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How often do you jump your horse and how high?

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  • How often do you jump your horse and how high?

    Yep, just like the title says. In your training schedule, how often do you jump your horse (once/week, etc.) and how high? There's a bit of a debate among students at the barn I ride so I thought I'd come to COTH to see what others say.

    Our trainer says a horse only has so many jumps in him and prefers to keep the jumping (anything at 2'9" and above) to once/week. Going over smaller stuff (2') is fine at other times, but she says that flat work is very important, although the student may find it boring, especially if all she lives for is to jump and jump high. My trainer also says that there is nothing a horse and rider can learn at 3' that he/she can't learn at 2'3" (or even lower).

    My opinion is that jumping high, while fun, isn't that much of a skill, especially if your horse already can do it. What's harder is learning to place your horse, balance on turns, work on striding, etc. That can be done at a lower height without detriment to the horse. Am I wrong here?


  • #2
    Max once a week, sometimes less. My horse is currently at novice and we usually jump a variety of heights depending on the questions. Generally stay around 3'. Sometimes in grids we bump the last fence up to around 3'4'' - 3'6''.

    My older guy, when he was established at Training and then going Prelim I sometimes didnt jump between shows unless we had big gaps, between 2-4 times a month. Again we schooled a variety of heights depending on questions, but mostly stuck around 3'4'' with the odd 3'7''-3'9'' fence thrown in just to see (slash, for Bob's enjoyment).

    We often school smaller fences but tougher questions, angles, bending lines, quad bounces - and keep them under 2'9'' ish.

    IMO most people jump too often and at best neglect flatwork....at worst wear down their horses. I believe a horse only has so many fences in them, and I dont want to waste mine. Plus, there are so many jumping problems that can be fixed with flatwork, polework and very low fences, I dont see the need to be constantly jumping the horses.


    • #3
      I agree with BTH. I only jump once, maybe max twice a week. The majority of time, I spend on the flat. It pays off over fences. Even on my green bean, who is already talented jumping, I'm spending most of my time just working on balance, rhythum, and pole work. The rest will take care of itself. Plus your horse will last longer.


      • #4
        Sounds like you pretty much agree with your trainer? And there is one adrenaline junkie who doesn't want to do flatwork?

        I rarely jump my Training level horse (maybe twice a month), and when I do it is xrails to MAYBE 2'6". I rarely jump bigger except at shows. Most of my students jump about once a week and mostly around 2'6". Before a show they'll tune up with a round or two at height if nerves are an issue.

        Green/young horses jump more often, couple times a week, but just trotting or cantering a few small fences at the end of a flat ride, so that they learn that jumping is no big deal and nothing to get excited about.

        Dressage, dressage, dressage!!

        Third Charm Event Team


        • #5
          I also ascribe to the adage that "a horse only has so many jumps in them."

          But... how often one jumps a horse really depends on a myriad of factors. I choose to jump once a week or less. My mare is 17 and was a h/j horse so the horse knows how to jump and has jumped a lot so she mostly needs fitness and flatwork. I'd say that your trainer's rules sound reasonable.
          "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals" Immanuel Kant


          • #6
            Once a week, and primarily at the level for my pony who is a greenbean and going BN.

            My P horse I jumped less and less as we approached the level. I didn't want to put more mileage on him than he needed at that height, he already knew how to jump, I just wanted him to stay in tune.

            I do think it's good to do a mix of heights as you move up. As others have said, a lot of bigger questions can be schooled effectively at lower heights. However, I think it's important to sometimes jump the level even if it is biggish in order to keep the horse's eye accurate and remind the rider of the difference in power and balance as the fences get bigger.

