How often do you do gymnastics with your horse? Never, frequently or once in a while? At Tamarack Hll Farm, a jump ring without some sort of gymnastic line set up would be out of the ordinary. We definitely go through spells where we focus less on lines and more on jumping regular courses, though we never forget they exist. There are a plethora of different gymnastic exercises you can set up and jump, from very straight forward lines to more intricate lines. Regardless of the type of exercise you are doing, gymnastics are beneficial for countless different reasons.
Honestly, I have never jumped many gymnastic lines until I came to Tamarack. I use to be overwhelmed by a sea of rails. If I was intimidated, how do you think my horses felt? A sea of rails cannot describe these lines more accurately. Sometimes I will finish up a lesson with Denny and stare down a line with five, six, or seven jumps and wonder how the heck my horse just made it through that line. How did we not trip, fall over, run out or take down every last rail?
Start simple. It’s as easy as that. Start with a tiny cross rail, then 18 feet to a small vertical or a small oxer. This would be a trotting exercise. Also, you could set up a tiny cross rail, then nine feet to another tiny cross rail. This would be a simple trotting bounce exercise. Once your horse feels comfortable with these relatively simple exercises, then you can add more. We always have our horses jump through a bounce or a one stride to begin. If they are good, we might either go through the same question once more, or we add on one more segment. We keep going until the horses are happily jumping through a series of jumps.
Measuring time. Understanding distances and how to walk and measure lines is crucial. You cannot randomly set up a gymnastic line because that would be incredibly unfair to your horse, and this wouldn’t teach you or your horse anything. If you’re unsure about certain distances, or how many feet are in two strides or one stride, or a cantering one stride versus a trotting one stride, then you should ask someone who does know. There is no shame in asking. Once you have learned all the magical numbers, you can write them down and study them.
Some useful tips to remember: A horse’s stride is 12 feet. Rails used for jumping are typically 12 foot rails. Walk alongside a pole on the ground. You will take four steps. The length of your stride depends on your height. Each of your steps should equal three feet, so four steps equals 12 feet. More tips: A trotting one stride is typically 18 feet. Both landing and take off are six feet. A cantering one stride is typically 24 feet. These numbers may vary depending on the size of your horse, the size of the jumps and what you’re trying to accomplish.
So what’s the point of all this? Gymnastics are great exercises for you and your horse. You can work on your position through a line. Your horse will learn to cope with a sea of rails. Your horse will literally learn how to jump. Your horse will become quicker and will learn what to do with his or her body. Your horse has to think when he or she goes through a gymnastic line. Your horse over time will become sharper. Gymnastics are great exercises for any horse that jumps.
A great video about distances and building a safe show jump course