I am working on training my horse to jump wider fences. At the moment he's beginning to use himself quite well over square oxers at 1.15/1.20 high by 1.20/1.30m wide. I had an aversion to wide square oxers so I avoided them for a while, but now it's time to suck it up! Triple bars and hogsbacks are no problem, but wide square oxers *were* my nemesis. Especially those single oxers or when the first jump of a related distance is a big square oxer.
So now I've got a horse who will jump 1.50m verticals all day long but is fairly green to really wide jumps because of my issues.
What are some of your favorite exercises for increasing the width?
What are your thoughts on laying a pole over the top of the oxer diagonally? Does this make it easier for the horse to judge the width? Dangerous? Useful?
I am also someone who will jump verticals and ramped oxers all day long, but a square oxer? Especially a wide one? No thanks... Even in my A/O jumper days they were my least favorite jump. I still think while they are a hard jump to jump cleanly, the horses aren't particularly bothered by them.
I have a few "cheating" approaches that I like when I am starting to build width. The first is a blanket under the jump folded out to the same width as the jump. It makes it pretty obvious there is a second rail and gives an indication as to its general location. The other choice is a ground rail/brush box on each side - good for schooling in both directions. Finally, an eventing barn that I was at schooled their horses over "corner" jumps in the ring. You set up a jump with three standards - let's say one on the left and two on the right. First set it up with the standards on the right maybe a foot apart from each other so the left is pretty much a vertical and the right is a narrow oxer. Ideally with a ground helper, keep bumping the right standards apart until you have the spread you want. It will also make you keep yourself and your horse honest about being straight
I don't think the pole diagonally across the top will help the horse to "see" it better. I don't think I've ever had it happen where the horse just never saw the back rail (other than one totally star-gazing that wouldn't have been focused on ANY jump) Sure, they might hit it once, but it would be the very rare occasion for them to totally swim through it/never see the back rail. I've always had more trouble with them reaching for the width and knocking the front rail.
Setting up a gymnastic leading up to a wider oxer and then gradually increasing the width of the final fence is never a bad way to build up confidence for you both. If you start with a more "friendly" oxer that you are more comfortable with and gradually bump it out your horse will be familiar with the exercise and take out some of the guess work.
For starters, I don't know many jumper riders who *like* practicing over big, wide, square oxers at home. I'll set 1.50m and 1.55m rampy wide oxers all day long (and even swedish oxers), or big, square narrow oxers, but square AND wide just looks daunting. So you're not alone!
In regards to the horse.....I don't think you need to worry about helping the horse see the width. But if you're really worried about it, start with a narrower oxer and increase the width as you increase the height. Or start with a rampy, wide oxer and make it square after you've jumped it a few times. FWIW, I have never had an issue with a horse being confused by a square oxer. Nor have I ever had a horse act like they preferred rampy over square (even though *I* do).
Part of what makes a square oxer scary looking is the vertical face to the height. So rolling out ground lines a good distance in front of the fence, or setting brush boxes or filler to make more of a rampy face can help your brain. As can having good fill when the fences get up there. You saw my Christmas tree fence last year.....the oxers I built over that tree were some of the biggest I jumped all year. Having that big, bushy filler made the jump seem much more reasonable.
And there's a psychological side to it too. You have to deprogram your brain to think, "yikes, that's big!" and start thinking about the difficulty FOR THE HORSE (as opposed as FOR YOU). The first year I jumped Billy 1.50m, I used to set the jumps and then have an inner dialogue with him all the way to the jump excusing him for what surely was going to be a stop since the fence was so stupidly big. He never did stop, and after about a year of doing that I realized what I was doing and changed my inner monologue. Though I have to admit that I still do best when I have someone else set the course (preferably my tall DH who makes the jumps look smaller!) and I don't have to focus on the biggest (and widest) jumps on course. But I proactively force myself to focus on the moment on hand (much like you talked about following the Jimmy clinic) rather than having my mind wander to the worst case scenario. And one jump at a time, Billy prove to me that I don't need to baby him or worry that the height was going to back him off or slow him down. So try to remind yourself, a 1.40m x 1.40m square oxer is not big for a scopey horse. Neither is 1.50m x 1.50m oxer. Et cetera.....
Finally, I will say that I don't think you should worry about "prepping" oxers, period. If you're really unnerved at home, don't do big AND wide. Set tall oxers with a normal width (i.e. 1.40m high by 1.30m wide) and set short oxers super wide (i.e. 1.20m high by 1.60m wide). Your horse should prove to you in the ring that it doesn't matter how they're set as long as you ride well to the jump. FTR, Billy hadn't ever jumped a 1.40m oxer set at width before I took him into his first 1.40m class up at Thunderbird. It posed no problem for him at all. He did pull his first 1.50m x 1.60m oxer in a class (again, never having done it at home), but I also got him to it crooked and would guess that the rail had more to do with crooked than width. Same story for Socks. Her first time seeing square 1.40m fences was in a 1.40m class. We had done enough low/wide and high/narrow, that it wasn't a foreign concept.
