Moving Up and Expectations - Checklist?

Hey everyone!

I’m an adult amateur and re-rider. I have been showing in the Low Adult Hunters (2’6) for about a year. My goal is to move up to the Adults (3ft) when the time is right. My question is - how do you know when the time is right? Some days, I feel like I’m ready and others I’m not so sure.

I’m in a full-time program with a trainer who won’t steer me wrong in this decision, but I’m looking to hear others’ experiences for when they knew they were ready. Is it when your current level feels mundane? Is it when you picture yourself at the new level in a show setting, there are no nerves or worry?

Again, this is something I can easily talk to my trainer about, but I’d just like to hear from fellow ammys when they knew the time was right. I’m in no hurry and have a very capable horse (steady eddy who has shown up to 1.40s). But I just want to know your opinions and experiences - mentally, how do you know it’s time and you’re ready to move up? What’s the checklist?

Thanks all!

Well you don’t go from 2 foot 6 to 3 foot in one go, and you don’t think of it in competition terms.

You start adding in a 2 foot 9 on good days in lessons. Also realize that the course becomes more complex or challenging as the level rises so continue to work on rideability.

A huge factor will be your own courage and balance. Some folks thrive and find the bigger jumps easier to ride. Some of us look at 3 foot and feel sick to our stomachs. You can only find out which one you are by giving it a try.

There’s no reason you can’t play with higher fences now if your coach thinks your balance is there and your horse is fit and skilled. But that’s a long way from showing 3 feet.


I think the simplest answer is that you’re ready to move up when you’re confidently schooling the height at home (or ideally just a touch higher). Since it sounds like you have a trainer you trust, you’ll probably find the jump heights increasing and the complexity of what you work on at home increasing, until you’re regularly schooling above the height you’re competing in. If you haven’t already, I would talk to your trainer about your goal so it can be on his/her radar as something to work towards.

I don’t think its worthwhile to think about it in terms of waiting until you have no worries or nerves about moving up - my guess is very few riders have 0 nerves the first time they move up a division. A rider being nervous does not mean a rider is not ready (although obviously in some instances it can).

I’ve moved up when I stopped feeling challenged by a division (but not winning). I’ve moved up when I was winning consistently. I’ve moved up when my horse was getting unimpressed with the height. I’ve moved up because I thought the next division would be more fun. There are a ton of reasons, but consistently before I moved up I was schooling at least the move-up height successfully and confidently at home.


Speaking from experience, it depends on a lot of factors. Mine were the following for moving up in height generally as I am not a big showing rider:

  • horse was capable and wanted to work and show/clinic at said target height (my leases were all older 2* eventers and 1.20m+ jumpers, so check)

  • i was consistently lessoning and doing clinics at said height and about 3" - 6" higher. I would find myself being comfortable on outs of lines, grids etc that were 3"+ higher. So when i was looking at moving up to .90s, 1.0 & 1.10 single fences would smatter my lessons without intense dread.

  • I was BORED at the other heights and was consistently nailing technical lessons and other events (cleaning up at local shows etc) at the lower height. (My measure was doing it without irons / bridge my reins and do position exercises at the height then I was ready to move up.)

I have never found under a good trainer that I have ever had to ask to move up in fence height or be challenged technically. Perhaps it is my perfectionist personality, but often it is the other way around where my trainer schedules me for a division in a clinic where I whine about how I think .90m is “too much for me and horsie and that I am not PERFECT at that height” and the clinician awards us praise afterwards with comments like “nicely ridden, why don’t you show.”


Move up one step at a time, and make sure to talk things through with your trainer.

At least for me (a weenie adult rider) 2’6" to 3’ was a huge difference. Not only in jump size, but in how the lines ride, etc. When I was riding and showing regularly, I decided I wanted to move up from the 2’6" when the 2’6" getting super comfortable and boring. Once it was easy peasy, moving up was mentally less concerning. But instead of jumping right to the Adults, I took a pit-stop in 2’9" land. We jumped it a lot at home before taking it to the show ring, and even did some 3’, so when we got to the shows, the 2’9" looked nice and comfortable like the Low Adults used to.

