Best Horse Breeds for Jumping
Showjumping is one of the most popular disciplines among English riders and is one of the three Olympic equestrian sports. If you enjoy jumping and are considering getting your own horse to compete with, you will likely be interested in which breeds tend to perform best in this discipline.
What are the top horse breeds for jumping? Any horse can be a good jumping horse provided they have the athleticism, personality, and conformation for it. However, there are breeds that tend to have the natural abilities required to excel at the sport. In no particular order, the eight best jumping breeds are the:
- Irish Sport Horse
- Dutch Warmblood
- Selle Francais
If you want to excel in the jump arena, searching for horses of these breeds can ensure your spot as a worthy competitor. To learn more about each of these jumping horse breeds, read on!
Horse Breed for Jumping #1: Westphalian
The Westphalian is a German warmblood horse that excels in both dressage and jumping. Warmbloods make excellent jumping horses, as they are bred to possess both the athleticism of the hot-blooded horse and the calm disposition and trainability of the cold-blooded horse. All but one breed in this list are warmbloods.
Westphalians have a relatively light build for a warmblood, with well-muscled hindquarters and expansive, flexible gaits. They typically stand between 15.2 and 17 hands high.
Since the 1980s, Westphalians have had an impressive history at the Olympics, taking home several gold medals for both dressage and jumping.
Horse Breed for Jumping #2: Thoroughbred
While not as consistent as other breeds on this list, the coldblooded Thoroughbreds can make excellent jumpers. They have the build for jumping, they have the agility required for jumping, and some of them have the temperament for jumping.
Many of the warmbloods famous for jumping today were crossed with the Thoroughbred for its athleticism. The highest horse jump on record was 8’3”, jumped in 1923 in Fort Sheridan by a Thoroughbred cross. In 1949, Thoroughbred Huaso jumped 8’1”. Thoroughbreds can certainly jump.
Most Thoroughbreds today are bred to race, and not all of them have the patience for the controlled sport of jumping. However, if you are able to find a Thoroughbred with an eager and trainable temperament, you might have a successful jumper. Another plus to jumping with a Thoroughbred is that you can usually find an off-the-track horse for a relatively inexpensive price, allowing you to save money on the front-end while starting from scratch with his training.
Want to know more about purchasing an off-the-track Thoroughbred? Visit my article Should I Get an Off-the-Track Thoroughbred? (Read Before Buying.)
Horse Breed for Jumping #3: Trakehner
The Trakehner is another warmblood from Germany, developed using both Thoroughbred and Arabian bloodlines. The Trakehner is an old breed, developed in the 1700s, and was originally bred as an ideal cavalry mount. The goal in creating the Trakehner was a horse that possessed both high speed and lasting endurance. This breeding program was a success, as Trakehners are still known as one of the greatest sports breeds, praised for their agility, stamina, and trainability.
Trakehners stand on average 15.1 to 16.2 hands high. They are generally calm and willing to learn. They are known for their elegant look, with large, expressive eyes, deep chest, and strong withers.
One of the most famous jumpers in history was a Trakehner named Abdullah. Abdullah excelled in both dressage and eventing before moving on to show jumping, where he really dominated. Abdullah won many international showjumping trophies, won medals for both team and individual events at the Olympics, and came in first at several international Grand Prix competitions.
Horse Breed for Jumping #4: Hanoverian
Hanoverians, another warmblood breed, were originally developed in the 1700s as a robust horse to be used to farm, pull carriages, and as a cavalry horse. After World War II, breeders introduced other lighter breeds into the program to bring athleticism and speed to the Hanoverian. Over time, the Hanoverian developed into a versatile sport horse, known for its agility, soundness, even temperament, and graceful gaits.
Because of the Hanoverian’s history in both farming and military operations, this breed will have a sturdier build with heavier bones than many other warmblood breeds. Hanoverians stand at an average of 15.3 to 17.2 hands high and are known for their muscular backs and graceful form.
Hanoverians excel at almost all equestrian sports and are considered the #1 breed for eventing by the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses. Hanoverians are one of the more common breeds seen in international jumping shows and the Olympics.
Horse Breed for Jumping #5: Irish Sport Horse
The Irish Sport Horse is a relatively new breed developed in the 1920s by crossing the Thoroughbred and the Irish Draft Horse. The Irish Sport Horse gets its brave, friendly, and pleasant personality from the Irish Draft and its agility and stamina from the Thoroughbred.