Anyhow, sorry, I've rambled on a lot. Set some jumps, be okay with being a little afraid, kick on, and then be very pleasantly surprised when your big, athletic boys clear the oxers without a second thought
It's all in your head because you certainly have the skill. Just ride to the front rail like it's a vertical, but keep legging at the bottom and across the jump. You really shouldn't have to ride much different to it.
I am not jumping 1.5m oxers (yet!), but both of my trainers love a square oxer. My old (hunter-leaning) trainer had to be reminded to not ramp the hell out of everything for me and my last jumper. So, when I began riding with the first new trainer and he kept setting everything wide (but low) I was all: umm....that's WIDE, dude. Are you sure?
Now I don't even see it- and, again, they both set them wide and low and then just raise them until they are wide and high.
Do it enough at the low heights until it is no big deal, and then you can get comfortable in the same way as they go up. My 4 year old happily jumps little square oxers all day long (well, he happily does everything all day long- he's very pleased with himself a lot), and my older guy has never met a square oxer he didn't like, so it really is a human issue! Whenever I doubt this, I go through the same process PNW does, and remind myself the horse isn't obsessing about it, so I should stop.
You can take a line and say it isn't straight- but that won't change its shape. Jets to Brazil
Just to clarify...when Jim does this, the oxers are very wide but very low...
One of the showjumperclinic.com videos has a European trainer teaching a student and he sets a decent sized oxer quite wide and does the diagonal rail across the top.
Can't tell you if that means it's a good/safe, etc thing to do for multiple reasons (like: it's just one example, I have absolutely NO experience jumping anything of real height or width, etc.) but just putting it out there that at least one person does the rail on higher oxers.
Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
Veronica: "Buy me a pony?"
Thanks for the replies everybody. I've jumped the low wide (think 1foot high by 5 feet wide) oxer with the diagonal pole over the top with Jimmy Wofford just last weekend and I've jumped a big, tall, wide oxer with a diagonal pole over the top in training sessions with other trainers and that particular exercise has always bothered me, but here is the thing, I've got a couple up and coming horses I'm riding, neither of whom are concerned about the height or width of the jumps, but one of whom hasn't figured out how to use his body very well over the wider oxers. He's just now, as my DH and biggest critic said on Monday after setting fences for us, "He's just now learning how to fly and really stay tucked up longer over the wide oxers."
So I guess, my issues aside, what are some good exercises for teaching the horse to stay airborne longer? He's not been the most careful of horses, but I think he wants to be, he just has been a slow learner on how to get his giant parts up and out of the way for the amount of time necessary to clear these wider fences.
I might have some photos and perhaps some video to add here later today, maybe that will help spark some suggestions on what I can do to help him (and me).
So I guess, my issues aside, what are some good exercises for teaching the horse to stay airborne longer?
IMHO I think there's only one answer......jump lots of wide square oxers. I think height is irrelevant for the most part (meaning I don't think it makes a huge difference if you're at 4' versus 4'6"). The mechanics of jumping a wide oxer are different than a vertical or hogsback or triple bar. He needs to learn the trajectory that only a square wide oxer necessitates, and the only way to do that is to do that.
I think this is where moving a horse up the levels primarily at home and at local shows (A or otherwise) can have a slight disadvantage....you don't see the big stout square oxers often outside of the big shows (or rather, they're the rule at the big shows rather than the exception). Unless, of course, you have someone else setting the courses for you based on official specs. I know that when I set my courses I tend to be nicer than if I ask DH to raise/widen fences for me.
The only "cheat" at home that I would consider is rolled out groundlines or "offset" cross rails...I'll often pull the crossrail filler way out beyond the front edge of the standard foot to make a rampier face to the oxer, with or without a groundline. Here's an example of how far out I pull those cross rails. This is a vertical, not an oxer, but the same way I'll set for an oxer initially. The shape of the top of the jump is the same, so I prefer this to any other version of a wide jump (i.e. rampy, hogsback, triple bar, etc.). Once you're comfortable with that I would start setting true square oxers without groundlines or fill outside of the planes of the jump.
I hate the idea of a cross rail across the top of the jump, by the way. I don't EVER want my horse to need a visual like that to figure out he's headed to an oxer. I want him to be able to figure it out accurately on first glance because you will never see something like that at a show, and I don't want the added concern when I get to a show that he may not see the back rail.
Now you have to promise to post pictures of you guys jumping the big wide oxers when you're doing them with ease (which, by the way, I think will be from approximately day 1, give or take a day)
I think you're right PNWJumper, we've just got to practice, practice, practice. We had several rails today but ended up doing an entire 1.15m to 1.40m course with just one rail down. Super happy with how it went today.