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Training Tips: Teaching a Young Horse to Jump


Starting out with a young horse is an exciting time. It’s important to remember that everything new you undertake is like writing a new story on a blank page, without an eraser! So remember to be careful to limit the amount of mistakes you make in order to bring on a youngster successfully. Here are some useful tips for when the time comes to start jumping:

Some horses are more sensitive or temperamental than others, but generally a horse has no preconceived ‘opinions’ if he hasn’t seen a jump before.  It’s up to you to make him enjoy his new experiences, he will then learn to be willing to do what you ask. At no time should you be overly forceful as this will only scare him and create problems in the future.

Before you start introducing him to any kind of obstacle remember this very IMPORTANT rule. AT NO TIME SHOULD YOU FORCE, KICK, OR USE THE WHIP TO MAKE HIM GO OVER POLES. If your horse is very green and has never jumped before he will be genuinely spooky and may not know what to do.

When you approach the first pole do your best to stay in balance, support a green horse with your aids and keep him straight. If you do all of this correctly and he still stops then let him have a look and then turn and approach the pole again. You can give plenty of encouragement however do not push so much that you scare him when he genuinely doesn’t understand.

Exercises: (To be planned over short sessions and not all completed in one day)

#1. Single pole. Place a pole in the arena and walk in a straight line over it (ideally in-hand the first time). If your horse stops to look or sniff at the new obstacle, let him, before encouraging him to walk over it

#2. Line of poles. Once he is confident over one pole in both walk and trot, introduce more poles, add one at a time and leave a space of 1m in between them (this is a horse distance with and average trot stride, adjust accordingly to size of the horse or length of stride)

#3. Introduce a small jump. The next step is to introduce a very small cross pole. Ensure your horse is trotting forward straight and confidently. Use an average distance of 2.5m (increase distance as jump jump gets larger). Tip: If your horse is finding it difficult to stay straight, lay a channel with two poles in front of the jump, ride between them to the cross pole to help him keep direction.  You can add two more poles after the jump, but set them far and wide enough so your horse won’t step on them on landing

#4. Build a small grid. Set at a distance of one or two strides and make sure you build the correct distance between jumps.  Start small so your horse can add an extra little stride if he is still lacking in straightness or confidence. Tip: Even if you are experienced use a neck strap. Put your fingers though the strap as your horse takes off to avoid losing balance and pulling him in the mouth if he does something unexpected

Advice: When you start jumping in canter build your fences carefully. Start with a cross pole and when you progress to an upright remember to put a ‘placing’ pole as a ground line, rolling it out a little way from the jump to create a more inviting jump for your horse. When it’s time to introduce a filler, choose a small, not too spooky option and remember to put a placing pole in front. Let your horse have a good look and support him as he approaches by riding positively in a forward going trot, maintain a good contact with his mouth and keep him channelled between leg and hand. If your horse is still a little wobbly in front of the fence open your hands, do this by widening them to support straightness.

Practice these exercises regularly until your horse is confident and balanced and then continue to build on progression slowly.

Good luck!

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Posted in Riding Tips, Showjumping
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1 Comment on Training Tips: Teaching a Young Horse to Jump

  1. Thanks for these tips for training a horse to jump. I’m surprised by how crucial it is to avoid as many mistakes as possible to help a horse learn to jump successfully. You made a really good point about how I should avoid spooking my horse if it has never jumped before. I’ll take your advice and try to stay balanced when approaching the first pole, and to allow the horse to look around then turn and approach the pole again. That seems like a good approach to help him learn from his mistakes.

    Judy Wilson | 06/06/2016 at 11:10 pm ()