Should There Be A Limit to How High a Horse Jumps? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 09-29-2020, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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Should There Be A Limit to How High a Horse Jumps?

I want to start this by saying that I really don't intend for this to be inflammatory, though I understand it clearly looks that way. I'm open to any and all opinions and don't have a strong opinion of my own (which is why I'm bringing this to the general public).

I don't show, I don't really like showing, personally (but if you do, all the power to you). However my first 8 years of riding took place at a hunter barn, so I ended up really taking a liking to jumping. However I've been doing a lot of research and found that jumping really puts a strain on your horse, and frequent jumping causes a lot of chronic injury. I don't own a horse yet (just co-boarding for now) but I'm starting to think about the long-term health of my future horse. How will I balance their health with my desires? I never want to be unfair to them as they do enough by letting my on their back.

With a lot of thought, I figured that jumping my horse 2ft. with an occasional 2.6-3ft. once to twice a week (no solid jumps) feels okay to me; but I wanted to pose this "thought-experiment" to others in the riding community. Obviously, what is "fair" and safe for a horse depends on so many factors - age, breed, athletic ability, previous injury, on and on and on; but I just want a general feel of what others feel is okay for a horse to jump while limiting long term pain. Do you believe that Olympic-level showjumping horses are safe and basically as healthy/pain-free as other horses? Do you think we shouldn't jump them that high? What do you do with your horse(s)? Obviously, there are no right answers; everything will cause some injury. Just want to know how others feel about it. Thanks!
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post #2 of 13 Old 09-29-2020, 06:30 PM
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This is a lot more complicated than you realize....
There is a vast and huge difference in the care of a Olympic caliber horse daily done than the horse living in the backyard barn who goes out and jumps with its owner.
There are many things a informed owner can and does do to keep their equine partner sound, free of pain and happy doing their job.
From riding on special arena footing to stabled on special stall flooring with cushioning, to hand-on body workers and machinery used on the animals many humans wish they had access to...certain medical things addressed and diet are all a part of success.
Having the best of the best in technology used and the vets and specialists top-notch in exacting all adds up to make a big difference in longevity and soundness of a animal.

For me...I use to show, take lessons for myself & my horse...
What we did not do was over jump and push the horse to do more than once, twice a week at most and not courses, but a single fence or a group of fences if a problem was occurring..
We never had to, nor did we jump high to work a issue since we knew the horse was easily capable of high and wide fences, why push...
We worked only when needed on low fences as effort is still needed but not as much nor as much concussive forces low...
After lessons/schooling it was diligent and careful leg care done always..
My horse was a athlete and as such he was treated as any athlete needs done.
A very wise older trainer told me many years ago... "A horse only has so many jumps, slide-stops, cutting or roping maneuvers before they and their motors are used up and no longer good or reliable...make what you demand of the horse count and make sure the animal is taken the very best care of if you want them to take the very best care of you"...
That trainer rode reining horses...and was a world champion of his era of time many times over.
His words made sense to me then as they do today...there is a finite amount of anything any animal can give before they fail and just not be able to give as much, as well or at all anymore...choose carefully what it is you do so you have your riding partner for as long as possible a happy companion and partner.

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #3 of 13 Old 09-29-2020, 06:43 PM
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@horselovinguy I really like what that old trainer told you, it makes a lot of sense. But I have to wonder, does that number change depending on the difficulty of the work? For instance, if a horse has X number of jumps it could do at four feet, does that mean it has X-times-2 numbers of jumps it could do at two feet?

With my own Pony starting over very low jumps, it's something I've been thinking about as well.
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post #4 of 13 Old 09-29-2020, 07:05 PM
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I truly don't know the answer to that question you posed.
I only know we, my trainer and I, were very selective in how much and how often we jumped any jumps no matter the height or spread.
We never pushed so hard or did so much that we "broke" my or any horse...

When you apply that saying to most anything you can think of...
A car needs maintenance to run correctly, stop correctly and be reliable.
A home needs maintenance or it falls apart, leaks and isn't safe to be in.
Our own bodies need to be taken care of or pay the price..
Life in general needs maintaining or isn't so hot a existence to be trapped in..
If you push to the maximum all the time, you have a let less time with "it"...
If you take care of "it", "it" will last you a lot longer than many think possible...all it takes is a bit of care and maintenance to prolong the usefulness.

