Gymnastic Jumping Exercises for Horses

Updated May 22, 2023

If you have been out of the saddle for a while, you might be nervous as show season approaches. It can be overwhelming to determine where to begin. Simple gymnastic grid exercises can help both you and your horse get back into show-shape. Here are some gymnastic jumping exercises for horses to help build muscle and improve rhythm.

Warm-Up Circle Exercise

To warm up, start with ground poles set up on a circle. You can increase the height by using a set of jump blocks. Start with two to three circles over the step rail in each direction. Focus on bending, getting your horse listening to you and in a jumping mindset.

Gymnastic Exercise on the Rail

An excellent jumping exercise for horses is a bounce on one long side of the arena and a simple low vertical on the other long side. Use jump blocks to set up the bounce by making two cross rail jumps to help encourage straightness. 

bounce jump exercise for horses

The distance between the bounces could be 9-12 feet, depending on the horse's stride length and canter speed. A 9-foot distance will encourage your horse not to rush and to properly rock back and use his hindquarters. 

vertical jump with ground poles

Set up a simple vertical jump on the other long side of the ring. Place a pole on both sides of the vertical, about 9-10 feet out. Again, this distance can vary between horses and the vertical height. The placing pole helps the horse remain steady on the fence, and the one on the landing side helps to encourage the horse to get his feet down quickly and not charge off. A good habit to get into is to stop in a straight line after the vertical.

Across the Diagonal

Another great exercise is setting up a fan at one end of the ring. Use three poles and put them on a curve. Place the poles nine feet apart in the middle so the inside ends of the poles are closer together, and the other ends are farther away. Then use a jump block to raise only the outside of the middle pole, lifting it at an angle. These three poles, creating a curved bounce, are great to warm up over! 

curved ground pole bounce on a circle

Next, set up a vertical across the diagonal, using two additional poles to make it a cross rail. This jumping exercise keeps the horse straight and in the middle of the jump. For variety, add a simple bounce nine feet apart (or 12 feet for longer-stride horses) at the other end of the ring and ride the pattern in an “S” shape.

x rail vertical fan jump for horses on the diagonal

Gymnastic Exercise Down the Centerline

Last but not least, set up gymnastics down the center of the ring. Distances for this are based on the horse trotting into the exercise. Start with a 9-foot bounce using jump blocks. Then walk one stride (18 feet from pole to pole) and build a cross rail or vertical. Then walk another stride between 18-21 feet (dependent on the horse’s step and jump size) to an oxer. 

gymnastic jumping exercise for horses set up on the long side of an arena

Jump through the bounce to the vertical a few times, and then add the oxer after your horse is tuned up and comfortable with going through the gymnastic. You can also put a landing rail about 10 feet out after the oxer to help your horse think about the landing and listen to you. The distance for this landing rail will vary depending on the size and width of the oxer. It’s also a great idea to stop in a straight line after the gymnastic!

Now you have four great training techniques to get ready for show season. Remember to have fun and stay safe.

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.