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Train your horse to be a brave and confident jumper

The equestrian sports that require the horse and rider to clear obstacles are Eventing, Show Hunters and Field Hunters, Open Jumpers, Point to Point, and Steeplechase. In the beginning of training, the same methods are used to teach the horse or pony to jump in all of the different sports. Here is some advice when training a horse to be a jumper.


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  • train yourself before you train a horse
  • avail yourself of a sound horse
  • have access to a jumping facility
  • give your horse a warm-up
  • build trust and confidence

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  • overface your horse
  • neglect dressage training
  • jump every day
  • hold your horse up
  • avoid hills


Do train yourself before you train a horse

Before you begin to train a horse to jump, you should have at least one year of jumping under your belt on an experienced jumper. You should know the two point seat and be able to maintain the two point seat without having to sit, as your horse trots three times around a standard size arena, on both reins. You should be able to maneuver a row of low grids and jump at least a three foot vertical and oxer, at the trot, all without reins. Your seat should be secure enough that you can maintain light contact and follow through when your horse is clearing a fence, so as not to “throw your horse away.” If you are going to train a field hunter, have at least one year of experience riding with hounds so that you will know what is demanded and expected of the horse you wish to train. The same advice goes for all the other jumping sports. You should ride jumps before you attempt to train the horse to jump.

Do avail yourself of a sound horse

For the jumper, soundness is very important. The conformation you choose will be determined by the path you wish to take for your jumper, whether Open Jumping, Show Hunter, Field Hunter, Steeplechaser or the Eventer. For instance, an extreme dressage conformation would not be the right choice for a horse whose career will be mostly jumping. His conformation and temperament will determine the amount of success you might be able to expect. Although small horses and little ponies can clear large obstacles and make great field hunters, if you wish to compete at high levels, train a horse that is at least 16 hands. The most versatile is the Thoroughbred. Some Warmbloods and TB/ Warmblood crosses make excellent open jumpers. The mixed or half breeds do better for field hunters because they are less excitable and usually sounder. Soundness will keep the horse in action or out of action. Jumping can be strenuous on the horse’s legs, hocks, tendons, etc. Have the horse vetted before you buy, and have the vet include x-rays of his feet to check for hidden problems.

Do have access to a jumping facility

To properly train your green jumper you will need a sizable piece of ground, preferably with easy footing and as flat as possible. Jumping on uneven ground will come after the horse is able to jump.

You will need the following equipment: Round 12’ poles, an adequate number of cavalletti with at least three possible heights and stackable (the new plastic box design with different levels are excellent) to be used as gymnastic grid and at least five sets of jump standards with adjustable heights.

You will also need to have an instructor if you have not trained a jumper before, and you will need an able bodied ground person who is strong enough to move standards and adjust placement, height and width of poles and cavalletti. It is also a safety precaution never to jump while you are alone. Accidents do happen, especially with the “green bean.”

Do give your horse a warm-up

Riding over jumps with a “cold” horse can cause damage to the horse and might cause accidents for you. A good warm up would be a half hour walk or longer if you have time, followed by walk, trot, canter transitions in the arena, first going large and then ending with 20 meter circles. These should be done on both reins. The transitions should be about 15 minutes of work, followed by stretch break before beginning poles on the ground. Many problems come from jumping before warming up. Tendon injuries, slips and falls, bucking because of tight and sore back are just some of the dangers causing harm to horse and rider.

Do build trust and confidence

Trust in his rider and confidence in himself is necessary so that your horse will go wherever you wish and jump the obstacle you are facing. We begin the green horse with trotting over poles on even ground and when he is calm and confident with this, we introduce cavalletti and small jumps and combinations. The level of difficulty is gradually introduced only when the horse is working well at a lower height and width. This beginning training, which should take up several months and is too involved to explain here fully, is extremely important and should be supervised by an instructor well-schooled in the use of grids, combinations and various types of schooling jumps.

As you are developing his physical ability to maneuver obstacles, you are also beginning the establishment of his trust in you for whatever you ask of him; if you make the distances difficult, he will not develop this trust. This initial training should be only done at the trot and with reins as loose as possible, preferably on the buckle.


Do not overface your horse

The number of poles on the ground, the distance between cavalletti grids, the height and width of individual jumps and combinations must be very gradually made more difficult. Putting a green horse at a wide oxer or high vertical before he is physically and mentally capable to clear it will only cause him to back off and to lose trust in you and himself. Running a horse toward a wall to force him to perform a flying change is not only cruel, but could possibly sour your horse for that exercise indefinitely. Flying change should be introduced after your horse has developed enough strength in his hind quarters to perform it quickly and smoothly.

Jumping too many jumps in any one session can tire your horse and sour him. If he is jumping well, put him away after no more than a dozen jumps. If he is not jumping well, lower the height or decrease the width so that he retains his confidence. If schooling oxers or hog backs, don’t increase the height before you increase the width.

Do not neglect dressage training

Dressage training, or as it is known in jumping circles as work on the flat, should not be neglected. Some elementary movements are now required in Hunter shows because of the recognition of the importance of dressage in developing the horse. If you ride with hounds, basic dressage up to training or first level greatly increases your horse’s lightness and calmness, making it easier for you to control him in a crowd. If you are hoping to train an open jumper, dressage training makes your horse much more maneuverable; light in front and easier to control. The eventer will train dressage up to the third level or FEI advanced level for the same reasons. It also give him a break from jumping work in the arena.

Do not jump every day

Three days of schooling obstacles in an arena, two days of riding out on uneven ground with hills and two days of dressage can fill a horse’s week and keep him happy and sound. A horse that works day after day constantly jumping will become sour, dull, sore and unenthusiastic. Your days off can be long trots in the open hills to help refresh his attitude and dressage work will be a welcome break from going over obstacles.

Do not hold your horse up

The initial work over poles on the ground, cavaletti and small jumps are designed to be ridden with little or no rein contact. The purpose of this is to encourage the horse to carry himself and to do it calmly. It defeats your purpose if you use strong rein contact to control him, to keep him from rushing, or to keep him from stumbling. He must learn to carry himself. There will come a time when you lose a stirrup over a jump, or even a rein, and he must be able to handle himself. He must learn to be calm while working and not become frightened because you are not holding him. A good exercise is to free jump your horse in an enclosed section of your arena, over well placed obstacles of the proper height and width for his development.

Do not avoid hills

Every horse, no matter what his use, should be taught to go up and down hills with little or no rein. This exercise is done at a walk, then a trot, and later the canter, and is an invaluable training tool. At first, take your young horse on these outings in the company of one or more older calm mounts. Let him see how they go and ask him to work with little rein. Gradually and over time he will get his balance up and down hills with the buckle on his neck at all gaits. Any problem he might have had with rushing will be remedied.

Hills are also great for conditioning and relieving his emotional pressure of arena work. They encourage him to stretch his neck and therefore his back. Riding in the hills make him keep his hind quarters more active farther up toward the center of gravity.


Training a valuable jumper prospect is an intricate endeavor, requiring much knowledge, riding skill, feel, and patience. Done correctly, not swiftly, will give you a happy jumper who will do his best to clear any obstacle that is within his physical ability to clear. He will remain sound longer and will be your companion and partner in one of the most exciting equestrian sports.

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