            I have to manage my 3'6" horse a lot over 2'6". To 3'6" assuming I have the right balance, I only need to move up to the jumps.
            Talk to the Hoof


            • #7
              How often, how high

              I jump a couple of times a week over small fences and gymnastics, and twice a month jump bigger fences either xc training prelim or stadium 3'6 to 4' with my draft cross to keep him jumping up per Jim Woffords advice. He felt my horse was surprised by the size of the fences when they went up to prelim height and that I needed to jump higher at home. I will also sometimes add a quiet jump or two out on a hack just for reminding the horse it can be an easy thing to do, it doesn't have to be several fences at speed when in the open.

              In addition, I find jumping bounces helps develop the canter, and I need to jump the smaller fences to stay on my game. It also helps develop topline and strength when actually jumping fences just like we need to do pushups and weights to get stronger. I think that if you don't get a horse fit to jump, you are also asking for injury. The truth is somewhere in the middle, you don't jump indiscriminately, you should have a plan, and you do the work gymnastically. I also love the poles on the ground exercises. Horses do have a limited amount of big fences in them.


              • #8
                Only 2-4 jump schools a month depending on the number of shows. I usually only stay in the 2'9"-3'3" range with him and will jump up closer to competition height in the 3'6"-3'9" range the week before the competition.
                Pacific Coast Eventing
                Standing Yeager GF


                • #9
                  Once a week, if even that often. One jump school @ competition height the week before an event. Most of our schooling is dressage, with at least one long conditioning hack a week.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Carolinadreamin'
                    In getting/keeping a horse fit for jumping, would you say that a lesson once a week with jumps set at anywhere from 2'3" to 2'9" (including gymnastics) along with jumping some smaller jumps on one other day, is enough? Add in dressage at twice a week and then flat work another day or two (if she's only jumped once that week). About once/month the trainer will raise the jumps to 3'.
                    I have found that fitness for jumping is really developed by going through the countryside and over terrain as well as doing really correct flatwork (not just aimless trotting around the ring). The actual jumping at the level that you describe doesn't take drilling of jumps. While the haunches and back are engaged in the actual jump, those muscles are exercised in many ways.

                    I had a trainer who always reminded me that in the 2 minutes of jumping a stadium course, 1:50 is flatwork. FWIW: I have heard a number of UL riders and respected horsemen say that, as a general rule, a horse does not lose a whole lot of fitness until they have been out of work for about 3 weeks. With that in mind, jumping 1-2 times per week is more than enough to maintain fitness.

                    Some people choose to jump more because THEY either think that it is more fun or want to get better at it through practice. While nothing beats jumping in terms of fun and helping achieve balance and rhythm, there are also lots of other ways to work on those things (like no stirrups, hacking, etc.).
                    "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals" Immanuel Kant


                    • #11
                      I was and still am one who gets bored with flat, flat, flat. I never liked dressage lessons when I was at an event barn, and always loved to jump lots and big.

                      Now that I am on a horse that I am the sole rider of, and schooling him to compete, I find that I love dressage more and more every day. I did a line of three jumps with him last Saturday, because it's something I'd never done with him (a line of more than two jumps) and have flatted since then.

                      My jumping from my first lesson with my new trainer, where I begged to jump, to my last jump school about two weeks ago (a little over 4 weeks of flatting only in between) was shocking to me. He came off my leg, he moved forward, he would collect when asked, etc etc and I truly attest that to all this dressage we've been doing! Also, my seat was more secure and I was moving better WITH him over the jumps! He was great too, got his mind off flatting.

                      So, about once a week, if that.


                      • #12
                        I have a 7 year old OTTB greenie, and we usually do one ride devoted to O/F work once a week or once every other week, and then only to 2'6". Just to keep him interested and paying attention, we DO pop over a fence or two during almost every flat ride though-- but those are weeny 1' crossrails, so I hardly think that counts.
                        *friend of bar.ka

                        "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"


                        • #13
                          It depends of course on the horse, level, and purpose; I've always kept it down to twice/ week; usually one of those a gymnastic; the other, lines and course work, possibly a show; I made certain not to do a gallop/ conditioning the day before/ after a jump school
                          breeder of Mercury!

