I see so many young horses, aged 3, 4 or 5, offered for sale and pictured being sent around a course of jumps.
It is done, of course, so that they can say the horse can jump, and to make him more saleable.
But this is contradictory.
A horse that has been jumped too young is already likely to have been damaged by the activity.
It also gives the impression that the youngster is ready to be taken to shows and cross country courses, which puts unrealistic and unfair expectations on the animal.
Show jumping can cause severe suspensory ligament injuries, front foot injuries like navicular disease, joint injuries including osteoarthritis, and other physical problems.
When a horse takes a jump it puts a huge amount of pressure on the joints, tendons and ligaments of both the front and back legs.
Imagine this: a horse might weigh half a tonne (500kg). The rider maybe another 70kg. Now try to work out how many times that will multiply when the horse comes to land with all the weight on the font legs.
The stress on the legs becomes absolutely massive every time he lands.
Then take into account that a young horse’s bones don’t fuse until they are around 6, so there is the
additional risk to all other bony areas in the body, including the neck and spine.
Another factor to consider is natural asymmetry. A horse that is not trained to move straight and to carry his weight evenly between his feet will naturally land with most of his weight on his preferred front leg (horses are right or left handed like us).
A young horse needs to learn to balance and move straight before being backed by doing Groundwork, Longeing and Work in hand from the ground.
Only when they have learned to carry themselves and respond to a set of logical aids that can be transferred to the seat will they be able to carry a rider in balance.
If you want to jump please wait until your horse is fully grown (age 7+) and has learned to carry himself in straightness and balance with a rider in all four gaits.