Have you ever knocked down a rail off of a jump and wondered how that could have happened? Well, it could be that your horse got lazy and didn't tuck in his legs underneath him enough or that he might of been too much on the forehand to clear it. In most cases, it has to do with the rider miscalculating the takeoff spot. It's something we all do. Sometimes we take off too early and other times we take off too late. To be the best in the sport, however, you need to be able to know where the right spot is and have good communication with your horse to clear it.
To understand how to clear a jump, you first need to understand how a horse jumps. A horse jumps in the form of an arc (or a parabola) and depending on the type of jump, the jump's height and the speed of the horse, the horse's takeoff point will vary.
To avoid knocking down rails, you need to understand that if you take off too early, you are most likely going to hit the rail with your horse's hind legs. If you take off too late, you are most likely going to hit the rail with your horse's front legs. The reason for this is because the arc will move depending on when the horse takes off. To clear a jump, you want the highest point of the arc to be over the jump. If you take off too early, the highest point will be before the jump and if you take off too late, it will be after the jump.
The higher the jump is, the more the horse will have to take off further away. That way, he has enough time of get himself high enough in the air so that he doesn't knock any of the rails. The takeoff area for a higher jump is also much more narrow than a lower jump so it takes a lot more precision in order to clear it.
When it comes to jumping wider jumps, a horse will approach the jump even closer than he would for a more narrow jump. That way, he can get his hind legs more underneath him to give him enough power to clear the jump. Below are some examples of a horse's jumping path for vertical, oxer, triple-bar and water jumps so you can see how the width of a jump affects the takeoff point.
So that is it for this week and I hope you all are doing well. Next week I will write the continuation of this post and explain how to calculate the distance between a combination of jumps. Hopefully, by the end of next week, you will have a better understanding about how to ride your horse over a jump.
If there's one thing I could advise you to do is practice. It's important to read and understand how to become a better rider, but it's more important to actually try. The more you practice, the better you are going to get and you will soon be able to just know where the right takeoff spot is. You should be developing your eye and your instincts instead of relying on a measuring tape. Every horse has a slightly different stride length and the numbers that you read on the internet are based on averages so they might not be right for you and your horse. So go see your horse and practice your approach and takeoff points, but most of all remember to have fun.
Thank you for reading!