6 Key Tips For the Beginning Horse Show-Jumper

horse-965625_1920Show-jumping (also known as stadium jumping or open jumping) is a very impressive sport, stemming from the group of English riding events that includes dressage, eventing, hunters, and equitation. It can be done for exhibition, competition, or simply pleasure, but is usually a competitive activity. In the history of equestrian sport it is one of the newest classes. While training horses has been happening for centuries, the British Inclosure Acts of the 18th century meant that hunting previously done with very few obstacles to jump now had to jump over fences frequently to follow fox hounds, as the act brought fencing and boundaries to the countryside where before there had been only open land. As more and more jumping training became necessary for a hunting horse, the sport of training jumping horses developed as well.

It requires constant interaction with an animal, patience to train gently and consistently, and a strong bond that allows you and the horse to execute moves together. This may seem daunting for a beginner, and you may wonder how exactly to start show jumping. As a novice jumper, it is important to keep a few basic philosophies in mind that will guide you through the process of growing within this sport. Here are a few tips that any beginning show-jumper should know:


1) Start with flatwork basics.

Any jumping session should begin with a review of flatwork basics. Warm your horse up properly on the flat. Before you begin jumping, make sure the horse moves forward and backward from your aids and cues promptly in all three gaits.


2) If you’re introducing a new jumping concept, always use an experienced lead horse.

Don’t use a young horse to introduce a new jumping concept. Instead, use a horse who is already familiar with the concepts. Horses are herd animals, so if a young horse sees an old wise horse do a jumping concept first, the young horse will think the concept is okay, too.


3) Go with your horse, no matter how green his effort is.

Inexperienced horses have a tendency to jump in awkward ways. Make sure that you reward your horse’s endeavors no matter what. You do this by following the horse in the air with your upper body and arms. You should do this even if your horse jumps from a standstill. Be prepared to grab the horse’s mane or hang onto a neck strap. If you catch your horse in the mouth when he tries to jump, the horse will quickly learn that this game is not enjoyable. If you reward and follow, the jumps usually smooth out with practice.


4) Trot jumps first.

Trotting is a good way of teaching your horse to stay calm on the approach to his fences. It will also encourage your horse to rock back on his hocks and jump in the correct manner. In the long run, trotting will pay off in spades.


5) Don’t give your horse the option of refusing.

During the first several months of your horse’s jumping training, you should keep the jumps so small that he can go over them even if he jumps from a standstill. If your horse questions a jump, you should never allow him to turn away and then re-approach the fence. If you let your horse do this, you are teaching him how to say no. Instead, you should quietly keep your leg on until your horse can hop over the jump from a halt or walk.


6) Find a ground person to help you.

You’ll need a helper on the ground, just in case you need to change a grid or lower jumps. If you don’t have a helper, you will have to get off of your horse and do these things on your own. Your horse will have had way too much time to think about whatever is concerning him in the time it takes you to get off to change jumps and get back on.


Horse show-jumping is a complex sport, and you’re bound to come across some obstacles along the way. But with these helpful tips, a beginner horse show-jumper will be able to avoid many common problems that people encounter when they’re starting out. Good luck with all of your horse show-jumping endeavors!