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What changes for the rider going from 2'9" to 3' jumps?

I’m just wondering if there is some change in SKILLS from jumping a 2’9" jump to jumping a 3’ jump? My last horse’s limit was 2’9" and we showed at that level. Bought a new horse to move up to 3’ on and he injured himself so I’ve been riding another horse, kind of starting over in some ways. The 3’ keeps eluding me. The horse I’m riding can jump that height easily, but I’m wondering if anyone has any thoughts about how those extra few inches change things for the rider?

This is really a technical question–not so much problem solving if that makes sense, so I’m not looking for diagnostic questions. Just want to know people’s experience making that shift and if going to 3’ was a significant change.


To be honest, I can’t say that I ever noticed much difference from 2’9” to 3’. It was the next jump, to 3’3”, where I felt more horses maxing out in power, with a much bigger difference at 3’6”.

What issues are you having? Finding a distance? Staying with the motion? Keeping an even pace?


Thanks for the response! I haven’t jumped 3’ yet and I’m wondering if it requires something more of the rider, not so much the horse.

I guess it depends on the horse - while any horse should be able to jump 3’, doing it in good style is harder for some of them, and the rider needs to be a little more accurate (“hail mary” distances get more scary, and “pulling down to nothing” has more consequences). But, really, it doesn’t necessarily mean the rider has to do more than keep a good pace and have the horse in front of the leg.

I find it useful to watch some of the 1.2 or higher jumper classes earlier in the day when I’m showing - makes the 3’ fences look like a picnic!


Nothing! Absolutely no difference in your skill set. :slight_smile:

Showing at 3’ vs. a lower height sometimes entails lines set on a longer stride, but the same skill is used to solve that as you should be practicing at any other height: establishing and maintaining a working pace and adjusting the horse’s stride length and balance when needed.


Go in the ring and course walk 3’3 and 3’6" :winkgrin:

that what the eventers do xc, walk the level up to make theirs look easier. It’s all illusion :cool:, more mental for you; easier for a horse. 3 ft gives them something to jump! 3ft can improve form, do gymnastics!


I just in the last couple of shows have noticed that I’m finally as comfortable at 3’ as I was at 2’9". And there wasn’t anything that was bothersome about it. I just found that I felt more disorganized at 3’ and really what it came down to was I was still perfecting the ability maintain an absolute even pace throughout. You have a little less room for error in pace. My horse can and does jump up to around 3’6" so scope was not an issue, neither was fear. It was a matter of having him perfectly in front of my leg at all times but not strung out. Once I finally mastered that, 3’ became so much more fun and easy as they jump better when fences get a little bigger. So I feel more effective because I’m getting a better jump out of him. So all the basics and fundamentals stay the same, they just become that much more important and will expose more if you’re not closer to perfect. Perhaps “perfect” isn’t the right word but maybe more “effective”. Master and become effective at the little things.


3’ doesn’t require any different skill set in general, however there may be some horses that are not reliable at that height (or any other height, it doesn’t necessarily have to be 3’) if the rider isn’t confident and accurate. As the jumps get bigger, the lines get longer, and the oxers get wider, it is harder for horses to leave from anywhere. Some will canter down to 3’ and chocolate chip it, others might say no thanks. I have known horses that were packers at 2’6 and were not comfortable at 3’. Some can pack around 3’ but can’t go higher. Others can do it all. Some riders get panicked over the extra few inches and ride backwards which can lead to issues. There are lots of variables involved, but on the right horse those 3 inches wouldn’t make a difference.


It very much depends on the horse you’re riding. Some of the less athletic horses are starting to get near the limit of their scope at that height, so while they may be very quiet and willing partners otherwise, they’ll need a much more accurate ride than they do at, say, 2’6”. Others may not lack the scope, but if they aren’t super experienced at that height they may still need a more confident and accurate ride.

Other horses, you’ll notice maybe an extra 0.1 second in the air and not much else.

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As mentioned, the jump gets higher, it also gets wider, the stride gets longer. That changes your perception of where you need to be for take off and maintaining your pace off the corner to a fence. It really is about managing that canter. Lower fences let you get there too long or too deep, mess with them the last couple of strides, speed up, slow down and have the horse still get over the jump. 3’ off a 12’ stride is about where it gets harder for the horse to jump despite you and maybe just say no via stopping or a buck on landing.

Also, at shows, once you get to 3’, you start seeing combinations and in and outs on the Hunter courses normally not used below 3’. Thats the first height you get exposed to USEF rated course design questions, even most locals use these guidelines for Hunter course construction.

So, you are going a little faster, the fences are a little bigger, little wider and the courses a little more challenging. But you don’t really do anything different, it is very much in your head. But everybody goes through a period of adjustment every time they move up. You need to expect it and work through it.

Need to point out at that another thing that can happen when you move up is you find out you cannot simply work through it because the horse can’t do it and/or your trainer has reached the limit of their ability to help you. In other words, you riding ability has outgrown the horse, trainer or both. People forget this or go into denial but it’s a big reason simply moving up a level can be such a struggle. Wanting to move up can lead to other, more difficult decisions.


I would say the only difference is all in your head! I sort of have gone through the same thing. At home, it’s a piece of cake- it’s the exact same canter. We still have to be forward. I haven’t crested it into the show arena yet, but I’ve gotten so used to watching that ring now and looking at those fences they don’t seem that big. I know I would be nervous going into the show ring thinking they looks bigger, but I feel it’s the same ride. I think our “heads” are the biggest challenge.

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I agree with the riders saying nothing should change. I rode with a German trainer who would always say that there is no difference between riding a small jump and a big jump. In schooling we almost never jumped the height we would be showing because he didn’t want unnecessary wear and tear on the horses legs.

The smaller the fence the more you can get away with in terms of mistakes, but really the ideal is to have the same rhythmic, impulsive canter up to a little fence as a larger one.

As I recall, the big change for me was from 3’ to 3’6". It’s just a different world, because that’s where the competition gets deep. Up to 3’, it’s fun stuff. At 3’6", the fences actually look bigger, and the distances have to be bang-on- not that you shouldn’t ride a smooth trip over a smaller course. Smaller courses are just more forgiving.

I know that this doesn’t answer your question directly, OP. I am just saying to you that this isn’t a big deal, and you’ll be fine! :yes:

Nothing, this is a mental block. Most horses just step over anything below 1.1m or 1.2m. That is when they begin to truly jump properly.


The skills are no different. Just less margin of error for pace. line/straightness, and balance.

Absolutely nothing. Once you get used to jumping 3’ you won’t even be able to tell the difference between 2’9" and 3’

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There’s little difference from 2’9’’ to 3’ as far as how high the fence feels, if that’s what you’re asking. I do notice at some, or many, shows there’s a difference in technicality of the courses between the two levels (i.e. 3’ may be a more challenging course).

Mentally, it may depend on the ring where the 3’ is held. Jumps at 3’ look less imposing when set in the same ring as used for the 2’6"-2’9" stuff than they do when set in the 3’6" ring.

As others have said, there is also a difference in oxer width and expected stride length.

But all of the above applies to shows.

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Remember, it’s just 3 more inches!

I haven’t had time to read all the responses, but something I find helpful about jumping 3’+ is that it helps raise my eye. We frequently “jump” cavalletis and cross-rails, which I actually find very difficult to find distances to.

If anything, the bigger the jumps the better I ride.

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