They’re not the easiest divisions to find, but I loved the 2’9" divisions. It was a great sweet spot to move up through, the jumps weren’t quite as built up and scary, but also it was a nice challenge. Big enough that my mare had something to pay attention to and eat up her stride, and also the divisions weren’t filled with horses worth more than my house. Eventually the 2’9" started to feel like the 2’6" did so I started jumping 3’ more consistently at home and then was ready to jump it at shows (never actually got to, but that’s a story for a different day).


This is perfect. OP, what are you schooling at home? Are you consistently successful showing at 2’6? (not necessarily winning, but getting around safe and sound, no crazy distances, etc?)


Good answers here! I am of the school of thought that you should be schooling one division higher at home.


I am someone who needs to be easily schooling the height above at home or a little bit more, feeling like it’s no sweat, excited for my lessons, leaving my lessons happy, just generally feeling confident and enjoying myself. If I can look at a 3’3 course at home, and think “ooh, fun,” then I know I can go to the show, look at the 3 ft and think “cool, that looks easy” and I’ll probably have a good day.

When I came back to riding in my 20s I spent a looooong time lessoning at 2’6 and not showing due to finances. Then I got a chance to lease a nice schoolmaster, started showing and moved up fast - I think I went from showing in the .80s to the .95s in a summer riding a few times a week? I was frustrated by how long I spent at the 2’6 at the time, but all that effort spent laying the foundation plus the genius horse I was on made moving up pretty seamless and fun.


Here’s a checklist, just for fun, if I was looking to move up myself or a kid to the 3’.

  • jumping 3’3”+ regularly at home, and feel comfortable (fill at shows makes the fences look bigger). Don’t jump your horse’s legs off but 3’6” oxers at home shouldn’t look intimidating
  • getting around the 2’6” at shows with consistent success. Not necessarily ribbons, but balanced and secure in the tack with good distances, striding, changes, etc.
  • preferably done the above at the 2’9”, called the modifieds here and very available in my area. It’s an open division but is usually the 3’ courses with the rails down a hole, versus the 2’6” which is different fill and often a different ring. I know the 2’9” is harder to find in some areas though!

Trust your trainer, ask them flat out - “I’d like to do the 3’ someday. What do we need to do to get me there? I’d love to chat about a long term plan when you’re available”. They know you, your strengths and weaknesses, your horse, and your schedule.


similar story - rode schoolies (nice critters) and some not so great lease matches (check ligament injury on a poor horse that was considered a bad stopper until I leased him and pursued intensive vet diagnostics & retired him from jumping) at 2’6 for agessss as a 20s re-rider. Like 3 years ages.

Leased an amazing brave upper level mare coming down the levels. Went from .75 to .90 from May - September only riding 3x a week.

Took another break a few years later and in my 10th lesson back was jumping 2’6. And now again after yet another break due to pandemic, moving, job changes, buying a house etc. I hope to be able to leverage that long standing 2’6 foundation to have fences not look terrifying after some time off & be able to move around heights more comfortably.

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Great advice here already for you. You know that your horse will have no problem with this. But, YOU have got to “want” it. You’ve got to really WANT it. You’ve got to want it so bad that you can taste it… success. You must not entertain negative thoughts, banish them. Concentrate on pace, line, balance, impulsion, and carriage. The jumps are easy. The take off spots come to you. You count your strides down the lines without worrying about the jumps. You allow your horse to do his job the way he can. Be “committed to success”.

The worst thing that riders do when trying a bigger course is to “pick” to the jumps. Because they are “concerned”, they pull on the reins and forget to use leg. This results in disaster and failure, and a further loss and lack of confidence. Downward spiral. Don’t get sucked into this. You have to “want” it badly enough that you can consciously avoid this.

Good luck, you’ll be fine.


Great advice. 2’9” without the wider oxers and two stride combinations in the pony ring is going to look and ride very differently than 2’9” in “the big ring”.


