The basic position for jumping your horse is the two-point position. Once you have perfected that on the flat -- or without jumping -- you will be poised to go with the horse’s motion over jumps. You need a strong core, or abdominal muscles, plus strong legs to hold your position. If you're not already in great riding shape, take on an exercise program to augment the conditioning you'll get from frequent and correct riding.
Building a Strong Two-Point Position
Practice your two-point position. The two-point is called that because your seat is out of the saddle so your two points of contact with the horse are your legs. Sitting in the saddle, shorten your reins and place your hands in front of your horse’s shoulders. You want contact with your horse’s mouth without pulling on it. Sink your weight into your heels, with your calf muscles touching your horse’s sides slightly behind the girth. Keep your back and head straight with your eyes looking ahead. Rise up slightly and bend at the hip. Don’t bend at the waist; suck in your abdomen muscles so you can feel your hip close where it connects to your torso. Keep your shoulders and back relaxed; grab your horse’s mane if you need to and hold this position as long as you can at the halt. Then practice it at the walk, trot, and eventually the canter.
Put poles or cavalettis on the ground and practice trotting over them in your two-point position. After you perfect this with flat poles, raise them slightly. Your horse will need to pick up his feet more, allowing you to practice your two-point position with his more animated movement. Keep your legs secure at his sides so you don’t balance your hands on the reins.
Ride without stirrups. Lower and stretch your legs down when you are riding in a full seat position with no stirrups, which helps your leg strength. Once your riding has improved to a point where you are not using your reins for balance, practice the posting or rising trot and two-point position without stirrups. You will feel the effect on your legs and abdomen with this exercise, as well. Place your knees a little higher in the saddle than where they normally rest with your feet in the stirrups -- they will start to slide down as you post, so reposition them as often as necessary.
Ride a figure-eight between two cross-rail jumps. Set up two jumps at a 90 degree angle. Cross-rail jumps have two poles set to make an X so that the middle of the jump is very low. Start at 12 to 18 inches and go up slightly as you get more proficient. Post your trot to the first jump going left; as your horse goes over the jump, focus only on putting your weight into your heels and opening your left rein to go to the second jump. Trot to the next jump and, as your horse goes over it, focus again on the weight in your heels and open your right rein to turn and head back to the first jump. This keeps your focus on your legs and doesn’t allow you to balance on your reins or get ahead of your horse’s motion over the jumps.
Jump a line of bounces. Bounces are jumps that have no full horse strides between --- your horse lands after each jump and immediately goes over the next jump. The jumps will be 9 to 10 feet apart, depending on jump height and your horse’s stride length; get a professional's help if you're unsure about spacing, stride or height. Start with a cross-rail; each succeeding jump will be slightly higher. Focus on the end of the arena and stay in your two-point position over each jump. This helps you maintain your position consistently. Once you have mastered this, practice jumping the bounces without stirrups and without hands.
- Practical Horseman: Jim Wofford: Improve Your Lower-Leg Position Over Jumps
- America’s Horse Daily: Two-Point Position
- HorseChannel.com: Horsemanship How-to: Master the Two-Point Position
- HorseChannel.com: Look Ma, No Stirrups!
- Equisearch: Rider Fitness Tip of the Month: Improve Core Strength
- HorseChannel.com: Positioned for Success
- A neck strap around your horse’s neck will help you in your no-hands jumping, allowing you to begin one hand at a time.
- Don’t practice no-hands jumping on an inexperienced horse, as he may rush the exercises.
- Always practice jumping with another experienced rider or trainer.
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Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.