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What age to start jumping?

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  • What age to start jumping?

    So, its been something of a controversy lately at my barn - an ongoing debate between experienced owners, inexperienced owners, and trainers. At what age should a OLD/TB cross horse be started over fences, and comparatively what age should a WB/draft cross be started over fences? The owner of the WB/draft cross contends that her 3-yr-old baby's breeder (who is a vet) has told her that as long as she keeps it at or below 2', she can do no harm. But I'd developed an understanding that my OLD/TB 3-yr-old baby shouldn't be started O/F til she's 4. So, the last couple weeks I've been jumping her under 2' - to much contention and disagreement with it at the barn. And I have to say, I don't think its good for her.

    But now I feel like I'm stuck - because everytime I mention my reservations about having jumped her, I just get judgements of people shoved down my throat.

    So I'd be interested to hear anyone's thoughts on the situation and subject.

  • #2
    2' is a big canter stride, not even all that big for some horses. So 2' is really not any concern. You're doing far more "harm" by cantering and having a 45 minute ride, than you are popping over a few 2' fences a few times a week.

    Truly, 2' is nothing.

    The bigger problem, believe it or not, by doing too much 2' work is that you don't encourage any sort of good form and you can instill bad habits because there is no reason to do the right things over a fence.

    IME, too many people skip all the pole work that quickly translates into better jumping by teaching adjustability between obstacles - poles in straight lines, on curves, in other patterns, adding/removing strides, etc. Using small jumps as part of that pole work is much more beneficial than sticking just to 2' jumps as part of lines or grids for a year.

    You are not remotely going to ruin a 3yo with 2' jumps. Just do it right, the better deal is to pop over a few of them almost every ride as they "get in the way" of your flatwork That teaches the horse that no matter what, when faced with a jump, you go over
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


    • #3
      Nio jumping until the horse is 4 yrs old

      Given that I am a bit old school, I do not believe in jumping horses before they are 4 years old.

      Yes, yes, I know that in Europe...blah, blah, but in Europe they also like the taste of horsemeat. Naturally, those breeders whose livelihood depends on showing that their 2 year olds can do 4 ft in a jump chute will command higher prices. I prefer horses stay sound into their teens or twenties. If the horse is bred to jump, it will jump at 4 without having jumped at 2. And, it may just jump better at 4 than it did at 2!

      While we used to condemn the Thoroughbred world for racing 2 year olds, I am just as horrified at 2 year old WBs being put through a jump chute. What does this prove?

      I agree that mounted jumping of 2' fences is worthless and will actually teach the young horse bad form.

      Yes, I am old school, my horses are not backed before they are 3 years old, and do not jump until they are 4. What others do with their horses is of course their business.
      Proud of my Hunter Breeding Princesses
      "Grief is the price we all pay for love," Gretchen Jackson (1/29/07) In Memory of Barbaro


      • #4
        Well, I didn't say that jumping 2' is worthless It's a low-stress way of teaching the horse - at any age - that regardless, you go over it, period. It's a little canter stride for most horses, and if they get "in the way" of flatwork, it's really not jumping as much as it is a stretched out canter stride, while teaching forward and over.

        Concentrated jump sessions at 2' are nearly worthless once the concept of going forward over them is established. But even then, if it's a low wide oxer that the horse has been properly set up for via poles or a trot in over an X, such that he is close to the base and then must learn to rock back a bit and lift his shoulders, that can be very useful in the beginning to teach basic form without a huge effort.
        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


        • #5
          I agree with JB. But I also think that you should do what makes you feel comfortable. It's your horse, and I assume you plan to keep the horse for you? There is absolutely no reason you shouldn't wait to jump your horse until you feel like he or she is ready, period. How will you feel if the horse is hurt, even if it's not because of the jumping?

          Just don't jump your horse and don't say anything about it. If you are truly in a place that argues with you about how you feel about your own horse and what you do with him, then go somewhere that people respect you.

          I had my pony away at a farm for the winter, and within 2 months they had jumped her over training/prelim size jumps because she would do it. She is just turning 4 this year. They completely dismissed my concerns and made me feel bad about how I felt. The current trainer I am working with is one of the top eventing riders/trainers in the country and cares about my goals and what I feel comfortable with, asks me, respects me, and doesn't push. There is nothing to gain by rushing a horse IMO, and everything to possibly lose. Anyone who makes you feel bad about wanting to go slow is an a-hole.
          On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


          • #6
            Thanks for posting this thread. I have a 3 yr old TB and was semi wondering the same thing. I personally dont think my horse needs to do any jumping this year seeing as we have plenty of other things to work on but others at my barn think I should start him over small stuff. I will on ocassion take him over a cavaletti and we have a tiny roll top I have popped him over. More or less to see what he thinks about it and keep things interesting. And I attempt these things on days when he is going well. I certainly dont want to set us up for disaster if he is having one of his zero attention span days.
            Perfect Pony is dead on, he is your horse so jump him when you and him are ready. Anyone that has a problem with you not jumping now needs to get a life.
            Maybe consider taking your horse over some small obstacles in hand instead of undersaddle. I did that with my guy and he seemed to enjoy it.