Allowing young horses to jump free of a rider requires them to operate independently, look at what’s in front of them and work the problem out for themselves. For older horses, loose jumping gives an additional option for gymnastic exercise and offers variety to their workload. It can also provide a means of building your horse’s confidence if he’s worried about a particular type of fence or filler.
In all cases, being able to watch your horse jumping allows you to look objectively at his technique and relate this to whatever you feel under saddle. Doing this means you can plan how to improve on any of his weaknesses.
Before you start
Many people avoid loose jumping because they worry that they can’t do it with the facilities available to them. While there are minimum requirements to ensure everyone stays safe, they’re not as onerous as you might imagine. You’ll need an arena with a high fence or banking, or an indoor school. It’s also really important that you have at least one person to help you, preferably two…
- one person to lead your horse into the jumping lane you’ve built
- one person to encourage him as he jumps through the lane
- one person to catch him at the other end
Why not team up with other people on your yard and help each other to jump each of your horses in turn. Setting up a jumping lane on your own takes a bit of time, so many hands make light work.
Build it up
How you build your jumping lane will vary depending on whether you’re using an indoor school or, if you’re outside, whether your arena has a fence or a banking as its boundary. Whatever your situation, most people will build a jumping lane using poles and jump wings.
When building your lane, the first fence only needs to be a few strides away from the bottom corner – this has the added bonus of not allowing your horse to build up too much speed beforehand. Build the final fence at least 15m from the end of the arena to give him time to stop. The height of the poles within the barrier of your jumping lane should always be higher than the fences you intend to jump your horse over – using fillers, blocks or poles, fill the empty space beneath the barrier so he can’t duck out.
Check out our guide to helping you teach your horse to loose jump in June Horse&Rider, on sale 2 May.