With our upcoming "Spring Into Action" Prix Caprilli, sponsored by Total Impact Equestrian, I thought it would be a good idea to highlight what we're looking for in a good jump position, and how you can work on helping your young rider to achieve it!
In our Demi Dressage tests, we're not worried about the heights of the jumps you use - we're marking them on 'style'. So check out this advice:
All too often we see riders simply stand in their stirrups to jump. Or fold, but all their fold is forwards, often with their leg swinging back, so they end up leaning on their hands to balance. Not only does this actually inhibit the pony from being able to jump well (all the rider's weight/balance is forward over the shoulders, when you want the pony's shoulders to be able to lift 'up' over the fence!) it also puts the rider in a very unstable/unsafe position should the pony refuse, duck out, spook etc - and we all know how cheeky ponies can be!
The good news is, you can work on improving your jump position without even going near a pony.... It’s effectively ‘squats’. See if your child can stand as if they were riding, on the ground. Feet pony-width apart, knees softly bent, body upright. MiniD hasn’t taken on board the instruction to ‘bend knees’ here!! But you can visualise that if she did, her upper body would be a little more 'back and down', and she’d be positioned as if she was on her pony in her normal flatwork position...
From there, take it into jump position. I actually find it really helpful to get them to do this on the ground, as they have to get the balance right... on the pony, they often fling themselves forward but forget to put as much behind them as in front.... i.e if the pony was whipped from under them, they’d land on their nose! On the ground, if they do not 'squat' with as much of their weight behind their lower leg as in front, they fall over! (Incidentally, I demonstrated this change of positions once to a young rider when I was pregnant, and I *did* fall over - my bump altered my balance more than I thought! It got the point home though...)
Once they’ve got the jump position on the ground, try it on the pony! Note that the security of the position comes from being balanced over the lower leg, not leaning on the hands 🙂 (NB. In a perfect world, MiniD's stirrups could have done with being put up a little from her flatwork length, so that her bottom was a little further back and her weight more evenly spread in front and behind her centre of gravity over her lower leg - I have added a red line on the picture here and you can see that she needs to close her knee angle a little more so that her bottom pushes towards the back of the saddle, meaning that half her bodyweight will be behind the red line, and half in front of it. At the moment, it's about 60:40 in front of the line! However, her position is balanced and fairly stable, she is looking up and forward, giving appropriately with her hands, and not tipping forward so her toes go down and de-stabilise her lower leg, or leaning on her pony's neck to balance!)
This 'jump position' is sometimes referred to as 'two point', and it is a great training exercise whether you are jumping or not! If you can walk/trot/canter around the arena in a balanced position like this, it helps to strengthen the thighs and develop a really secure 'heels down' lower leg (watch out for movements including jump position in one of our Summer League dressage tests for this reason!) Tip: don't try it for too long though, because as soon as the rider tires and starts to lean on their hands, the benefits are lost!