Once you are at the point where you and your horse have developed your foundation of flat work and are ready to start successfully jumping, you and your trainer may want to explore putting different jump patterns together to create a full course. Setting a jump course is a great opportunity to allow yourself to be creative and come up with new ways to challenge your horse that are rewarding for both of you.
Horse jumps can be used and set up in a variety of ways, from the most basic set up with jumps on the outside lines and diagonals to the more complicated roll backs and bending lines. Some common elements you can include are:
- Single Fence – place on the long sides, center line, diagonals or anywhere else your horse will have a good approach and landing.
- Straight Line – typically placed along long sides, but can go anywhere there is enough room for multiple fences. Set with any number of strides between fences, from three-stride lines and up.
- In-and-Out – two fences set with one or two strides in between.
- Bending Line – same as the straight line, but set on a gradual curve .
- Bounce – two fences set with no strides between them, so the horse just touches down after the first fence before taking off over the second.
- Rollback – set so a horse can jump into a line and then turn out, heading back towards where they came from to jump another fence. Should not have the first fence be part of a line less than 4 strides.
Once you have an idea of how you want to set up your jump course, knowing how to measure the distance between horse jumps is crucial. Having the right distance measured between lines of fences will help you and your horse be able to jump through successfully. The average horse stride length is twelve feet, which is equivalent to four, three-foot long human steps. To get a feel of how long your step should be as you walk lines, place a twelve foot pole on the ground and take four, even steps alongside it. Typically you should allow two human steps for takeoff and two for landing. A three stride line, for example, would be 16, three-foot, human steps. The first time you set distances between jumps, it would be beneficial to get advice from a seasoned course designer.
Being able to correctly walk a line of horse jumps and set up a course is a valuable skill and will expand your ability to create and execute a variety of exercises with your horse. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a career in course design in your future!
Let us know in the comments what your favorite jump course element is!