Age for Jumper
I'm looking to buy a new horse and found one that may be what I want. He's said to be able to jump 3'9. His old owner said that he used to jump that, at least, but she's been unable to give him the attention he needs, so he's been 'sitting' for awhile. Before anything, of course, I'm going to go and test him out. But before I even do that, I'm wondering at what age a horse should stop [or rather still be able to] jump. He's 14, but she said she's shown him in jumpers and eventing in the past, and he is a OTTB. While she says he doesn't have any health or soundness issues, I'm wondering what your thoughts are on a horse like this. I don't want to get him if he's only got a little bit of jump left in him, as I'm looking for a horse I can start showing with again.
This is hugely dependant on the individual horses history. A horse that has had a good life, regular and appropriate training and is in excellent health can continue jumping into their twenties.
A horse that was worked too hard too young, has previous injuries and/or other health and soundness concerns may be unsuitable for jumping by as young as 10.
As an OTTB you can safely say that he was worked from a young age. How long was he raced for? Does he have any previous injuries? Any OTTB is a bit of a gamble when it comes to the longevity of their joints, some are fine and live long and healthy lives. Others experience difficulty later in life with regards to soundness.
It really is very hard to say, best to get a thorough vet's examination prior to buying. This will not tell you how long he will be able to continue jumping but it can eliminate some of the more serious joint/hoof problems that will affect him in the immediate future.
My OTTB still jumps and he is 14. He does get a little stiff occasionally, especially if he has been in his stall. But those days just he just needs an extra long warm up and he's good as new.
I would get a vet check done if you like him. The vet will be able to tell you what shape his legs are in and how much jumping he has left in him. Generally, if a horse has good conformation for jumping and doesn't have any soundness issues, you should be able to jump sizable fences up to late teens or early 20s.
If the horse is sound, take pictures and really evaluate his conformation. Shoulders need to be well sloped. Hip should not be higher than the withers. Pasterns should be moderate length and well sloped. Hocks and stifles should be well angled with good muscle around the stifles and upper legs. he hocks should not be too high off the ground; the bottom of the hock should line up with the top of the front knee at the highest. The horse's back should not be too long; you want a short to moderate back length. Make sure he doesn't have a "hunter's bump" or roach to the back as both can be a sign of too much jumping too young.
You should thoroughly evaluate any horse that you plan on jumping higher than 2' 6". A horse with conformation that isn't suited for jumping will have a higher tendency to break down or become injured more easily. With an older horse though, if you have stellar conformation for jumping and he's in good shape without soundness issues, then you should have a good number of year of jumping left in him if you are careful. Don't over-jump any horse, but especially an older horse. Once a horse is clearing big jumps consistently, you should school at smaller heights. Only bring out the big jumps for a few practice runs before a competition. A lot of flat work/Dressage and conditioning is needed to keep an event horse in good shape, but it's especially important for an older horse.
Good luck with your search!
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