Training a Horse to Jump

Saree Kayne, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University, splits her time between academics and competitive horseback riding. Although she started jumping horses at the age of 16, which is older than most, Saree Kayne has competed for several years with her barn, Woodacres Stables LLC, and has many wins to her name.

The first step of training a horse to jump is getting the horse used to going over poles. Laying around four poles on the ground and walking the horse over them begins the learning process of going over the jumping poles. Incorporate the poles into regular training sessions and, once the horse is comfortable with them, practice trotting and cantering the horse over the poles. For horses that are too intimidated by multiple poles, starting with just one and gradually increasing the amount helps.

As the horse gets used to the ground poles, add a cross-rail jump at the end. Cross-rail jumps are relatively short and, thus, more inviting to horses learning to jump. The design of the jumps guides the horse toward the middle and makes stepping over the jump easier if the horse is apprehensive about jumping fully.

Once the horse is comfortable with single jumps, develop a gymnastic grid, which brings together multiple cross-rail jumps and teaches the horse how to maintain a controlled pace throughout multiple sets. Typically, setting the jumps around 10 feet apart is enough, but some horses require a larger space depending on their size and stride. Increasing the height of the final jump adds a bit of difficulty and starts the process of training a horse for higher fences.