How to Train a Horse to Jump

Three Parts:Setting Up the JumpsFamiliarizing Your Horse with the PolesJumping Together

The following will teach you how to train a horse to jump. Realize that before you even consider jumping you should have excellent flat work and unquestioned leadership at the three basic gaits. It is possible that you may be unable to get your horse to jump the first few times, but it'll catch the gist of it pretty quickly.

Part 1
Setting Up the Jumps

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    Make sure you have the required items. You'll need cavaletti poles, jump standards, boots to protect your horse's pasterns, and a suitable saddle for jumping. If you don't have a cavaletti just use wood poles or tree branches.
    • Use heavier weight poles (not PVC pipes or bamboo) so if your horse hits one of the poles he will realize that hitting them is uncomfortable.
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    Set the cavaletti poles on the ground. Warm your horse up around them. Don't ask him to go over them yet.

Part 2
Familiarizing Your Horse with the Poles

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    Let your horse smell the poles. Dismount and walk the horse around them. Allow him to smell them and check them out.
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    Walk your horse over the poles at least three times. It's good if his hoof knocks into them once or twice so he gets used to the sound.
    • Head for the first pole and walk over it as if it's no big deal.
    • Praise him once he walks over it. This reassures him that going over the pole was the right answer.
    • Do this until your horse walks over the poles comfortably. He is familiar enough with the poles once he can walk over them without pausing to look at them and ask himself what they are doing in his way.
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    Lead your horse over the poles at a trot. You may need to adjust the distance between them to allow freedom of movement. (See related topics.)
    • Ask the horse to do this about five times.

Part 3
Jumping Together

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    Warm up your horse. Make sure you always do this so he doesn't pull anything.
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    Mount up and walk over the poles. Do this until the horse is comfortable and familiarized with it. Don't forget to praise him for doing what you ask
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    Do the same thing at a trot, and then a canter. This will come easier to some horses than others; make sure you don't overwork the horse till he hates you -- instead, teach the horse one or two things a session and end the session on a good note.
    • Once you can walk, trot, and canter him over the poles easily and without hesitation, move on to the next step.
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    Raise the cavaletti to the lowest notch and lead him over it at a walk, giving him time to check it out.
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    Mount up and walk over the raised pole. Do this a few times so your horse is used to it.
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    Do the same thing with trotting over the pole, and then cantering. Once you and your horse get comfortable, raise it a little higher each time.
    • When cantering your horse over the cavaletti, find the correct distance from the jump to remind your horse when to jump.
    • Soften your hands (as in hold the reins less tightly) when you are about 2 strides before the poles, so that it is easier for the horse to jump (they actually need to stretch their necks to jump properly).
    • If your horse is going too slow towards the jump, ask him/her for more momentum.
    • If they are going too fast, shorten their stride to get the right distance.
    • If the horse has never jumped before (or you are trying a higher jump), it may refuse to jump (rear up, dodge the poles,...), and so you have to be quite experienced so that you don't fall or get hurt.
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    Don't apply too much pressure. Contrary to what many believe, horses generally jump better if you don't apply pressure and instead stay of out their way. Horses know how to jump, and they don't want to get hurt. When riders apply pressure to "make" the horse jump, the pressure limits the horses' freedom of movement.


  • Never push your horse over a fence if he is not comfortable with it. Give him time to see and smell a new jump.
  • At first jump cross poles not walls or you could injure yourself or your horse.
  • Jumping puts a lot of strain on a horse's pasterns. Be sure to do a lot of flat work before jumping to strengthen him and create more flexibility.
  • Always approach the jump straight on, not at an angle.
  • Don't take it too quickly, if you rush a horse he may not be mentally or physically ready and you'll end up with a horse that balks or ducks out of jumps.
  • Do not let your horse pick up speed irrationally. When a horse lands a jump he's automatically moving faster, but when he gets going too fast you can't control him.
  • Ask a professional or a more experienced rider for help if you're having trouble with this.
  • When you're going over the lower heights, don't change your posture over the jump or you will confuse your horse. He's still adjusting his stride for the poles, so don't throw him off balance. When you reach 18 inches (45.7 cm), go into a slight two-point.
  • Do not start with a high jump. If you start training your horse with a big three footer, or even a two footer, you could injure your horse.
  • Make sure someone is with you when you're jumping. Either that, or have a cell-phone handy and tell friends or family where you're going before you go jumping.
  • Make sure you have a good rhythm of trot/canter before they jump otherwise your jump may be messy, your horse may refuse it or run out of it. In your approach to the jump don't rush into it so fast that your mount has no idea what he's jumping over but not so slowly that the horse cannot even pick himself over the jump.
  • Only an experienced rider should train horses, since the horse is trying to learn.
  • Try pole bending your horse. It will help with his/ her flexibility.
  • Never canter a horse over poles on the ground as it could trip over the poles, break his leg(s) and get euthanised.

Things You'll Need

  • Helmet
  • English all-purpose or jumping saddle
  • Cavaletti poles
  • Jumping boots

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