Most horses are capable of jumping in some capacity, as long as they are well trained and have a good attitude. From the smallest miniature horses to the largest drafts, horses are biologically built to handle small obstacles out in the wild (like fallen trees or ditches).
However, if you’re looking for an enthusiastic equine partner to take you to new heights in the jumping competition arena, there are several breeds best suited for the sport.
Not all jumping events are created equal.
Before we get into the list, it’s important to note that there are several different types of jumping events for which your horse might be best suited. Also, a horse’s breed isn’t the only factor – your horse must have the proper conformation to carry him over jumps, an enthusiasm to approach jumping with a good attitude, and he must be a good match for you as well (in size, skill, and talent).
|Show jumping||A horse’s performance is scored based on how many obstacles he clears during a round and how quickly he makes it around the course.|
|Hunters||Based on the old English sport of foxhunting, hunter classes judge the horse’s style and form over fences. In the case of equitation, the rider’s form is judged as well.|
|Cross-country||Cross-country courses are set in fields or wooded areas. At top levels, cross-country is part of 3-day-eventing (the 3 events are dressage, show jumping, and cross-country). The obstacles are designed to look natural, and may include logs, brush, water, embankments, or anything else the course designers may dream up!|
Other events that feature equestrian jumpers include team chasing or steeplechase racing (racing over obstacles), agility and free-jumping (riderless jumping), and puissance (high-jump). A good trail horse should also be able to negotiate the occasional fallen log!
Here are 11 of the best horse breeds for jumping.
The Selle Francais or “French riding horse” is a naturally athletic warmblood sport horse with a talent for jumping. With long sloping shoulders, powerful hindquarter, and strong legs – these horses were built for the showjumping ring.
In 2002, the entire French show jumping team rode Selle Francais horses in the World Equestrian Games and collectively took home the gold medal for Team Jumping.
They also do well as hunters due to their attractive good looks. Combined with their boldness, speed, and excellent endurance, the Selle Francais horse also ranks highly in 3-day eventing.
Dutch Warmbloods are talented jumping horses that excel in both jumping and dressage. This makes them wonderful 3-day eventers as well. This breed is attractive, well-built, and generally agreeable.
They are currently ranked #1 in jumping by the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses. A Dutch Warmblood named Allstar B took home the gold medal for both individual and team eventing in 2018. Dutch warmbloods are known for their versatility and good manners, which makes them suitable pleasure mounts and low-level competitors as well.
The breeding requirements for Oldenburgs are based on the horse’s quality and performance abilities, rather than bloodlines. They are selectively bred to be top-level jumping horses, consistently excelling in show jumping and eventing.
They are generally built uphill (like most excellent jumpers), with long necks and strong legs. They sometimes come in flashy colors, so if you want a pinto jumping horse, consider an Oldenberg!
These hardy horses are one of the only true warmblood breeds. They are lightly built horses, with an infusion of Thoroughbred and Arabian bloodlines that give them speed and stamina.
Because of these qualities, Trakheners make excellent eventers. They consistently outperform other breeds in eventing, but they also perform well in the show jumping arena as well.
Bred primarily for show jumping, Holsteiner horses are athletic, strong, and usually exhibit excellent natural jumping technique. This natural jumping ability also means that Holsteiners excel in the show hunter ring, where proper form is imperative for success.
While they are not the most popular breed of sport horse, their numbers are significant in the jumping world. The Holsteiner horses that are being bred today are highly specialized jumpers that carry their riders to the highest levels of competition.
Hanoverians are excellent jumping horses, and they are often the most decorated breed in the Olympics and other top-level competitions.
While they have the power and athleticism for show jumping, they also possess grace and elegance that helps them succeed in the show hunter ring as well. This also makes them excellent dressage horses, and they currently hold the #1 spot for eventing in the WBFSH rankings.
Irish Sport Horse
Irish sport horses were originally used as foxhunting horses. Breeders began crossing their strong Irish draught horses with thoroughbreds and created a light, versatile riding horse.
Once jumping events became mainstream, the Irish Sport Horse quickly rose through the ranks as a top jumping horse.
Many Irish Sport Horses compete in top-level events, and many have brought home Olympic medals in both jumping and eventing.
Thoroughbreds are well known for their athletic abilities. Fast and lean, these horses are bred to race around a track at high speeds. Long-legged and well-bred, Thoroughbreds can also excel as jumpers as well, especially in lower levels.
It’s also relatively easy to find a Thoroughbred or Thoroughbred cross, which means that there is a greater chance of finding a suitable mount for the amateur level.
They can be spirited or “too hot” around a jump course, which can be a positive or negative trait depending on the handler. Still, with proper training and a good attitude, Thoroughbreds make excellent eventers and overall jumpers.
Many Quarter horses are overly muscular and built downhill, more suited for working cows than jumping fences. However, this breed is popular and they are plentiful.
Boasting one of the largest breed registries, you can find a quarter horse nearly anywhere. If you’re looking for a pleasure mount that can easily take you around a lower level jump course, consider a Quarter horse or Quarter horse cross (such as an Appendix Horse or Quarab).
These horses are athletic, strong, and agile. If you can find a quarter horse with the proper conformation and spirit, he may make a suitable jumping companion.
They can also make great eventers, due to their stamina and easy-going personalities. Some have even made it to the Kentucky Three Day Event, one of the highest level competition for eventing.
While known for their skills on the endurance course, Arabians can make great show jumpers and cross-country competitors. In particular, Shagya Arabians and Anglo Arabs are well suited for jumping, with their long legs and excellent stamina.
They also excel in the lower levels, due to their easy-going dispositions and willingness to please their riders. If you’re looking for a good all-around pleasure mount that enjoys jumping, consider an Arabian!
You might not know it, but mules can be excellent jumpers too! Many mule shows feature jumping competitions, which highlight the skills of these special equines.
Mules are smart, strong, and trainable – if a mule enjoys jumping, he can make an excellent pleasure jumper or lesson mount!
Pedigree Doesn’t Always Matter
Remember, good breeding isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to jumping. “Snowman”, a mixed breed stock horse bound for the slaughter truck became a champion show jumping horse in the 1950s.
If you’re looking for a jumper of your own, consider your goals, abilities, and needs in an equine partner. For most amateur jumpers, any horse with good conformation and a willingness to jump will take you far!