With their intelligence, trainability, and physical power, horses are incredible athletes capable of magnificent feats. One of the most impressive, and a key skill in many equestrian sports, is jumping. Jumping is a skill that horses need to be taught gradually, for their safety as well as yours. Before you buy horse jumps, here are some important things to know.
1. Think Safety and Comfort for Yourself and the Horse
A fall from a horse can result in serious injury, so you should always where a helmet with SEI-/ASTM certification for safety. To avoid injuring your horse’s mouth, you should use a mild bit. Even if you prefer to ride with a Western saddle, this can cause discomfort for both you and your horse when jumping, so choose an English saddle instead.
2. Learn the Proper Position
The horse doesn’t bear all the responsibility for the success of the jump. You must learn and perfect the correct jump position:
- Legs still
- Hips bent
- Hands forward
- Eyes up
You should release as much pressure from the horse’s mouth as possible and not rush it by leaning on its neck.
3. Start on the Ground
Eventually, the goal is for your horse to launch itself into the air with you on its back. However, if you try to rush the horse into this before it is ready, it could result in injury to you both. You should start introducing your horse to the concept of jumping with groundwork. Only once your horse masters this can you move on to the next step.
4. Move up to Cross Rails
Once your horse is ready to actually try to get airborne, you should introduce it to cross rails. As implied by the name, these form an “X” shape that is more inviting for a horse to jump over at the point where the two rails meet, which is relatively low to the ground.
However, don’t expect your horse to immediately understand that jumping is the goal. It may try to stop or knock over the rails by trying to run through the obstacle.