Horse gymnastics exercises are a necessary evil for any show jumper. We spend most of our time jumping gymnastics when riding at home, rather than practicing full jump courses. Every week we set up a different gymnastic and ride the horses through it a couple times.
There are several things a horse learns when jumping gymnastics: take-off distance from the jump, landing distance after the jump, shortening and lengthening of stride, and increasing the speed of the “quick twitch” muscles.
Types of Gymnastic Elements
A bounce is a series of two jumps with 9′ – 11′ between the two. If the bounce is at the beginning of the gymnastics, it should be at 9′. If it is in the middle or towards the end, you should increase the distance to 11′. The purpose of a bounce is to train the quick twitch muscles. The poles never need to be much taller than 2′. This exercise isn’t about teaching to jump height, it is about improving quickness.
A one-stride combination can be anywhere from 18′ to about 24′ depending on the height of the jumps and its location in the gymnastics. If you want your horse to learn how to land shallow and rock back on its haunches for the next fence, a shorter distance is necessary. If you are working on lengthening the stride of the horse, you can increase the distance to 22′. We rarely go over 22′ in distance between two jumps. Horses typically do not have as much of an issue with lengthening as they do with shortening their stride.
A two-stride combination is around 30′ to 36’… again depending on the size of the jump and the goal you are trying to accomplish. We keep ours at around 32′ in distance. The most you would ever want to do in a gymnastic is a two stride. There is no point to do more strides between jumps.
I cannot stress the importance of ground lines, especially for horses learning how to jump. They tell the horse where to take off and where to land. For example, if you have a horse that is landing too far into a combination, increase the take-off distance of the ground line from the jump which will make them land shallower. If you are having an issue of a horse fully completing the arc of the jump, a ground line on the landing side will help them stretch across the jump.
Try it Yourself at Home
Need help thinking of a beneficial gymnastic grid to use with your horse? Below is a great basic design you can build easily and try yourself!
- Trot rail – 6′
- Bounce – 9′
- One stride – 19′
- One stride – 21′
- Bounce – 11′
- One stride 22′
This next exercise is super cool but significantly more difficult. Don’t try this one yourself without a capable horse and the supervision of a professional. How many jumps can you count?
Gymnastic exercises are tiring! Treat your horse to a nice bath with one of these liniment products to soothe their hard-working muscles after your ride, and shop FarmVet.com for all your other horse health care and equipment needs!
Want to learn more about riding exercises you can use to train and strengthen your horse? Check out our blog on pole exercises here!