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Teaching my horse to jump

Hello Franklin,

I'm buying a pony with no jumping experience but I would like to jump with him. How might I teach such a skill to this horse? He is a 12.2 welsh x gelding, 6-years- old and just started under saddle. He is getting good at ground work. I have experience with jumping, but I could really use your help.

Thank you, Cheyenne

Hello Cheyenne,

Thanks for your question. First you need to be very good at lunging your horse. The horse's movement should be soft, supple, light in hand and provided willingly. This should be accomplished before moving on. I would then also get very good at ground driving the horse (double long-lines). You should be able to change directions easily and smoothly and ask for and receive easily accomplished speed transitions during ground driving and lunging. Lots of immediate reward for the animal's efforts at compliance. A great reward is to allow the animal to stand quietly for 30 seconds or so. Then ask for a bit more movement. Training one-step-at-a-time, with lots of positive reinforcement reward (removal of all pressure and a bit of peace), is the most efficient and best way I have found to train a horse to do anything.

Once these initial steps are achieved smoothly and willingly by the horse, begin to simply walk him over cavelettis spaced properly apart to match the horse's stride. Next would be to begin to lunge him and ground drive him over the poles. Get really good at this. Then ride him over the poles. After he is comfortable doing that you could begin to set up a very low jump maybe 8 inches to one foot high. Walk him back and forth over the jump. Then lunge and then ground drive him over the jump. Once he is showing you he is very comfortable with that, ride him slowly over it at first and then trot slowly over it, back and forth. Make certain each phase of the training is fully accomplished before moving on. Perhaps next would be to set up two low jumps (in and outs, appropriately spaced for the animal's stride). The use the same procedure of leading over the jumps, lunging over them, ground driving over them and, when the timing is right, riding over them. Over time you gradually increase the height of the jumps and your speed.

Some horse really take to jumping and some don't. Some have a natural talent for it and others simply don't. As you would not want to be pushed into something you do not want to do, do not like and have no inclination or talent for, please give your horse the same respect and consideration. Not every horse was meant to be a jumper, dressage horse, competition horse, etc. Be kind always and very respectful and thoughtful. You may have a big agenda to jump. Your horse may not. Please allow the well-being and good mental attitude of your horse to become the biggest agenda you have. Allow three months of consistent training before you make any long term plans for him as a jumper. You should know either way after 90 days if he has aptitude and attraction for the activity. Good luck and please keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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