I agree with most of this, but you do not have to be doing 3’3" at home for the move-up to be successful. The others I agree should be thresholds. I successfully moved up to the 3’ adults without jumping bigger at home at all, but I checked all the other boxes on this list. We were at two weeks of shows, planning to move up the second week after using the Friday 2’9 blue/red trips for practice both weeks, but in week 1 I went in and put in two blue ribbon rounds and was completely comfortable, and when I came out of the ring my trainer said “ok you’re doing the adults this weekend!” And we were fine. The 2’9 will look sufficiently different from the 2’6, but it looks very similar to the 3’.


Agree with this! I know plenty of successful AA 3’ riders who rarely jump 3’3”+ at home. From my experience/observations, some 3’ horses do not necessarily have the scope to be 3’3”+ horses, hence the reason they are at 3’.

When I moved up from 3’ to 3’3” and then 3’6”, some things I was demonstrating included consistency in developing and maintaining an appropriate canter for course work, consistency in choosing appropriate/safe distances (not all the time, of course!! Still an amateur. ), and more of an ability to problem solve to “create better distances” (ex. changing track).

I think it is also horse dependent. My horse truly does not take jumping seriously until it is 3’6”+, so my move up from 3’ to 3’6” was perhaps faster, with emphasis on safety/consistency before moving up. We worked our butts off to get to the 3’6”, and continue to do so!


A lot of this resonates regarding the horse who doesn’t jump until its big! It also depends on your ring situation at home. I ride in the 3´6´´A/Os and we never jump that high at home. In our little indoor ring, a 3ft airy jump looks enormous and rides bigger too. I would be terrified to watch any of our children’s/adult riders jump a 3´3´´oxer in our indoor (or anyplace else), or even a 3ft one at home. Most of our child/adult horses are very experienced, so that also makes a huge difference as well, they can jump smaller at home and still be ready to brighten up, stretch, and jump bigger at the show.


I also do the 3’6” AOs and rarely jump that big at home.

I remember watching a clinic and hearing a BNT trainer say that they rarely jump the Big Eq horses higher than 3’3” at home to save the horses legs.


My experience comes from bringing greenies up (often with greenie riders, unfortunately), so there comes my assertion you need to be jumping higher at home. I would 100% agree if the horse knows it’s job or just doesn’t have the scope there may be no need to jump higher!

In my experience, the biggest voiced anxiety I hear coming out of the ammys is “why are the jumps so BIG?”. So, we usually solved this by not telling people what height the jumps were at home, and ensuring that when they got to the show the jumps would look manageable. It does help to have a big horse that eats the lines :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:.

It does also help if you show enough to be more chill in the ring. Most of us didn’t have the budget, and wanted to make the most out of the half dozen chances we got to go show. So, again, trust your trainer to be able to make a plan that works for you, your horse, and your budget! That is after all what we have them for :blush:


Phew, I’m glad a few of you said it because I’m a chicken over 2’9" at home and show in the jumpers a fair bit bigger than that. Show ring confidence comes from showing; you can jump 1.30m at home, but if you don’t horse show, you’ll lose your marbles at 1.10m. At home, we work on the elements that make a good round—pace, track, rhythm—regardless of fence height.

Now, I’ve been a giant wimp at home since I was a junior, so I get that my approach might now work for everyone, but the ability to jump big at home does not at all correlate to the ability to do so at horse shows.


If this was the goal marker then some people (me) would never go to any show at all.


This is a great point, not to mention some horses go better at shows. Where it might be more intimidating to jump a lazy, unimpressed horse around a 3ft course of plain poles at home, that same horse may get to the show and put on the cruise control in a more exciting environment.

I personally, for my confidence and my green horse’s confidence, want to be schooling higher at home than at the show. But I have that slightly lazy unimpressed horse who is just easier to jump at a show where he perks up, and we had success with our biggest courses being those we’ve done in a show environment.

Its so dependent on the specific horse/rider pair and their individual experiences, and also probably the show where they’re moving up. I personally wouldn’t want to move up to the 3ft at Upperville having only schooled 2’9’’ at home, but wouldn’t bat an eye doing the same at a local rated show where the jumps are going to be set softer and less imposing.