“I have just started to jump my 14.1hh pony after not jumping for over a year due to injury. He used to stop before the jump, look, then jump from standing. Now he has started to put in extra jumps where the ground poles used to be. He is unseating when he does it and he seems to do it in canter not trot. He does get excited. I know I have to keep jumping him but is it worth not puting the stride pole down?”
Oliver answers: The good news is your pony is back from injury and hopefully the extra jumps he is doing is just his enthusiasm to be back doing something.
My suggestions would be to put down ground poles completely separate from the fence. You can either put three in a row with 4 average horse/pony strides between, or 4 poles around a circle. This exercise is perfect for everyone as it teaches rhythm and the correct canter pace. We had a Spanish instructor over for Show Jumping, and both Andrew Nicholson and myself were doing these exercises on our top horses as well as our youngsters. I think if you do lots of this both ways, the poles will become second nature to your pony and he won’t feel he has to make such an effort.
Try never to let your pony to stop, look and then jump. Keep the rhythm all the way through. Especially if you know he always does it, be prepared and react and ride with a stronger leg when he starts hesitating. He will get his confidence off you. And the most important thing is, when he does jump, always give him his mouth, as we never want to punish any horse for actually jumping by coming back on their mouths.
A ground pole is only placed to help get a better stride to the fence, hopefully making for a smoother jump. Feel free to take it away – it’s by no means a concrete rule that you have to have one. Try without, try the pole exercises and then try a few weeks down the track with a ground pole back in. It’s all training.
Good luck with everything and your pony and I hope to see you at some event in the future.