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Groundwork For Jumping

Anything from classy hunters to speedy jumpers there is a place for nearly all horses and riders who want to try jumping. Unfortunately, jumping can be turned into a dreaded exercise for your horse and sometimes even you. Here I will suggest some tips and exercises that will keep the time you spend jumping easy and successful.


To start with decide where your horse is at in his training. Can he preform all three gaits comfortably and calmly? Does he respond to your seat, leg, and rein aids? Can you collect and extend his gaits? If you answer was no, maybe, or sometimes then you need a bit more schooling before you begin jumping him. If your answer is yes to these questions then you are ready to begin.  Everything I teach my horses I teach on the ground first. Tack up your horse, leaving a halter and lunge line or long lead rope on, you will also need a lunge whip or stick. Set up a few small cross rails and begin sending your horse between you and the jump standard. Your horse should already know the sending lesson and will move between you and the fence before starting this lesson.

To send him off, point the hand that has the lead rope in the direction you want your horse to go. Enforce that with the stick by tapping him on the shoulder increasingly harder if he ignores your first cues. Once he moves forward release your cues and have him go between you the jump. Once he passes by yield his hindquarters away from you. Bend at the waist, look at his hindquarters, slide your hand closest to the horse down the rope, step toward your hand, then use the stick to encourage him to move away by smacking it on the ground toward his hind end until he yields and faces you. When he does, stop the pressure and stand up straight to reward him. Continue to do this until he is calmly walking between you and the jump. Next, you will send him over the jump. Stand next to the jump standard with the horse facing you. Point up with your right hand to send him off. He should move off, travel a half circle, then go over the jump. You will have to swing the rope over the jump standard so it doesn’t get caught as he jumps. You can also set a pole leaning against the standard so that the rope can slide over the standard, or you can use barrels or short standards. Once he gets over the jump yield his hindquarters on the other side. Practice sending the horse over both sides of the jump.

starlight jumping
Send the horse over different obstacles to familiarize him with jumps he may see in the show ring.

Problem Solving

Won’t Go Forward– After several seconds and the horse still hasn’t moved, keep your hand up and increase the pressure by walking toward his shoulder, smacking the ground with your stick by the horse’s shoulder, and intensifying the pressure as you go until your horse tries to move in the correct direction. Release all pressure immediately once he steps over and forward.

Won’t Jump– Your horse may jump the obstacle the very first time you ask, but others aren’t as confident. If your horse hesitates, let him investigate the jump then back him away, then send him over again. If he still won’t jump he may not have enough forward movement to get over it. When he is a few strides away from the jump use your stick to increase his speed. Don’t put pressure on him when he is at the jump. You want the jump to be the release of pressure, where he wants to be. When the horse can trot over different obstacles whenever you ask start sending him over jumps at a canter.

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