How High Can Horses Jump: Insights on Horses Jumping Abilities and Facts


Have you ever seen a show-jumping competition and got amazed at how horses can jump so high? We are sure that you have wondered about the jumping abilities of horses and the facts related to them.

Horses are excellent jumpers. An average horse can leap 3ft, while competition horses can jump over 7ft. That being said, the current world record of horse jump has been recorded at 8ft 1,25 inches or 2.47 m. It is horses’ running and jumping capabilities that are specifically trained to participate in show-jumping competitions. 

Horse Jumping RecordYearHorse NameRiderJumping Height
World Record 1949Huaso, ex-FaithfulCapt. Alberto Larraguibel Morales8 feet 1.25 inches
North American Record1983Sweet N’ LowAnthony D’Ambrosio7 feet 7 1/2 inches
British Record1978LasticNick Skelton7ft 7 5/16 inches
Horse Jumping Record
Image Credit: A black horse jumping over the fence from Pxhere

How far can a horse long jump?

We are all aware that horses can jump high. And we all love to see our favorite horse jumping high and long. But how far can a horse jump?

Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) record, in 1900 Olympics, the winning leap was 6.10 meters. This figure is not a shabby one as the world record of the longest human jump is 8.95 meters. 

How far can a horse jump horizontally?

Image Credit: A Chestnut horse jumping horizontally from Pxhere

So far, we have learned that horses can jump at a fantastic height. So, next is to explore how far they can jump horizontally.

“Something,” ridden by Andre Ferreira, set the world record for the longest horizontal jump. In April 1975, the due set a world record by jumping a 28-foot distance jump.

So, a jump is not all about height but also the distance covered. Therefore, extensive footwork and coordination are crucial to achieving an impressive height and covering a long distance in a jump.

What is a distance in horse jumping?

A “distance” is defined as “the exact geography in which a horse’s legs lift from the ground in front of a leap,” according to equine specialists.

In horse jumping, a safe distance is defined as 6 feet away from an average 3-foot leap.

Does it hurt horses to jump?

The front legs and hooves, of horses, take a lot of pressure when jumping. The horses’ body weight and gravitational force are borne by the joints, ligaments, and bones. So, does jumping hurt horses?

Jumping is not good for horses. If they jump once in a while, it may not hurt them, provided they don’t have any health issues. But continuous jumping is bad for them as it may cause injuries. Also, jumping stresses the horses’ tendons and ligaments, causing damage to the front feet.

Here it is essential to understand that horses usually do not love jumping. They mostly jump when they face any obstacle or are spooked. However, there are also exceptions since the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that most horses prefer to trot or walk over the barrier (s). 

What breed of horse can jump the highest?

Although jumping is not an innate liking in the case of horses, some breeds can jump high. However, proper training and stimulation are required for that.

The following section lists some of the most popular horse breeds that can jump the highest:

  • Dutch Warmblood- 15-17 hands
  • Hanoverian- 15.2-17.3 hands
  • Selle Francais- 16.1- 17.3 hands
  • Belgian Warmblood- 16-17 hands
  • Oldenburg- 16.2-17 hands

These horses are considered the best horse breeds for competitive showjumping.

The horses mentioned above are known for soaring over the fences, making them stand out as the best. 

Apart from their ability to jump high, these horses have other standard features, including being warmbloods, tall built, and calm disposition. 

How high do Olympic horses jump?

Olympic horses are regarded as some of the quickest in the world, as they set against the world’s best athletes against each other. This indeed has made us wonder about their jumping abilities.

The International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) rules state that competition horses cross fences with a height and breadth of up to 1.6 meters and 2 meters, respectively. On the other hand, the triple bar obstacle can have a width of 2.2 meters. 

That being said, a horse must be a minimum of seven years old and pass a veterinary inspection to be able to thrive in the Olympics.

Can a quarter horse jump?

Image Credit: A quarter horse jumping from Pxhere

Along with jumping, horses are also known for high-speed running. And when it comes to competitions, certain breeds stand out from the rest. One such breed is of quarter horses.

These horses are known to jump at the height of 14- 16 hands. They have strength, are athletically built, and have an easy-going temperament. Quarter horses’ muscle strength favors their ability to jump at a low level. And although they may fall under the lower category of jumping horses, for low-level competitions, they are fantastic. 

So, if you are a beginner dealing with jumping horses, nothing can be better than opting for a quarter horse. Their compact built, overall strength and calm demeanor make them a great and safe choice of horse. 

How can horses jump so high?

Image Credit: A white horse jumping over the obstacle from Pxfuel

After learning about horses’ ability to jump at such a great height, we often wonder how these creatures can jump so high? So, let’s explore the underlying causes.

As per the scientific explanation, a horse’s jump depends on how deep it flexes its hindlegs during this support phase. It is based on this flex that the horse stores power in its hindquarters and produces the jump. A deeper flex on the hind legs gives more power to the hindquarters, which results in a high jump. 

In this regard, research has found that the horse’s knees generate about 40% of the take-off power. As a consequence, the more power supplied to the hindquarter, the greater the height reached by the horse.

The 5 phases of jumping

If you are looking forward to practicing jumping with your horse, learning its different phases may be helpful. It can help improve the riding and training activities. 

Approach, takeoff, flying (bascule), landing, and recovery are the five phases of a horse’s leap.

Approach:

In this phase, the horse judges the jump and adjusts its line, pace, balance, impulsion, and stride. A well-balanced gait helps horses adjust their stride and engage hind legs for better take-off. 

Takeoff:

To take off, the horse deepens its hind legs to give power to the hindquarters and leap from the ground. It takes a half stride before the final take-off. 

Flight:

The horse is soaring above the ground and over the obstacle in an arc during this phase. As the horse’s hindquarters pass over the highest point of the leap, its hind legs maintain flexion.

Landing:

The horse initially lands on its extended forelegs. In this phase, the riders need to maintain a proper balance to remain in the appropriate line. 

Recovery:

In this phase, the horse recovered back to its canter stride and balance. 

Why do horses refuse jumps?

So, if horses can jump so high, why do most of them refuse to resort to jumping? Why do horses prefer to trot and even walk over their obstacles rather than jumping over them?

As previously stated, horses do not have an innate preference for leaping. It puts undue pressure on their front legs, hooves, tendons, and joints. In addition, frequent jumping sessions can hurt horses, and they may even get injuries. As a result, horses often refuse to jump in order to avoid the discomfort.

Nonetheless, if you need to make your horse jump, it is advisable to use proper jumping and landing gears. Also, make sure that the horse is in good health and ground it is jumping on is flat and without any debris. In addition, offering frequent breaks, food, and water is a must when practicing jumping with the horse. 

How many strides between horse jumps?

If you are learning to jump a course, getting the correct number of strides in a line may be essential. But before that, you would need to know about the number of strides between jumps. 

If theoretically speaking, a horse should take off half a step before the jump and land half a stride after the jump. That being said, in the case of showjumping, two to three jumps are separated by one or two strides. 

Verdict

Although horses can jump both vertically as well as horizontally, they do not like it frequently. So, if you are training your horse to jump, you must keep a continuous check on its health, meal, the time invested in training, and other factors.

Seeing a jumping horse is majestic, but the efforts given in it by the horse are of a different level. So, keeping the horse at the center and working towards its welfare is of utmost necessity to avoid any accident or injury.

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