                          remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


                          • #14
                            My mare probably jumps once every two weeks, and maybe once a month at competition height (Int.). Usually, she will get a jump school at height about 5 or 6 days before a horse trials. The other jump schools are mostly me working without stirrups over smaller fences, us working on gymnastic exercises, or us practicing specific skills over smaller fences. I know that for us, probably 99% of any issues we might have over fences are rooted in our flatwork, so that is where we spend the majority of our time.

                            ETA: When I've been a working student, it's probably been more like once a week over fences, mostly because I like to have someone analyzing/correcting all aspects of my riding as much as possible when I have the opportunity to get regular lessons in.


                            • #15
                              Once a week, at 3' max. If we have a show or lesson on any given weekend, we won't jump at home that week. I have limited space at home, so there isn't much I can actually do, and if I can't mix things up, there's not much point in jumping very often. The rest of my rides are split pretty evenly between hacking and flat schooling - sometimes after a hack I'll pop over something to surprise the horsey.
                              "Why would anybody come here if they had a pony? Who leaves a country packed with ponies to come to a non-pony country? It doesn't make sense!"


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by VicariousRider View Post
                                I have found that fitness for jumping is really developed by going through the countryside and over terrain as well as doing really correct flatwork (not just aimless trotting around the ring). The actual jumping at the level that you describe doesn't take drilling of jumps. While the haunches and back are engaged in the actual jump, those muscles are exercised in many ways.

                                I had a trainer who always reminded me that in the 2 minutes of jumping a stadium course, 1:50 is flatwork. FWIW: I have heard a number of UL riders and respected horsemen say that, as a general rule, a horse does not lose a whole lot of fitness until they have been out of work for about 3 weeks. With that in mind, jumping 1-2 times per week is more than enough to maintain fitness.

                                Some people choose to jump more because THEY either think that it is more fun or want to get better at it through practice. While nothing beats jumping in terms of fun and helping achieve balance and rhythm, there are also lots of other ways to work on those things (like no stirrups, hacking, etc.).
                                I agree. My older guy, despite having years off jumping while I didnt compete, and having the winters off jumping when I did compete never seemed to lose his jumping muscles. It seems like once they develop it, it never really goes away, but it does fade slightly. My young one took awhile, he would often get a bit of fatigue when jumping (he used to way overjump everything and after 4 fences was spent), but once he built those muscles up he never seemed to have problems, even after time off. Rear end and back strength are maintained through proper flatwork and hacking out, so as long as a horse is doing flatwork and getting out a bit you can stop jumping for quite a long time before they really start to lose strength in that department.


                                • #17
                                  I think you're being a little over-conservative, you can jump your horse more times if your being careful. It's like anything else the more you do it, the more in shape you are for it.

                                  I'm not saying you should go out and jump 3'+ course for hours multiple times a week, but seriously, schooling 3 times a week isn't going to hurt your horse.

                                  I used to school three times a week consistently and did flat/trail the other three days a week. Not everytime was a course, sometime it would just be focusing on like what lizajane09 said, "gymnastic exercises, or us practicing specific skills over smaller fences."

                                  I hardly ride right now so, this isn't happening anymore but my horse has never had a soundness issue. I know plenty of horses that were jumped often in lesson programs that never had soundness issue either. I also know many horses who were "babied" that are cripple all the time. Sometimes I care issues aside, think soundness is just a crapshoot on a horse by horse basis.

                                  Again, I'm not advocating running a horse into the ground, I just think saying only jump once a week is being way too conservative.


                                  • #18
                                    I think partly it depends on the horse and the goals. I'm a chicken, so I need to keep my eye set at the level I am competing with gusts above that in order to feel secure. I tend to do one jumping school per week, less in winter and the hottest part of summer, and more in spring and fall.

                                    My Novice mare I school 2'9" to 3'6" in lessons. My green bean was doing cross rails and verticals last fall, but due to health problems (me) we have not done much yet this year. My semi-retired Training mare isn't jumping much more than a log on trail these days.


