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How to Prepare Your Horse for Showjumping

Horse showjumping is one of the most popular equestrian disciplines available and is widely competed in around the UK. Riders can compete in a variety of competition types and at various levels. However, although we cannot guarantee you’ll win your next showjumping competition, we can certainly offer some of our tips for effective preparation, fantastic performances, and hopefully improving your show jumping ability.


Grow Your Horse’s Confidence Early

If you a training a horse that has very little experience of showjumping, it is important to take it slowly. Take the time to build your horse’s confidence and let him get used to approaching the fences before moving onto small jumps. If your horse is cautious while approaching jumps, train your horse by working to a consistent rhythm. This way, your horse will feel comfortable as he will be slowly introduced to the jumping mentality without being put at risk of stress or injury.


Ensure Your Form is Correct

While it is important to properly train your horse for showjumping, ensuring your form is correct can have a significant impact on your success. When your horse makes a jump, be sure to follow them through the air with your upper body and arms correctly positioned. This ensures the jump is completed as painlessly as possible. Having the correct form can be the secret to success and see you and your horse complete a jump to a very high standard.


Don’t Push Your Horse Too Hard

Pushing your horse too hard during training can be detrimental to your success in the showjumping ring. While it is good to have a training routine that challenges and develops your horse in the right ways, it is important to train progressively – even if that means starting at the very basics.

Don’t push your horse too hard by attempting jumps he’s not ready for as this can cause unnecessary stress and even injury for your horse. And one bad experience in showjumping can be extremely damaging to your horse, causing a destruction of trust and maybe even a fear of competing.


Walk the Course Before Riding It

This point is similar to our first suggestion which is to take your time and grow your horse’s confidence early. One of the ways you can do this is by walking your horse around the course before riding it. Not only will this help you to map out the course and the route in your head, but it will help you familiarise your horse with the course.

Walking the course helps you pay closer attention to the distances between each fence, where you will need to corner, and judging the pace you need to be at when approaching particular stages of the course. Walking the course before riding it is a great way to prepare you for your next showjumping event.


Practice Different Stride Lengths

Tackling different showjumping courses takes a lot of practice and a huge amount of skill. You must be able to adapt to different fence distances, help your horse switch between long and short canters, and tackle any layout. You can practice all of these aspects during flatwork sessions that will help get your horse used to the routine.


Have Access to a Jumping Facility

To properly train your horse and prepare him for showjumping, it’s important you have access to a jumping facility. After all, to properly train a horse for showjumping you need a sizable piece of ground to practice on. This will ensure you have the space to stretch your horse, warm him up, and challenge him during training.


Never Train to Jump Alone

Training your horse to jump on your own is very risky and can be a safety risk for both you and your horse. It is important to have another instructor or able-bodied ground person who is strong enough to move standards and adjust pole placement. This extra person is also helpful to have around in the event of an accident. After all, it doesn’t matter how experienced a horse rider you are, accidents do happen and it is possible that you could fall from your horse and become injured. Having someone nearby while you train your horse is not just for convenience, it is also for safety.


Warm Your Horse Up Properly

Before commencing training and riding over jumps, it is important you warm your horse up properly. Riding your horse ‘cold’ can cause significant damage and make your horse more prone to suffering from an injury. Therefore, it is always important to thoroughly warm your horse up. Ideally, you should spend about half an hour walking, trotting, and cantering your horse around the arena to get his blood flowing. A simple warmup can help you avoid many problems for your horse, such as tendon injuries, slips and falls, a tight and sore back, and so much more.


Build Trust and Confidence

Building trust, confidence, and a good relationship between you and your horse is something we talk about a lot on the Prime Stables blog. And the reason why is because it’s so incredibly important and can make such a big difference in the effectiveness of your horse’s performance in show-jumping, his general happiness, and his quality of life.

As you are developing your horse’s physical ability and training him in showjumping, you are also developing his trust and confidence in you as he learns to do whatever you ask of him.


Spend Time with Your Horse

In addition to training, spend as much time with your horse as you can, take care of all his grooming and medical needs, and ensure you give him all the attention he needs and deserves! It’s all about relationship. A horse that trusts you and is confident in following your lead will perform well at any showjumping event.

Sarah Macey is the owner of Prime Stables, a family-run company who manufacture and install equestrian buildings throughout the UK and parts of Europe. Read more here.