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The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #5 of 13 Old 09-29-2020, 07:17 PM Thread Starter
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@horselovinguy I wouldn't say that I didn't realize any of that, more so that I didn't do a proper job of making that clear in my initial post. Care/maintenance is a factor, for certain, alongside breed, previous injury and all the rest. However there are plenty of people out there who jump at near-Olympic heights that probably don't have access to as many resources as their professional counterparts, and many people that treat their horses like gold despite only jumping lower levels.
The evidence remains that the higher a horse jumps, the more likely they are to have chronic pain. I'm not sure I can link you to a specific study, but there is plenty of articles about it.
I guess what I'm posing is a moral dilemma - with all the resources you have, or, perhaps, the average person has, how high/often would you be willing to jump (which I realize you answered, just re-stating it for clarity's sake). Or, alternatively phrased, how much risk are you willing to take for the personal enjoyment you get out of your horse?
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post #6 of 13 Old 09-29-2020, 07:25 PM
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I love jumping but really haven't had a horse capable of doing much jumping. Every horse I have has certain limitations- didn't like it, wasn't sound, one is either lame or has type 2 pssm. I want my horses to stay sound and healthy, so other than the casual hop over a down tree, we don't do much jumping. Not that I don't want to jump, I've just had bad luck with horses. 1st horse would jump the moon, but was never very sound, 2nd horse was pssm but none of the vets could figure it out because she looked lame, and wasn't tying up. 3rd horse is lovely but has crooked legs behind. The pony I have is 8 years old and going blind in one eye. He's sound as a bell, just has poor vision.

If I have a sound horse, I would be very careful not to ruin that horse, because I will be supporting it in retirement. Jumping is fine, if on a limited basis or if you can afford the joint injections, adequan injections and other medications used to maintain joint health. Many of those top jumpers disappear into retirement and aren't seen again unless used for stud service. Of course retirement isn't always a bad thing, but they probably do get put down early with arthritis.
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post #7 of 13 Old 09-29-2020, 09:34 PM
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I think that while people 'love' horses, they also love to use them, get hung up on sports, competing, pushing limits & winning prizes... They often also don't think about the fact that just because 'people do it' or because the horse *can* do something, doesn't necessarily mean they *should*. Also that horses are such stoic, giving animals that they often 'agree' to do far more than is good for them. Also that people often don't recognise damage until the horse is actually lame, by which time damage is often major/permanent. I am NOT saying sport/use/jumping etc should never be done, but just like riding or working a horse in any way, I think FAR too many people do things with far too little consideration of the live animal they're 'using'.

So... yes, I do believe, for the sake of the horses, 'stupid sized' jumps are one thing that shouldn't be allowed. From memory(so don't quote me on specifics, can't recall), studies I've read on this by body experts indicate... While any 'real'(as opposed to popping over a 1' high log or such) jumping can cause unhealthy strain/damage if it's done too much, horse being unfit in some way, etc, being asked to jump over 4'... & more to the point, land from that, with extra weight(a rider) on their backs to boot, is great & unhealthy stress on any horse. Therefore, along with conditioning & ensuring the horse is fit for it in the first place, IMHO it should also be not done a heap/repetitively, and care should be taken not to continue jumping horses once they begin to show signs of damage that WILL happen, regardless of care, conditioning etc.
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post #8 of 13 Old 09-30-2020, 02:28 AM
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There are many top show jumping horses, well into their teen years, still competing and winning at international level. These horses have to be sound as no dugs are allowed under FEI Rules.

They are able to do this because of after care and because they rarely ever do more than 'pop' a fence between shows. Also they are mostly jumping on good surfaces. They are also very fit.

Something that often happens with people when they start jumping is that they want to see how high their horse can jump and keep setting the poles higher and higher repeatedly going over the same fence time and time again. Not good. The skill with jumping is knowing how to place your horse, getting a regular pace into and after a fence and appreciating the mechanics of what is happening to a horse's leg when it lands.

I say leg because they always land on one foot.

Popping over a couple of fences each time you ride, will not do any harm (as long as there is some give to the landing)

In the riding school the horses and ponies would often jump a grid or small course, 2' - 3'6" twice daily in lessons a couple of times a week. It did none of them any harm and many were well into their 20s.
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post #9 of 13 Old 09-30-2020, 11:14 AM
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Here's something I wonder about...

Do you think human Olympians feel pain?

For me the answer is they do feel pain. Some personalities are just good with that. Some horse personalities are too.
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post #10 of 13 Old 09-30-2020, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Filou View Post
Here's something I wonder about...

Do you think human Olympians feel pain?

For me the answer is they do feel pain. Some personalities are just good with that. Some horse personalities are too.
Hmm, if we got into the ethics of that though, the humans are consciously choosing that pain - the horses aren't. They are just doing what they see as a job.

However, I am not saying I'm against it - just that this argument is flawed. I know that Olympian horses also have the best care and teams ever. I'd be much more concerned with amateur owners taking pushed not-entirely-fit horses over huge jumps with spurs and whips and getting them injured. I think if it's going to be done, it just needs to be as safely as possible.
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cross country , hunter , injury prevention , jumping , showjumping

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