                                    • #19
                                      I hate the phrase "a horse only has so many jumps in them."

                                      Well DUH! (not directed to any of the above posters, just at the comment in general).

                                      You also "only have so many heart beats in you," but that number can be adjusted up or down based on fitness and conditioning just like the number of jumps in a horse.

                                      To answer it more directly, IME the amount of jumping needed by an individual horse totally depends on the horse. I have two horses that I show in the 1.30m and 1.40m jumpers. My mare is a tough horse to condition and keep fit, partly because I'm jumping her above her comfort zone (we mostly do the 1.30m/4'3" with occasional forrays into 4'6"). During the show season I jump her every single day. She's on an extremely strict conditioning program that includes 2-a-day-rides and, of course, lots of jumping. Without it she loses condition quickly and struggles at the shows over the course of 5 days of jumping.

                                      Her schedule is that 8 out of 10 days we jump "small" (3' to 4'), 2 of the 10 days we jump bigger (4' to 4'6"). We've been on that program for close to 6 years now and she is showing no signs of slowing down. She's fit as a fiddle going on 14yo. As a quick side note, the majority of our work is focused on dressage and getting her to use her parts as efficiently as possible, and the jumping is almost always an extension of the lessons we're working on on the flat. But the bottom line is that she needs both the "practice" with her body AND the conditioning aspect of regular jumping.

                                      My OTTB, on the other hand, is a horse who was born fit (hmmm....sound much like a TB?). He gets ridden once a day and jumped 1-4 times a week. He's showing at the 1.40m this year and rarely gets jumped at height. He hadn't ever seen a 1.40m course, in fact, prior to our first show of the year. But it's not an effort for him and he doesn't need that level of conditioning and work to keep him comfortable over the big jumps. So typically his jumping consists of small gymnastics and fences (3'6" and below) incorporated into his flatwork with the main goal being "lessons-in-using-his-body-parts" rather than the conditioning aspect of it.

                                      So all of that to say.....

                                      Jumping doesn't break down horses when it's down carefully focused on strengthening the horse's way of going. Pounding a horse over jumps is a whole other story. My general rule of thumb is that if you're working on the horse jumps at or below 3'6" aren't going to do much harm even when done regularly (NOT jumped 100 times each session). If you're working on the rider I think it's generally more stress on the horse since the horse is left compensating for less than ideal rides much of the time (or some of the time?). But all of this is in an ideal world where you have a horse with good conformation for his job and you're jumping in good footing, etc. Obviously if that's not the case then even adding the little additional stress of jumping little fences can be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
                                      Flying F Sport Horses
                                      Horses in the NW


                                      • #20
                                        It depends! (great answer, huh?)

                                        Right now I've gone back to basics, so I am only jumping 2' right now, mostly 18" (yeah, I'm a dork, but I never had jumping lessons when I learned to jump and my trainer is taking me back to square one). The fences are low and I'll do once or twice a week with my mare, I do use a pole or two often, we still need a pole for flying lead changes and I like to throw a set of two or three in there for trotting too, it's also good practice for my eye. I've only "jumped" (my 18"-2' jumps) twice since last fall, my jumps were at my sister's house over the winter and when I finally got them to my barn the rain came, and came, and came some more, our indoor is too small to really jump in.

                                        My gelding is different, he only take smaybe 5-6 jumps and quit and go back to flat work. For him, a horse who likes to be behind the leg, getting 5-6 solid jumps where he is in front of the leg and moving up to the jump, is better than doing once a week and jumping for a half hour or what have you. My trainer is working with him O/F right now, I only rode him last week for the first time in months (he has a leasor).

                                        I also jump almost all oxers, my trainer believes they teach the horse to jump better than verticals, even our cross rails are usually oxers or bounces.
                                        Last edited by redears; Jun. 23, 2010, 04:19 AM.