be restricting his head and causing him to jump straight instead of in an arc. If you give too much release, you might hit your face on your horse's neck or you might find it difficult to regain control after the jump. Practice giving the right amount of release while jumping over your jumps. If you aren't jumping too high, sometimes just placing your hands on his neck slightly above where they usually are is enough. If your horse is in trouble, sometimes letting go of the reins is the best thing you can do to get out of a situation. Just take Richard Spooner's example in the video below.


  So I hope this has been helpful and has given you some tips on how to fix some of your jumping mistakes that so many of us have. Like most things, you cannot expect anything to be fixed instantly, you need to take the time it needs and be persistent. Eventually, your problems will be fixed. Thank you for reading Pure Horse Sense and I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

  Until next time, happy riding!

Little Things

  Horses are always testing us to see if we are paying attention and if we are still fit to be the "high horse". That's why we should always be aware of what we are doing and what we are allowing when we are around them. Believe it or not, you may just be teaching your horse bad lessons or habits because you might let things slide.

  There are things that may be acceptable for a horse to do to another horse, but not to us. Things like pinning their ears or biting for example. If you were to notice your horse about to bite you or pin their ears, you could correct it and teach him that he is not allowed to do that. The trick is to be consistent. Every time he is about to exhibit bad behaviour, you need to correct it. If you let it slide, your horse will learn that he can get away with it. It will also make you look like a weak, inconsistent leader in your horse's eyes.

  Your horse is constantly learning and testing. In a herd, once the high horse becomes weak, a stronger horse will take over the role. If we show our horses that we are weaker than they are, they'll try to take our position away from us. This means that more problems will evolve since he won't be listening to what you ask of him any more. 

  You need to make the wrong things hard and the right things easy to a horse. When the right thing is easy, they'll then discover that it must be the right answer. So if your horse pins his ears on you and you ignore it, you just allowed him to think that was the right thing to do (wrong thing easy). If your horse pins his ears on you and you react by making him feel uncomfortable by using pressure and releasing the pressure once he stops pinning his ears, he discovers that pinning his ears is the wrong thing to do (making the right thing easy). 

  Horses learn through pressure and release. The more pressure you put on your horse, the more uncomfortable he will be. Once he gets release, he then learns the right answer because it's a lot more easy to have release than to have pressure. They are sensitive to pressure as well. It doesn't take much to get a reaction. Pressure doesn't mean yelling and hitting your horse, it simply means making yourself look more intimidating by holding yourself a certain way. Sometimes even looking them in the eye a certain way will make them react. 

  The best way to learn how to use pressure correctly is by watching horses out in a pasture. Sometimes just a turn of the head and a swish of a tail is enough. You want to communicate the same way to your horse. The same goes for release. Giving a horse release does not always mean walking up to them to pet them (in fact, approaching them may only increase the pressure). In a herd, release is distance. So taking a few steps back and waiting for your horse to relax and think about the right answer can be the best form of release you can give him. 

  To give you some examples of the little things horses can do that, if you let them slide, can cause problems in the future, I have found this video. Warwick Schiller talks about some of the horses he has worked with where horses have been taught bad things because people weren't aware they were allowing them to learn these things.


  I hope this has given you all something to think about and that you will be more aware of what you are teaching your horse the next time you are around him. I wish you all the best of luck with teaching your horses the right things and I thank you for reading Pure Horse Sense.

  Until next time, happy riding!

The Pressures of Good Communication

  As I have said in last week's post, I will be talking about the concept of pressure and release this week. If you have not read last week's post on lunging, you can also go read that one as well. 

  Pressure and release is the way horses communicate and correct one another. The better we understand the concept and how to use it, the easier and more effective it will be for us to communicate with our equine friends.

  Some people make the mistake that horses only really put pressure on each other when they pin their ears, bite, rear or kick. In reality, they are also putting pressure on each other when they move their tail, stomp their feet or even give each other a look.

  So what does putting pressure on a horse mean? Well, it's a form of communication. Depending on whether you want to interact, train or correct your horse, you will use pressure in different ways. Let's say you want to catch your horse in a paddock and he starts walking away from you, you would use pressure in front of his drive line to prevent him from wandering off. If you are teaching a horse to lower his head, you may want to put pressure on his head until he gives in to the pressure. If your horse is about to bite you, you may want to raise your voice and move your arms to let him know he cannot do that.

  No matter how you use pressure, you also need to understand that release is the most important part. Horses learn what the right answer is when they get release from the pressure. So, when you stop your horse from walking away, release the pressure so he understands you want him to stand still before you approach him. When your horse lowers his head, release the pressure off his head so he knows that this is where you want him to keep his head. When your horse is prevented from biting you, release the pressure so that he knows that he can't get away with that.

  The same methods are used when riding as well. When you want your horse to jump over a fence, you want to squeeze your legs tighter right before the jump and then release the pressure when he takes off. When you want your horse to turn, increase the pressure on him until he has moved to the direction you want him to go to.

  When you give a horse release after the pressure you are showing him what the right answer is and there won't be any miscommunication. It seems pretty obvious, but it's sometimes forgotten. 

  Make sure you stay consistent with what you are asking of your horse to avoid confusion. You don't want to let your horse get away with something one day and not the next because then he will never stop testing you and you won't progress as quickly as you might wish.

'Round and 'Round

  This time of year, our horses seem to be the most fresh. They haven't been worked as much through the winter so they are always excited to get back to work. For many of us, lunging our horses may be needed to help get rid of some of that excess energy.

  It seems though that some of us have difficulty with lunging effectively. So if you are one of those people or you would like to just refresh your mind, keep reading.

