Show Jumping

Six Lessons in Training a Jumper Prospect

Courtesy of this week’s Classic Champions winners at Wellington’s Deeridge Derby

Training a young jumper is a process.

Like assembling the 7,541 piece LEGO® Star Wars Millennium Falcon or configuring a 1000 piece double-sided jigsaw puzzle picturing only gradients of white, it requires a methodical approach, optimistic attitude and bottomless supply of patience.

Here are six lessons in developing a jumper prospect we can take away from this week’s Classic Champions winners at the Deeridge Derby in Wellington, FL. After all, if you’re winning a series specifically designed to optimize the development of 5, 6, and 7 year-old jumpers, you probably know a thing or two about what it takes to bring one along.

1. Give them the opportunity to figure it out

First up, Ireland’s Senan Hayes who took the Award of Distinction for the 5-Year-Old Division aboard the bay stallion New York BC. The pair won Wednesday’s power and speed class with a clear and took third in Thursday’s Table II class, after incurring a rail in the jump off.

“He was a little green out there,” said Hayes of their jump off round. “It was just something new, going a bit quicker. It happens. It is part of the process with the young ones. Young horses have to make mistakes, it is the only way they learn. These classes are very important because they give the young ones an opportunity to come into a place like this and figure it out.”

2. Diversify their experiences

The more rings, the better, added Hayes: “It is a great experience for him to get in a ring like this,” he said of the Horse Network Grand Prix ring at Deeridge Farms. “They need to see a lot of different rings like they do in Europe. ”

3. Keep them confident

©Kathy Russell

Dennis Dijkerman won Thursday’s five-year-old class with Delaney, a Lothlorien Farm homebred that’s full brother to the Canadian Sport Horse gelding Tennyson that Ireland’s Daniel Coyle rode to a double clear in his Nations Cup debut two years ago.

“The strategy really mostly it’s just to keep them confident,” said the Dutch rider. “If they learn something every time they go out, even if they have a rail or whatever, as long as they keep improving and you just work on the things you think need to improve, I think that is the most important part of it.

“So like [Delaney] is a little mouthy,” he continued, “I try to just ignore that and focus him on getting straight to the jumps, look where he’s going. He’s very careful, so I don’t really have to worry about him knocking the jumps. It’s more just that he focuses and looks where he is going, stays straight. That’s the biggest thing for him.”

4. Persevere

Jumping footage generously provided by

Dijkerman’s best piece of advice? Don’t give up on a young horse too soon.

“Some horses take longer to develop, so they can maybe not look as promising when they’re five but maybe when they’re six they’re going to be better horses. Just keep trying and improving things, that’s the biggest advice I could give.”

5. Manage your expectations

Jumping footage generously provided by

For USA’s Brittni Raflowitz, who claimed victory in Thursday’s $7,500 Classic Champions 6-Year-Old Jumper Table II class with double clear rounds aboard Mevis de Muze, the key is to keep her expectations in check.

“He hasn’t had a rail in five months, so for me it’s very exciting,” said Raflowitz. “With him, I have to just try not to push him too much because I feel like he already knows his job. He has already surpassed my expectations. I just have to keep him looking towards the future, not right now.”

6. Take it slow

Lastly, take your time, advises Benjamin Meredith. The American rider won Wednesday’s power and speed with the “feisty” 15.2 hand mare Annie Oakley, but she won’t show again for about a month.

“We don’t show her too much, I think she has done about 16 classes in her life. Every time she goes in the ring she likes to go clear so we like to save her for these types of classes,” said Meredith.

“So far, we’re just taking it slow. There’s no real rush with these horses.”

The Classic Champions young jumper series returns to Deeridge Farms for the Palm Beach Open, March 22–25. Watch it on Horse Network Live!