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Time it takes to jump over 4ft

Quick question I’ve never really been able to get an answer to.

How long does it take to be able to jump over 1.25m or around 4 feet? I’d love to one day compete in a higher level circuit but I don’t get jump the heights required to do so. I like having timelines for things but this is totally out of my ballpark since I’m still relatively new to the sport.

If someone is maybe able to give me some insight into this that’d be amazing!

It takes as long as it takes. There is no timeline. Are you talented, young and athletic with a couple of talented athletic horse who will put up with your beginner mistakes? The opportunity to ride multiple horses every day? A skilled trainer? Then most likely your timeline will be significantly shorter than an out of shape middle aged lady who takes lessons once a week.


There’s really no cut and dry answer. It will take you as long as it takes you and the horse(s) you ride to learn and master all of the pre-requisite skills necessary to be successful in jumping a course of that height. Not every horse has the athletic capability for that level either, so one would also have to acquire a horse capable of the height before beginning to try their hand at it.


It depends on how long it takes the horse to be able to repeatedly jump full courses at 4’, that’s a height where they can’t all do it, it’s not just the height, it’s the width and the step and a rider who can ride the big wide jumps and handle the big fast step and adjust to a smaller, slower step on an excited horse late in the course.

Or it could depend on your budget, you’ll advance faster if you are learning on a horse that can already do each level leasing your way up as opposed to bringing a single horse up the levels always hoping you don’t run out of scope before you get to the next level.

And it depends on your nerve, one thing to dream of that big triple combo, another if you come off the corner looking up at it seeing nothing and wishing you were back in the 1m.

You don’t say where you are now but you are probably looking at several years and at least 2 horses if you only recently started riding. Dreams are great but focus on where you are now and the next step up, like climbing a ladder, you can’t miss rungs on your way up or you won’t make to the top and might get hurt.


How long have you been riding? How often do you ride? How often do you lesson? How often do you jump? Do you own or lease your own horse(s)? Are the horse(s) you are riding capable of jumping 3’? 3’6”? 4’? If not, how long until you expect to gain access to those type of horses?

ETA: How old are you? How athletic are you in general? Are you happy with the progress you’ve made in your lessons so far? What kind of barn/program are you riding with?


What everyone said above…plus you can have all the talent in the world but if you cannot afford a 4ft jumper or hunter,no matter how well you ride, that’s also a huge obstacle that’s sadly hard to overcome in this sport! Yes, you can hopefully train your own, but not all can go that big as do it well…plus, honestly, the well bred youngsters that show promise to jump these bigger fences also command bigger prices!

i lucked out and jumped my “diamond horse” when I was in my 30s, to a 1.15m, I didn’t have the skill to take her to 4ft as that was the top of her scope…I’ll never get there again, i simply can’t afford it and now really have no interest in bigger LOL. Many people never get to those heights, simply due to finances…it’s just the nature of the sport!

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At minimum with little to no riding experience, even with riding in lessons multiple times per week, it will take years and the finances and/or skill to catch ride a capable horse and the finances and/or skill to find a capable trainer and the finances and/or skill to score an owner/sponsor(s) to pay for shows. It will take hard work and dedication, but it’s worth it no matter if you stick to lower than rated shows even go to or have that 3’ Amateur rated show dream or higher. Hell, I’ve been saying I’d like to tackle a 3’ round at a rated show since I was 15 and that was decades ago. The older I get instead of focusing on jumping higher I like to focus on jumping better… because goodness knows I need to keep practicing :wink:


In my experience, plan on 30+ years of becoming a solid rider with the eye to see a horse with potential and who can train their own horse; then figure it takes 4 years to take a horse from never jumping to 4’. Keeps the costs down (you only need a few hundred for the horse).

So, starting the day you are born, 34 years minimum.


Realize there is a huge cutoff point at around 3 feet.

Most juniors and amateurs compete quite happily at the two foot nine and 3 foot mark. I’m watching FB posts from a local barn that has gone 1000 miles down to Thermal California for the winter circuit at great expense and is posting videos of clients competing at 2 foot 9.

Our rated shows here at home tend to top out at 3 feet but might have a few 3 foot 3 classes that don’t fill much.

Once you get well over 3 feet you are in a different league, at least around here. You go to different shows and you ride different horses. Most horses can do up to 3 feet. But a full 4 foot course takes a lot more ability in the horse. And you probably move to a different training program.

It’s true that some gifted young multi athletes, especially fearless young men, can sometimes move up to big jumps faster than the norm. Especially if they are already really good at things like skiing.

But for most people it is going to take years, and indeed most people don’t compete at 4 feet.