  Lunging is a great way to drain some of your horse's energy, to give him exercise, to teach him how to bend on a circle, to check his soundness or even to improve your communication with him. 

  Here is a list of the things you will need in order to lunge:

  • A halter or bridle

  • A lunge line

  • A pair of gloves

  Here is a list of the things many riders may want to use while lunging:

  • A lunge whip

  • A surcingle or saddle

  • Side reins

  • Polos or boots

  Here is a list of things you want to avoid while lunging:

  • Wearing spurs on your feet

  • The reins on your horse's bridle are not tied up and are moving all over the place

  • The stirrups on your saddle are not secured and are knocking against your horse's belly

  • The lunge line is dragging on the floor

  • The lunge line is wrapped around your hand

  • You are walking around with your horse instead of being in the centre of the circle

  Now that we have gotten all of that our of the way, you can now learn the basics of lunging. First you must understand how to control your horse without being next to him. 

  Horses work through pressure and release. Pressure can come from the way you speak or the way you move. 

  Horses also have what is called a drive line. This drive line can be found around the shoulder of your horse. If you increase the pressure behind the shoulder, your horse will increase his speed. If you increase the pressure in front of the shoulder, your horse will decrease his speed. When you keep yourself in line with the shoulder and you are not putting any pressure on your horse, he will stay at the same speed. This is why we make a triangle with ourselves. That way, it is much easier for us to give clear direction with our horses about what we want them to do.

  Please be careful about how much pressure you use on your horse. Some horses are more sensitive than others and they will give you a bigger reaction. Make sure to not always put pressure on your horse either. Horses learn through release. So, if you keep putting pressure on your horse and he never gets release, he will learn to ignore that pressure which in turn means that you need to put more on him in order to get a reaction.

  When you are lunging your horse, make sure that you are not travelling with him. Keep yourself in line with his shoulder and take little steps as you follow him around. If you start to see a slack in your lunge line, that is a sign that either you are moving towards your horse or he is moving towards you. Try to correct this as quickly as possible. If you do have problems with travelling with your horse, try lunging in a round pen. That way, you will be encouraged to stay in the centre of the ring. 

  When you have decided to stop or to change directions, release the pressure behind his shoulder and start walking towards the outer edge of the circle to cut him off his path. You shouldn't have to walk too far before he starts to stop. Once you have moved yourself in front of his drive line, you are already putting pressure on him to slow down.

  I hope that this blog post on lunging was helpful to all of you. As I have talked about pressure and release quite a bit in this post, I will be writing next week's post about it and how we can use it to our advantage. I think it's really important that we all understand the concept of pressure and release as it is the way horses communicate to each other and how we should be communicating with them. With that said, that may mean that there will be more than one post on pressure and release in the future.

  I hope you are all having a great day and are enjoying your weekend. Until next week, I wish you all the best with your horses and that you don't get too dizzy while you are lunging them. Take it a little bit at a time and have fun.

Safety First! (Quick Release Knot)

  As you can tell by the title, this week's post will be about the quick release knot. I think it's important for all riders to know how to tie a horse with this type of knot because it keeps both you and the horse as safe as possible if any problems did occur.

  When it comes to tying a horse to a fence, a trailer or anywhere else that does not have cross ties, a quick release knot is usually the best solution. This knot allows the horse to pull on the lead rope without it coming undone. It also allow you to simply pull on the other end of the rope to untie the horse for a quick and easy release just in case your horse gets spooked or needs to be moved quickly. 

How to tie a quick release knot

When learning how to tie this knot, I suggest that you practice without a horse at the beginning. Find a rope and a tying point and get used to the steps. It can be a little tricky at first, but just like braiding your horse's mane, your hands will become used to the movements and it will become easy for you to do.

Picture from:

  1. First, wrap your rope around your tying point.

  2. Decide which end of the rope will be the one where your horse will be tied to and let it go. You will not need to touch this rope to make the knot (it will be tied around this end)

  3. Make a loop with the end of the rope that the horse is not attached to

  4. With what is left of the rope, pass it under the end where the horse is attached as well as the first part of the loop, but make sure to pass it over the second part of the loop.

  5. Do not pull what is left of the rope through, leave it as another loop (so you should really have only two loops)

  6. Pull on the rope where the horse is attached to tighten the knot

  7. Your knot is completed and your horse is tied up.

  8. When you want to untie you horse, simply pull on the end of the rope where your horse isn't attached and the knot will unwind itself effortlessly. 

  I know that this may be a little confusing at first to understand. Try referring to the picture above and the step by step instructions. Like everything, practice makes perfect. If you tie the knot and then pull on the end of the rope that your horse is attached to and it unties itself, you have done something wrong. Keep trying and you will soon be able to do it with ease.

How to use the quick release knot properly

  1. Make sure that your horse is tied to something that is solid. If you are tying your horse to a fence, make sure to tie him to the post instead of the boards because the posts are less likely to break if a horse were to pull really hard on the fence.

  2. Never leave your horse unattended. Even though he is tied up, he can still get himself into trouble. Some horses are clever enough to know to to untie the knot themselves.

  3. Give your horse enough rope so that he can move his head and graze, but not enough for him to step on it or get his head caught around it. 

  4. Don't make your knot too small. If your loops are too small, your knot may just untie itself.

  Once you have become familiar with the quick release knot, try tying your horse with it. You may find that it is a very useful knot for not only tying your horse up, but that it can also be useful for tying a hay net up or your dog up when you want him outside with you without having to hold his leash.

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  As always, I hope you are all having a wonderful week and I thank you for reading my blog as it means a lot to me. Until the next post, take care and enjoy your horses.