How can tell if your horse can move up to bigger jumps?

I have a Hanoverian x paint, he is 10 years old. I have had him for 3 years. He’s well schooled, and loves to jump. We do jumpers, and so far we haven’t shown higher than 2’9, but we were schooling up to 3’3 at home before he got hurt. We are now slowly coming back into work. My question is, is there a way to tell if he will be able to move up to the meters (1.10+)? He feels athletic enough, but he is very long backed and has a hard time stepping under himself and I worry he won’t be able to move up as I had hoped, although he loves jumping, especially bigger stuff.

Sounds like you know the answer already. Listen to your gut, probably not the best choice for him to go much over 3’ if he has trouble stepping up under himself and will soon turn 11.

Its not just fence height, schooling at home is not the same as a full course of show jumps. They are wider for one thing, the track is more complicated posing distance questions and the time allowed means you can’t poke along. Things that don’t exsist schooling at home.

I think a horse’s limit has more to do with the rider than the horse itself. And by that, I mean that as you near the upper range of a horse’s scope, an accurate rider can get a horse to do a lot more than an inaccurate rider. I have a mare that took me through the 1.40m jumpers who, by all rights, should probably have maxed out at 1.10m. She couldn’t have bailed me out at 1.20m on up because she just didn’t have the scope. With an uneducated (or inaccurate) rider I would have pegged her as a 1.0m horse because that’s the limit at which she could have missed pretty much any way possible and still gotten around the course without undue stress.

I think that most horses can make it around a 1.10m course. Many of my upper level horses have had long backs and have to work harder than a normal horse to get their hind ends underneath themselves. The fact that you say that about him doesn’t register any particular concern in my mind.

But as for recognizing when a horse has hit their upper limit? I guess I’d have to say that I’m not sure I could define it, but it’s pretty easy to recognize when it happens. The horse starts struggling with the jumps and pulling rails, or the horse starts stopping. And like I said above, accuracy comes into play and poor rides start having a bigger impact on the result (e.g. a chip at 2’6" may not be a big deal, but a chip at 3’6" might result in a stop or a crash).

With all of that being said, there’s absolutely no way to make a call from behind a keyboard. There’s a vast range of jumping skill from an equine perspective, and without seeing your horse it’s tough to peg where he is on that range. And beyond that, your skill and ability as a rider would impact my thoughts about your horse’s scopiness possibly even more than watching the horse go. This is one of those cases where your trainer probably has a better understanding of his limits than anyone else.

Also, I’ll mention that the horse’s work ethic and willingness also comes heavily into play. With the mare I mentioned above (who’s the one in my profile pic) she seemed maxed out at every height we jumped. Moving her up each time was terrifying to me because she felt like she was at her limit at 1.10m and then 1.20m and then 1.30m and then at 1.40m there was no question (she couldn’t make it through the combinations easily). But her work ethic was second to none and I swear the mare liked to go for the win as much as I did. Along the way, many educated folks (including some very BNTs we did clinics with) told me they didn’t think she would make it to or past 1.10m (one particularly big name person said that without asking what we were showing in - and that was 3 years into winning almost every time she walked into a 1.30m class). My point is that sometimes no one (other than the horse) can tell you what you have even if they watch you in person.

PNWjumper is right on the money. My trainer can easily jump my mare around a 3 foot course and with her on board you can tell my mare could go much higher… Stick me in the saddle and it’s a different story.

When I was younger I leased an 11 year old horse that hadn’t been ridden in 3 years and never fully trained. She spent her life on the back burner until I got her. She was a huge, 17.1 hand, athletic Hanoverian mare. I spent the first year getting her in shape and jumping her pretty regularly around 3’ - 3’3 courses… I was a much better rider back then… Then with the help of my trainer, we would school up to 4’ at home. We never took her higher than that, but I imagine it was mostly because none of the shows I could afford had classes higher than 3’6 so we were only jumping that big mostly for fun because I would never be able to show higher on the circuits my parents would pay for me to show on.

My point being, sometimes an older horse can do it, but like PNW said there are so many more factors out there.

What PNW says, 100%.

If you don’t feel you have the experience to feel if your horse is scoped out at a particular height, is there a more advanced rider (your trainer?) who can do this? I had a Children’s Hunter that could physically jump 3’6", and was wiling to do it, but he started struggling at that height and lost his nice, round hunter jump. My trainers both spent a bit of time jumping him around bigger courses to see if it was a training or a scope thing, and it turned out to be scope. He was lovely at 3’, but past 3’3" he began to feel unhappy.

It really does have so much to do with the rider, too, in those cases where scope isn’t a thing. My young horse has the scope and general athletic ability to do GP (I’m not lying, barn blind, or exaggerating- he’s incredible), but the truth is that whether or not we ever get to that level is going to be almost entirely up to me. Um, which probably means we won’t get there without a ton of help, or at all. I have zero doubt that if he was with a good pro he’d be on that trajectory, but he is stuck with his little old ammy rider and that means he is limited.