We’ve all seen the photos and videos showing a horse over jumping a small jump on Facebook. These posts are usually accompanied by a comment such as “future show jumper.” Now while I think it is fantastic to see that a horse has scope, I really don’t believe that scope = talent. In fact I find the use of the term scope incredibly misleading, especially when judging jumping ability.
What is scope?
To me, scope means how high a horse is capable of jumping. When a horse jumps over a fence they show scope. The bigger the fence and/or the higher they clear the fence demonstrates how much scope they have.
So what is talent?
In comparison, I consider talent for jumping to be how well the horse jumps the jump. Things I would look for when judging a horse’s jumping talent or ability would be; the shape they make over the jump and how economical they are over the fences. When you look at the best jumpers, they make a lovely round shape over the jump. And the fastest jumpers also only give the jump a little bit of space. This is because the higher you jump, the longer you stay in the air, so the slower your time around the course.
Is it bad for horses to over jump?
Regularly over jumping big fences (or even small fences) will put excess strain on the horse’s body and could mean they are more likely to develop a stress related injury. So yes, over jumping can be a bad thing.
Why do horses regularly over jump fences?
In most cases horses over jump due to inexperience and lack of confidence. It is often seen in young horses who haven’t been jumping long or horses who haven’t done much jumping. Some horses just get a bit over excited while jumping and especially over smaller jumps they will jump higher than they need to. However, over jumping can also be a sign of questionable training methods such as pole rapping and pinching boots.
It is important to remember that all horses will occasionally over jump. This is usually if the jump is a bit scary looking or if the horse arrives on the wrong stride. Many horses will put in a big jump in order to get over the fence safely, While not ideal, this is not the same issue was horses who regularly over jump.
Should you avoid buying horses who over jump?
Generally this isn’t something which would put me off buying a horse personally. If they are a young or green horse I would expect a bit of this. However, if they are an older horse and advertised as an experienced jumper, if they are over jumping every fence I would be interested into finding out why. But if they passed a vetting it isn’t something which would worry me too much.