Horses do not “love to jump”

June 14, 2017

Some people (usually those who profit from jumps racing) would like us to believe that horses love to jump. Again, this is incorrect.

Horses only jump obstacles at full gallop because they are forced to do so.

Horses are intelligent animals with a high level of perception of their environment. If they approached an obstacle that required jumping over in the natural environment, the horse’s reaction would be to slow down, assess the obstacle and adjust their gait accordingly.

If you watch a show-jumping or eventing competition, you will see riders deliberately slow their horses as they approach an obstacle. This helps the horse to steady itself, to judge the height and to jump cleanly. Although there are still risks involved in these equestrian sports, they are far less than those experienced by a racehorse being forced by a whip-yielding jockey at flat gallop alongside other horses over obstacles.

Travelling at speed, these horses are not given sufficient time to assess the hurdle and can misjudge height and/or width, leading to falls. This ‘judgement’ is further compromised when many horses are jumping the same jump simultaneously.

Survival instincts mean that horses are unlikely to jump over obstacles at full speed and risk injury or death. Most horses that lose their riders during jumps races (which happens frequently) choose to run around hurdles and steeples where they can rather than to continue jumping.

(Compared to flat races, jumps races have a higher rate of horses failing to finish. Nearly 20% of starters fail to cross the finish line for a variety of reasons. Horses that do finish often struggle many tens of lengths after the winner and are never in contention. Sadly, this doesn’t stop many riders continuing to whip their horses even though they have no chance of success.)

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7 thoughts on “Horses do not “love to jump””

  1. Claire Wade

    Thank you so much for this article. Greatly appreciated

  2. John Palmer

    Forcing horses to make high jumps which is against their natural behaviour should be regarded as a crime and be outlawed. Most contests which permeate our culture today serve no purpose whatsoever and are totally useless.

  3. Taishi

    As a horseman myself I couldn’t agree more with this and it really frustrates me that that people like me have to contend with this sort of thing constantly.

  4. Gabrielle

    I honestly do not agree at all. As I rider myself I have experienced jumping and my horse loves it. She shows all signs of happiness when I put out the jumps and never refuses a jump. What causes horses not to enjoy jumping is because of the trainers and riders. I only ever push my horse as far as she can and I never put her in situations that she may find uncomfortable. I personally find it offensive when people say our sport is cruel and in some cases it is but most people don’t know the enjoyment a horse can have from just simply galloping over a few jumps.

  5. Aoibh

    I agree – a Connemara I used to ride would get bored just doing flatwork and would often play up, becoming focused and happier when popping a few managable jumps, which for her were quite high – she was a pony that loved to be challenged – but this was natural for her. Put in a cross country field to graze, often she would pop over logs, just for joy, while jump racing, on the other hand, is unnatural, dangerous and cruel. It strains brave, talented horses to their limits, and often results in deaths and chronic injuries. Though the title is a little misleading, this is a great article and more awareness needs to be created around this admittedly delicate and controversial issue.

  6. Gwen

    My horse enjoys jumping. He gets excited to do it. He does not show this same excitement towards dressage (which is boring to him).

  7. Giuseppe

    Humans too have undergone a process of natural selection that rewarded the capacity to run over obstacles only occasionally. This doesn’t mean that many humans won’t enjoy sports involving cross country obstacles and alike . My take is that it’s all about predisposition and attitude , which I guess were partially addressed by breeding; the rest stays with the sensitivity of each rider .

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