Apart from running incredibly fast and pulling heavy loads, horses are also incredible jumpers, and some of them are able to jump over high obstacles with relative ease. We’ve all seen equestrian shows that highlighted the horse’s jumping prowess, but how high can a horse really jump on average?
Apparently, a regular horse will be able to jump as high as 2 feet to 3 feet without receiving any training and without being frightened or stressed. That being said, trained horses can jump much higher than that, with some being able to overcome obstacles as high as 4 to 5 feet.
A regular horse will only jump over an obstacle if it has a very good reason to. This reason can be related to food, or maybe it just wants to meet up with another horse on the other side. Humans can provide these incentives in order to encourage a horse to jump. With time, most horses get used to jumping and perform these feats without breaking a sweat.
The height of the jump depends on several factors, including the horse’s height, its fitness level, the strength of its legs, and the breed. It’s worth noting that jumping as high as 6 feet poses great stress on a horse’s body, which is why many of them retire from jumping relatively early in order to prevent injury.
Horse jumping records.
There are two main horse jumping records that are worth mentioning, one of which was set with a saddle while the other was bareback.
The saddled horse was Huaso Ex-Faithful ridden by Alberto Larraguibel Morales. It was recognized by Guinness World Records for the highest horse jump at 8 feet and 1.25 inches. This happened back in 1949 in Chile, and the record still stands to this day.
The absolute highest jump record for a horse without a saddle is currently being held by a horse named Waterstone, which managed to jump 7 feet (2.1 meters) under the guidance of Robert Whitaker. This record was established back in 2010.
What are the different phases of the jumping process?
The jumping process of horses can be divided into five main phases.
The airborne phase takes place between the stance phases of the fore and hind limbs. This means that the airborne phase is similar to a highly suspended or elevated canter stride. This is why horses approach different jumping obstacles at a canter.
These are the five main phases of a horse’s jumping process:
- Approach – The approach represents the final canter stride just before the jump. In this phase, the horse places all of its four legs in an optimal position for take-off. The horse will also reach lower and down with its neck in order to lower its center of mass.
- Take off– The take-off starts when the horse’s forelegs leave the ground and it ends when the hind legs leave the ground. The horse cannot control its trajectory mid-air, so the take-off phase is arguably the most important part of the jumping process. Most of the momentum comes from the hind legs, which flex at the hip, stifle, hock, and fetlock before relating energy, not unlike a spring.
- Airborne phase – Even though the horse cannot control its trajectory mid-air, it can change the position of its legs and body in relation to its center of mass. As the horse arcs over the fence or obstacles, it performs a body rotation called a “bascule.”
- Landing – The horse will always land on the non-leading foreleg followed by the leading foreleg. The hind limbs quickly follow. It’s worth noting that the landing phase places great stress on the forelegs, and this can lead to serious issues over time.
- Recovery – The horse will regain its balance after the first stride performed after the jump. This is typically when some horses react to the discomfort caused by jumping, and they might toss their heads, buck, or even bolt.
What are the best horse breeds for jumping?
While I did say that most horses will be able to jump obstacles if needed, some breeds are just better suited for the task. These breeds are the absolute best at jumping and always deliver impressive results if trained properly.
- Dutch Warmblood – An incredibly powerful horse of Dutch origin, which is usually about 16 hands tall. Highly intelligent and eager to please, this horse will perform very well in a variety of competitions, including showjumping.
- Trakehner – A light warmblood horse breed that can reach heights of up to 17 hands. It is an incredibly versatile horse that is used for anything from farm work to racing and jumping.
- Oldenburg – The Oldenburg horse was originally a draft horse, but it was crossbred with Thoroughbreds, Hanoverians, and Trakehners and is now a highly respected sports horse.
- Thoroughbred – While the Thoroughbred is mostly considered a racehorse, it is also quite a jumper thanks to its tall build and incredible stamina. These horses often participate in endurance races, but they are also used for showmanship.
- Appaloosa – Visually, the Appaloosa is instantly recognizable due to its beautiful spotted coat. When it comes to performance, this breed is a popular choice in English competitions such as eventing, show jumping, and fox hunting.
- Hanoverian – One of the best-known German horse breeds. The breed is famous for its outstanding jumping capabilities. Many Hanoverians have participated in the Olympic Games and other competitive English riding styles.
- Quarter Horse – Arguably the fastest horse in the world when it comes to sprinting. Also a versed jumper, the American Quarter Horse is a default choice for many English disciplines such as driving, show jumping, dressage, and hunting.
- Arabian – The Arabian is one of the smaller horse breeds in the world, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t jump properly. Actually, In show jumping and show hunter competitions, many Arabians have competed successfully against other breeds in open competition.
What is the average height of jumping horses?
Horses that are bred for jumping are usually at least 16 hands tall, but in the case of breeds such as the Arabian, it’s not uncommon to see smaller horses faring very well. If you want to practice some jumps yourself, keep in mind that a smaller horse is usually more controllable, assuming that you have bonded with it and you have trained with it a bit beforehand.
While taller horses will generally be able to jump higher obstacles, smaller ones have more control and agility. It all depends on the type of course that you’re running and the difficulty of the jumps.
Are ponies any good at jumping over obstacles?
Ponies are surprisingly good jumpers despite their size, but how high can a pony jump anyway? They have been known to jump over 3-foot fences if they’re motivated enough. However, that also appears to be the jumping limit for most ponies. If you own one and you want to keep it in an enclosure, you’ll need at least a 4-foot fence to make sure that it won’t go out for a stroll whenever it feels like it.
Keep in mind that for showjumping events, the rider’s skill is also taken into account. Some horses and even ponies might be able to jump higher than 2 or 2.5 feet, but if the rider is not up to the task, a 3-foot jump will not even be attempted.
The story of Snowman the Horse.
Snowman, otherwise known as The Cinderella Horse had an interesting life to say the least. At the age of 8, after being used for farm work for most of its life, Snowman was headed for the slaughterhouse. However, he caught the eye of a riding instructor from Long Island by the name of Harry de Leyer.
Harry decided to buy Snowman for $80, and he initially used it as a schooling horse for children. He later sold it to a neighbor, and in the following days, Snowman jumped a series of high fences and returned home. At that point, Harry knew that the horse had some talent, and he decided to train it for show jumping.
The Cinderella Horse won an impressive number of competitions during its 5-year career. He made a number of TV appearances, and he was even ridden by Johhny Carson briefly during one of his shows. It was photographed jumping over other horses, and it even won a leadline class and an open jumper championship on the same day.
In 1974, at the age of 26, Snowman had to be put down due to kidney failure complications. The rags to riches story of this famous horse still echoes in the showjumping world to this day.
While horses will not go out of their way to jump over an obstacle if they can find a way around it, they will do so if they are motivated enough. Horses can jump over very tall fences, and they can improve their natural jumping performance with time and practice.
Even ponies are able to clear impressive heights, which is further proof that equines have evolved to be able to clear obstacles even though they don’t particularly enjoy doing it.