Last Updated on March 4, 2022 by Allison Price
It’s amazing to watch top-level showjumping. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to walk the course at a 1.60m show you will know how huge those jumps can be.
It’s amazing to think that horses can overcome them! Is showjumping really a horse’s “job”? Do they enjoy it or are their feelings the same regardless of height?
Although we will never be able tell horses what they think or feel, there is evidence to support both sides!
Horses rarely leap when they are wild. Horses will prefer to take the easy way and go around an obstacle instead of over it. This is only true if there is no other way. For example, if a foal has been separated from its mother, or something similar, they may jump if necessary.
Showjumping, despite this, is still the most popular equestrian discipline. But if horses can’t jump in their natural state, is it possible that they don’t like jumping? Many people would disagree.
However, there are many who argue that it is difficult to make a horse jump if they don’t want to, much like steeplechasing.
Although enthusiasm varies between horses, anyone who has jumped many horses knows that some horses seem to love jumping.
You’ll see horses jumping multiple fences even after their jockey is down. There are many ways that the horse can simply run free once their jockey is gone.
Similar situations have occurred in showjumping, where a rider is injured and the horse continues jumping the fences. This is surely a sign they don’t mind jumping.
What does research tell us?
Researchers recently attempted to solve this problem. When presented with two routes, one with a shorter jump but one with no jump, 18 show jumping horses and 16 leisure horses were surveyed. The obstacle was jumped by only 10% of the horses, while 60% of the horses walked or trotted over it.
Horses jumped less frequently as the obstacle got more difficult. Surprisingly, sport horses were more likely than the rest to jump. This could be because their breeding or training predisposed them to jump, or horses can train to view jumping as something natural.
Do Horses Even Like Being Ridden?
We don’t know enough to be certain. We aren’t sure horses would prefer to be ridden or jumped than grazing in the fields, but who is? We would rather relax in our garden than go to the gym, or the office. It doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy certain aspects of their job.
You should also remember that horses can learn how to enjoy different activities by the way they react to their rider. It is possible for your horse to begin to enjoy jumping if he is given praise and a scratch when he jumps. It could be the opposite effect if you kick or smack your horse while he jumps.
As long as your horse doesn’t get hurt, overfaced or forced to do something that he’s clearly unhappy about, it’s okay to jump, even if it’s not “for fun” in nature. Our horses are not wild anymore! Hoping that the horses who jump find it more fun than boring flatwork or hacking.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!