If you want this you are going to need to ride every day, preferably multiple horses. You are going to need to do targeted fitness off the horse. You are going to need a great seat no stirrups no reins. You are going to need to develop a real feel for the distance and stride. Obviously you can and must develop all this at the lower levels. You also need to ride a competent course

When you are competing and placing well enough at the 3 foot level is when you might want to consider if you want to move up to the next level.

Obviously in order to do that you need to own or lease a scopey horse and they are not cheap.

Realize that few lesson horses are allowed to jump above 2 feet or 2 feet 6 to save wear and tear. So even if you want to compete at the 3 foot level you will need your own horse


Most of us will never progress to routinely jumping 4 ft. Most of us will never have the time, aptitude, and money to gain sufficient experience and skill or to own the horse capable of routinely jumping 4 ft.


The simple answer is that it depends. It varies for every person and every horse. As has been said above, plenty of horses/riders don’t get to that level for one reason or another.

It also depends on location, to some extent. You mentioned wanting to compete, which is why I bring this up. Being competitive in a class of 110 (like at WEF) low junior/amateurs is a different ballgame than being competitive in some of the regions that only have 3-4 horses in those classes.

Finances are a big limiting factor too. Ideally, you learn to jump bigger fences on a horse who is coming down the levels and has scope to do much more than what you’re asking, but that takes both access and money that many people don’t have. Learning to jump courses that big on a horse who is also learning to jump that big is a risky endeavor unless being guided by an experienced trainer who has not only done that level but has trained many other horses and riders to do it. It’s do-able that way, don’t get me wrong (that’s the only reason I ever got to jump big jumps, lucked into a freakishly talented mare with more heart than she knew what to do with).

Sorry OP, I don’t think you’ll be able to get a short, straightforward answer because there really isn’t one!


As others have said, it depends on a lot of factors. When I was a teen, I lucked into a ride on a horse that had competed successfully as a junior jumper. Jumping him 3’9" or 4" didn’t feel like a big deal. He wasn’t mine, but I enjoyed him for a summer. Since then, my horses haven’t had that much scope – and I got a lot less convinced that I needed to jump that high. I do remember trying a sales horse once that reminded me of that jumper. So scopey and so easy over the fences. Unfortunately, out of my budget. Not by much, but enough that I didn’t get him.


Do you want to simply jump 4’? Or do you want to jump 4’ WELL? Do you just want to jump a single 4’ jump? Or are you talking about competing at the 4’ level at a higher level horse show? Because there are riders out there jumping 4’, at horse shows, and that doesn’t mean that they are doing it WELL, or successfully. If you have a horse who can cover for a lack of rider skill, you can jump 4’ as long as you can stay on his back. But maybe not for very long if you have not mastered some of the basics. How long that takes is variable.

The first necessity is to have a horse who is capable of jumping 4’. Not all can. Either you run out and buy one who is already proving his ability to do this with another rider, or you make your own from scratch. Then there is the matter of acquiring enough skill to actually help him rather than hinder him over bigger jumps. That depends on many things, innate talent on your part, skillful coaching, money, and the ability to keep your horse happy and sound in the process.

Good luck! It’s great to have a goal, and the burning desire to do this is necessary as a starting point.


Couple different ways to look at this…

First time I jumped a 4’ fence I was 12. And I wouldn’t say it was the most stylish thing I ever did. It was a part of a clinic with Bruce Davidson and the fence was the last in the line and I was on my $800 large pony found in the newspaper.

The next time I jumped 4’ (semi well) was the following year when I was 13 riding again in the Bruce Davidson clinic on my new to me 10 yr old Tb mare. She had a background as a show jumper when I bought her and it was very easy for her.

The next time I was doing 4’ somewhat often was in 2003-4 (So I was 32-33 yrs old) when I was showing @Renn/aissance’s horse (now) “Tipperary” in the amateur jumpers for his owner and trainer. We didn’t compete at that height but we schooled it at home here and there in prep for shows. We competed up to 3’9" (Level 4).

The next time was in 2014 (age 43) when I took my ottb that I retrained to a mini prix at 4’ and we were trying to aim for the 5 yr old class at Devon that year too. Sadly he got the world’s worst timed splint so we missed Devon but we did plenty of shows at 1.20m. Oh and he too was $800 to purchase and had been retrained for 2 years at this point and was very capable over the height. I want to point out he was 15.3 and pretty plain looking but very talented.

NOW…(At age 46-48) I have Cudo (my imported cheap Hanoverian) and I have been doing 4’ for 2 years of shows, this will be year 3.

