Horse Jumping 101: Best Tips For Beginners

Learning How to Jump a Horse

There’s nothing that gets an equestrian’s adrenaline pumping quite like jumping. But contrary to what you may believe when watching a show jumper nimbly navigate a course, the skill does not come naturally to most riders. Instead, it is something that must be learned in stages in order to stay safe. 

What are some beginner tips for horse jumping? There are a few important considerations when taking up the sport of jumping. Some of my best tips for beginners are as follows:

  • Find an experienced instructor
  • Start with an experienced horse
  • Master your flatwork
  • Practice your circles
  • Practice your seat transitions
  • Start small
  • Utilize cross rails
  • Start jumping at the trot

Taking the time to educate yourself can help you feel more prepared when it comes time to ride your first jump! Keep reading to learn how to put these tips into practice!

Beginner Tip for Horse Jumping: Find an Experienced Instructor

You won’t get very far riding horses without an experienced instructor. An instructor who is well-versed in jumping will help you work on your seat, rhythm, and everything else that may not come naturally but is important for jumping safely. Part of the job of a riding instructor is to help a rider build upon skills progressively to advance smoothly from flatwork to jumping.

A great instructor is immensely valuable, but that value can only be gained if the instructor’s directions are followed. I’ve seen students dismiss their teacher’s instructions because they wanted to advance more quickly. This just ends up delaying progress. 

Beginner Tip for Horse Jumping: Start With an Experienced Horse

A beginner jumper on an inexperienced or exuberant horse is a recipe for disaster. I watched my good friend, a beginner-intermediate jumper, practice jumping on a push-button but excitable Paint. As her horse cleared the cross-rails, she pulled him to the left, but in his excitement, he whipped to the right instead, throwing her off. It was clear that he didn’t intend to ignore her cues, but he was an excitable lesson horse who was finally allowed to stretch his legs and momentarily forgot to listen to his rider. A beginner should learn to jump on an experienced and preferably more mature horse.

Beginner Tip for Horse Jumping: Master Your Flatwork

You master the walk before you learn to trot, and you master the trot before you learn to canter. You need to have all three mastered before you begin learning to jump. If you are uncomfortable cantering circles and collecting your horse, you are not ready to jump. It may seem like all you do is flatwork, but every hour practicing the basics is a step closer to attaining the skills necessary to progress your riding.

Beginner Tip for Horse Jumping: Practice Your Circles

To be comfortable with your flatwork, you must change directions and practice circles frequently. Trotting and cantering in a straight line is easier, but circles and figure-eights will improve your seat, rhythm, and communication with your horse. All of these skills are imperative when learning to jump. 

Beginner Tip for Horse Jumping: Practice Your Seat Transitions

Before you attempt your first jump, you must become comfortable with your two-point seat (also known as the half seat). When riding a horse in a normal position, you have three points of contact: your legs, seat, and reins. In the two-point, you have two points of contact: your legs and your reins. You stand slightly up in your stirrups and use your core to bend at your waist and keep your balance over the horse. Learning to absorb the horse’s movement without falling back in the saddle can be quite difficult.

This may feel frustratingly unnatural at first, especially if you’ve been riding for several years. But, with practice, you will continue to improve in form and confidence. 

The more you practice transitioning between two-point and full-seat, the more quickly these movements will become cemented into your muscle memory. When you learn to jump, the fewer things you must actively think about, the better.

Beginner Tip for Horse Jumping: Start Small

Are you ready to take your first jump? Before assembling that jump course, you must set aside a single pole. This is where you’ll start – with a ground pole. A simple ground pole helps you and your horse with rhythm and communication. It is also a good opportunity to practice timing and implement your two-point.

Once comfortable navigating the ground pole, you can move on to a cavaletti. A cavaletti is a “small jump” – a pole or beam suspended approximately six inches from the ground. This is most often accomplished using a wooden “x” at each end of the pole. A horse can easily walk and trot over a cavaletti, so this is a logical progression from the ground pole in practicing your new skills.

Beginner Tip for Horse Jumping: Utilize Cross Rails

It can be helpful to progress to cross-rails when you’re ready for your first “real” jumps. These consist of two poles that, when assembled, form the shape of an “x.” This creates a dip in the center of the jump which can act as a guide for both the rider and the horse as they are learning how to navigate over an obstacle.

Beginner Tip for Horse Jumping: Start at the Trot

Jumping from the canter can be intimidating for those just starting out. It’s not a bad idea to first learn to jump from the trot. Trotting allows the horse and the rider to spend more time preparing for the jump. It also allows most beginner jumpers more control when steering their horses. Not all horses love to jump, and some will try to evade the obstacle at the last minute – especially when they sense that they can get away with the maneuver with a less confident rider. 

The downside of jumping from the trot is that it can be more challenging to time the jump; it’s easier to feel the rhythm when approaching the jump from the canter. But once you feel confident jumping from the trot, you will feel much more prepared to jump from a faster gait. 

How Safe is Horse Jumping?

While I want to tell you that horseback riding is a safe sport, the truth is that it is an activity that comes with great risks. While that is referring to horseback riding in general, show jumping is largely considered to be the most dangerous of equestrian disciplines.

That said, only a small minority of the significantly injured show jumpers had been wearing a helmet at the time. In fact, the risk of head and neck injuries – which are arguably the most severe traumas one can experience when falling from a horse – can be reduced fivefold by wearing a helmet.

The inherent risk of horse jumping is the #1 reason a rider should work closely with an experienced instructor and spend time mastering every skill, from the basics, before progressing in the discipline. Helmets aren’t the only tools that will reduce risk in the saddle – the experience that comes with hours and hours spent layering skills will also increase the chances of a safe time jumping. 

How Fun is Horse Jumping?

While “fun” is obviously subjective, I would argue that horse jumping is very fun. I’m not alone in that assessment – I believe the reason that there are so many riders who progress too quickly in their jumping journey is due to the simple eagerness of the student. I have a friend who is an experienced instructor at a local stable. She’s had more than a few parents meet with her after or during lessons to ask why she isn’t having their children jump.

The kids want to jump – why aren’t they jumping? My friend regularly has to explain that until she sees the basics mastered, the child will not progress into jumping. This is a solid technique for most sports, even if it means a rider’s expectations must be readjusted while new skills are developed. Those basics can take a year or more to master. While that may seem like a long time, I honestly cannot recall a single “wasted” hour that I spent in the saddle, working through the basics or not.

Want to learn the best horse breeds for jumping? Visit my article 8 Top Horse Breeds For Jumping (Picked By an Equestrian.)

Having Trouble With Your Training?

Learn how to gain and maintain your horse’s respect in my latest course!

Carmella Abel, Pro Horse Trainer

Hi! I’m Carmella

My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

Thank you for reading, and happy trails!

Legal Information

This site is owned and operated by Wild Wire Media LLC. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.