Free Jumping Your Horse

I love jumping and I would love it if my horses did too, so I make sure to allow them as much fun with free jumping as possible! If you missed my last horsey post – click here!


2 year old kwpn jumping
My 2 year old mare jumping

Trot Poles Are Not Scary!

Allow your horse to investigate and discover poles and jump wings in their own time. All horses are different – some do not care they exist while others think that they may indeed be the cause of their demise.

Lead them up to the poles, and walk over them yourself before asking the horse to follow. And remember for lots of scratches and treats to reward them!

Setting Ground Poles

Generally speaking, ground poles should be set to your horse’s stride so there is no exact science behind setting out poles for groundwork. It also depends on what work you are wanting to do with them, lengthening or shortening strides, or even seeing strides for jumps.

In the jumping context, it’s best to lay out ground poles under jumps as well as a loping stride (canter) before to help the horse with gauging distance and ultimately clearing the jump.

Here is the generalisation of distances for horse height that I have found works for trotting:

Height of HorseDistance of Poles
up to 13hh (125cm)1m (3ft6)
up to 14.2hh (145cm)1.20m (4ft)
up to 16.2hh (165cm)1.35cm (4ft6)
16.2hh -18.2hh (165-185cm)1.50cm (5ft)

For cantering, anything between 2.75m – 3.35m (9ft-11ft) works well to help stop rushing.

Setting Free Jumps

graphic of how to set out poles for pole work
A simple guide to setting out free jumps

Allow the horse to learn and respond to what you are asking from them!

Jump set out #1

Start with no raised poles to get the horse used to the area.

The first jump used should be a simple cross vertical.

Then ask for a straight vertical

Jump set out #2

The first ground pole may be raised to a small cross vertical.

The second is an oxer or spread to encourage the horse to stretch over the jump.

KwPN mare jumping a 1.30m oxer in an indoor school
My mare Streep showing off her scope

Personally, I don’t like to jump my young horses often – but I will have small jumps set out when working liberty as I know they enjoy it!

What do you want to see next from my blog? Let me know in the comments.

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