While the Irish Sport Horse excels at both dressage and jumping, the breed really shines through eventing. Eventing is a 3-day competition that includes dressage, cross-country riding, and show jumping. Due to the nature of the competition, horses that do well are ones who have both the stamina to endure a 3-day event, the courage to brave the cross-country portion, and the agility needed for show-jumping. The Irish Sport Horse’s courageous spirit, high stamina, and graceful movements make it an excellent eventer.
While the Irish Sport Horse can be an excellent horse for beginners, some of them have a higher percentage of Thoroughbred blood and can be highly spirited – these particular individuals are better suited for more advanced riders.
Interested in eventing? To get a complete rundown of the sport, visit my article What Is Eventing? Everything You Need to Know.
Horse Breed for Jumping #6: Dutch Warmblood
Dutch Warmbloods are almost universally considered the best breed for jumping. Dutch Warmbloods are a relatively new breed and were developed by combining the native Dutch breeds Gelderlander and Groningen with the Thoroughbred. The result was further perfected by introducing bloodlines from the Oldenburg and the Hanoverian. Dutch Warmbloods excel as sport horses and are commonly seen in all levels of competition – including 3-day eventing, show jumping, hunter/jumper, and dressage.
Dutch Warmbloods are naturally athletic, with their sloped shoulders, long necks, and short backs. Their conformation along with their endurance and speed allow them to dominate in show jumping, and their agreeable, warmblood personalities give them the trainability to learn.
Dutch Warmbloods usually stand over 16 hands high and are most commonly found with chestnut and bay coloring. This breed is well-muscled and has a large chest and girth, with powerful hindquarters.
Horse Breed for Jumping #7: Selle Francais
The Selle Francais is the sport horse of choice for many riders, and for understandable reasons. This horse is tall (usually 16 to 17 hands high), with a long neck, powerful hindquarters, deep chest, and sloping shoulders. Selle Francais have muscular legs and sound hooves, and they are most commonly found in a bay or chestnut coloring.
Selle Francais has the build, stamina, and speed for jumping but where they excel is in their personalities. Many people describe the personality of the Selle Francais as “dog-like” – they are eager to please and seem to genuinely enjoy being around people. They are quick to learn, obedient, and pleasant to work with. Because of this unique personality, Selle Francais can thrive as a family and lesson horses just as easily as they can in Olympic sports.
While Selle Francais are excellent eventers and dressage competitors, they truly shine in show jumping. They are athletic, elegant, and disciplined.
Horse Breed for Jumping #8: Oldenburg
The Oldenburg is another warmblood originating from Germany. The breed was developed in the 16th century as a strong carriage horse, with heavy Friesian bloodlines. In the 1960s, the German Oldenburg breeding association decided to attempt the development of a superior sport horse, adding the Thoroughbred, Trakehner, Arabian, Holsteiner, Westphalian, and others to the breeding program. The result of this extensive breeding program is the modern-day Oldenburg, a sport horse that excels at top-level show jumping.
Most Oldenburgs stand between 16 and 16.3 hands high, have well-muscled legs, a long neck, a well-defined back, and properly-angled shoulders. Beyond this, conformation can vary. Oldenburg allows studs of other horse breeds in its ongoing development, and the famous German Oldenburg slogan is “quality is the only standard that counts”.
Like many warmbloods, Oldenburgs are known for their easy-going temperament and eagerness to please. They are generally well-mannered and highly trainable. Some are calmer than others, so if considering an Oldenburg, talk with the breeder about disposition. If you are an experienced rider and are interested in competing, a higher-spirited Oldenburg with a higher amount of Thoroughbred blood might be the best fit for you.
When Choosing A Jumper, It Comes Down To The Individual
If you are looking for a top-level competitor, it is best to start with the above sports breeds. If you are a beginner and are looking for a horse that you can learn with, you can expand your search a bit. One of the greatest jumping horses of all time was a mixed-breed plow horse rescued at auction named Snowman! As stated earlier, any horse can be a jumping horse – provided it has the right personality, the right build, and is both sound and agile.
Do you want to compete in showjumping but don’t have much knowledge of the sport? To get an overview of the purpose, scoring, and technicality of showjumping, visit my article Showjumping for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know.