Jumping is one of the most exciting and majestic sporting events to watch. However, extensive training and specialized nutrition help prepare these equine athletes for such tremendous endeavors. How far can a horse jump? Horses’ conformation actually allows them to jump high and far in terms of actual distance. However, horizontal-length jumps can be difficult to maneuver in a safe manner for training, whereas jumps can safely be raised in height. Let’s take a look at what goes into jumping:
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An average horse, lacking extensive training that shows horses receive, can jump between 2.5 and 3 feet. Although physically capable of a 2-3-foot jump, a horse may not be willing without some work.
The FEI world record for the highest horse jump is 8 feet 1.25 inches (or 2.47 m)! This was achieved by Huaso Ex-Faithful and rider Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales from Chile. That’s an additional 2’ on top of a standard privacy fence, and taller than an adult male! The world record for the longest horizontal jump was by “Something” ridden by Andre Ferreira. This duo broke the record in April of 1975 with a 28-foot distance jump!
Jumping isn’t just about height. Although height and distance are impressive, there is extensive footwork and coordination involved in jumping. Some of the most rigorous and dangerous jumps in any federation exist within the cross-country portion of eventing. These jumps are strategically made to challenge both the horse and rider and one of the few courses solid obstacles will be placed.
Although most horses are physically capable of jumping small fences up to 3’, jumping requires training. Like most other aspects of riding, it is progressive training that first begins with solid riding and mastery of basic skills. Progressions can start from ground pole trot work, up to small cross rails. Conformation plays a role in a horse’s natural ability to jump and can dictate their future success in the sport… or lack of.
Phases of a Jump
The actual jump has five separate phases. It is much more than a haphazard leap into the air, which is why “stride counting” is a vital tool for jumpers. Check out the phases that create the perfect jump:
The approach will dictate whether a horse will even attempt a jump. During this phase, both horse and rider will have the jump insight and will gauge the effort, pace, line, impulsion, balance, and stride length necessary to clear the obstacle. The headset will adjust to the jump height to ensure hindquarter engagement and stride adjustment for the obstacle. Rider anxiety can result in a horse’s refusal if they sense the rider is worried or unsure.
The takeoff phase is the last stride and thrust for the horse to leave the ground. The last stride will typically be shorter as the hindquarters engage and the loin flexes at the lumbosacral joint. A horse will “spring” from the rear, propelling the horse up and forward. This moment is vital, as a horse cannot make an adjustment once in the air. Improper engagement will affect a horse’s scope.
Flight and Bascule
This phase includes flight travel and the arc, aka “bascule”. Bascule is a French word meaning “arc in motion”. This time period covers the horse leaving the ground and traveling up and forward over the jump. The neck and head will then lower and pull on the dorsal ligaments, helping create the “bascule” seen in the horse’s body. When the back rounds, the hindquarters will rise and hind legs fold. As the horse descends, the back will flatten back out, the neck will rise, and the legs unfold toward the landing point.
Horses should land with an extended foreleg, immediately followed by the other foreleg. Horses absorb shock from the landing using muscles and tendons from their legs and shoulder. Ideally, the landing will be coordinated, well balanced, and somewhat elastic.
When a horse resumes normal stride, this is considered the recovery phase. The half bound, or the first step after the jump-starts the recovery phase. However, a poor landing will greatly impact a horse’s recovery. Each phase is important in ensuring a jump is cleared in a safe and balanced manner safe for both horse and rider.
How High Can Horses Jump- Final Words
Although horses can jump both horizontally for distance and for height, we typically see horses used for vertical jumps. With an average horse only able to jump up to 3’, it is not surprising extensive training is required for serious jumpers and competitors.
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