For an equestrian, few experiences are as exciting as feeling your horse leap easily over obstacles. Done well, jumping feels like flying. But although all horses can jump, few do so naturally. Given the choice, horses usually prefer to go around obstacles if possible; however, it's not hard to teach a horse to jump. As long as a horse is fit and healthy, you can train him to jump over fences.
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Things you need
- Ground poles
Teach your horse to trot over poles. Start with one pole on the ground. Trot your horse toward it and keep him going straight over it. He may balk at first or lift his legs higher than necessary; just encourage him gently if he tries to stop. Incorporate this into his regular exercise until he's used to it and will trot over one pole without hesitation. Ride this by posting; don't use jumping position yet.
Add several more poles once your horse is used to one pole. Lay several poles on the ground horizontal to each other, about 4.5 feet apart. Trot your horse straight through the line of poles so he has to step over each of them. If he stumbles or clips any of the poles with his hooves, then the poles are either too close together or too far apart for his stride. Adjust the distance until your horse can go over them easily. Again, you should post through these; don't get into jumping position. Include this in the horse's daily exercise until he's used to it.
Add a small cross rail at the end of the poles. About 10 feet past the last ground pole, make a cross rail by putting two rails with one end on the lowest setting of a jump post and the other end on the ground, so they form an X. The centre of the X should be 18 inches high. Depending on the size of your horse, he may be able to trot over it without actually jumping. However, you should ride this in two-point, or jumping, position. Get in two-point before your horse trots over the first pole; that way he won't notice as much of a difference between the poles and the fence. Include this in his daily exercise until he seems comfortable with it.
Gradually make the cross rail larger as your horse gets used to it. Continue riding him over the fence every day. As you raise the fences, he'll eventually start jumping them. You can change the cross rail into a vertical once he's comfortable jumping the cross rail. A vertical jump will need to be moved farther away from the poles so your horse can take a longer stride into it, around 16 feet for a trot or 20 feet for a canter.
Try a course. Now that your horse is used to jumping, you can try him over two fences in a row. Remove the ground poles and replace them with a cross rail to start and a vertical 16 feet from the cross rail (for a trot approach) or 20 feet from the cross rail (for a canter approach).
Tips and warnings
- If your horse is very hesitant about jumping at first, use another experienced jumper to help teach him. Horses are herd animals, so if you get another horse who's used to jumping to take the lead, your horse might follow more easily.
- Follow safety precautions. Always wear a helmet while jumping, and don't jump alone while your horse is still learning. He might balk or buck if he's afraid of the fence.
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