Bottom line… “It depends” IS the best answer but you can find inexpensive horses that can jump the height, you can be someone other than McLain, Beezie, Margie etc and still do it. And I would suggest that the USA riders need to start thinking above 4’ and stop believing that the world stops at 3’6". It doesn’t. MANY other countries average riders compete above 4’. On lesser horses, with far fewer amenities and training assistance and they survive just fine. I have watched 100’s of classes from all over the world thanks to my “Clip My Horse” subscription and it’s been really a positive experience to see that people can and do go jump around 4’ with no more brilliance and competence than a 3’ class would produce at a local show. The difference is they believe they can, and we think it’s some huge thing. It’s not.



As support for the above, I

”‹have a book of early mid 20th century British pony stories for tweens. There is a story by Joanna Canaan “They Bought Her a Pony.” Reread it recently and it is absolutely 100% accurate on all its horsekeeping details.

But the thing that struck me as an adult was that the plucky heroine wins a county fair jump off on her backyard large pony by going a clear round at 4 feet. In the otherwise absolutely accurate context of thus story I have to assume that a kid jumping 4 feet was admirable and aspirational but not completely insane fantasy in that day and place.

Of course the kids in the story ride everyday and are known to be good little riders in the community. With the prize money from the jump off they plan to buy New Zealand blankets so they can clip the ponies in winter and follow the local hunt. They are also pretty much self taught.

Lesson programs have good aspects if you learn correct form more quickly. They have however limiting aspects in that you don’t get time to just build balance and tact through hours in the saddle.

Also there are a lot of excellent beginner lessons programs run by trainers who themselves never completed above 3 feet. You are never going higher than your coach!

And cynically perhaps one has to wonder from the coach’s perspective how necessary going big starts to look? You can take your crew to rated shows, even away shows with all the pomp and cost, you can get commissions on $60,000 horses, you can charge astronomical rates for day fees and grooming and braiding, you can have a complete livelihood based on lessons and showing and no one rides higher than 2 foot 9. Matching tack trunks, $8000 CWD saddles, etc etc. You can make everyone happy and happy to spend money with much less risk and learning curve and stress on the horse than if you aimed everyone at 4 feet. As a business model, keeping tweens happy competing at the low low levels makes sense.

I recall hearing about a late teens beginner coach whose proud boast was that she had been Cross Poles Champion at a local show.



It takes as long as it takes and is largely dependent on the quality of your trainer’s program and your access to suitable horses.

That is starting to get into some “people really need to be qualified” territory. And even some people who technically could be qualified dont necessarily have the program for that. If someone has all modified and Adult Amateur hunter clients and some pony kids, it’s unlikely 4’ + is going to be a big factor in their daily existence.

Scribbler, that wasn’t just happening (routinely) in mid 20th century Britain. In the mid-60s, when I was 12, I learned to jump at a horsey summer camp (crossrails). Brought a pony home from camp with me and we boarded it at the stable around the corner from our house (naively having no idea that it was one of the top show barns in the country.) Trainer asked if I could jump and when I said yes, he put the fences at 2’6" which was considered the height for beginners in those days. I did okay so the next day the jumps were 3’ (standard for my large pony). That winter I was foxhunting over 4’ fences.

Nobody moved up in tiny increments in those days. Only ponies and total beginners jumped anything below 3’6". The rest of us just got on with it.


I wasn’t around jumpers in my childhood but I can certainly say that free range kids rode further faster and longer and had really sticky seats.

I made up my mind my 14.2 horse “couldn’t jump” because when I did aim her at “proper jumps” she would refuse anything higher than her chest. Of course I had no idea what I was doing or how to see a distance :slight_smile: but she flew over discarded Christmas trees in the green belt just fine.

But come to think of it, chest height even on a 14.2 horse is actually pretty high. So I must have absorbed the idea that 3 feet was entry level jumping.

I honestly can’t remember what the jumps at the schooling shows were like because we didn’t enter those classes. I am pretty sure there was no Cross Rails Championship in those days.


Exactly! Well said Em.

We are not special snowflakes that only ride special horses that cannot jump above 2’6”. Many riders in Europe jump at heights far above what the average lowly amateur in North America would consider attainable. We can do it. It might take a bit more practice and work with your horse (and it may be too much for some horses) but it can be done. Believe.



One day I was schooling a horse and its owner/BO’s SO wandered over to watch. Then he said, “Let’s see how high Maggie can jump.” Umm, OK. Cantered over 2’6". Cantered over 3’6". Cantered over 4’. BO SO put the rail on top of the 5’ standards. I cantered over. In a dressage saddle. Sometimes it just happens.

BTW, Maggie was a roan Clydesdale/Saddlebred cross, and every bit as ugly as you’d imagine.