Although jumpers need not be stylish or pretty whilst doing their jobs, they do need to be effective. Your horse can jump like crap and win, and that’s great. Your horse can be a pretty jumper and pull every rail, and that sucks. The middle ground is the effective jumper with a tight front and back end. A jumper can have a nice, round bascule over the fences, or he can jump flat as a pancake-I’ve seen both cases win at grand prixs. However, both types of horses need one major factor-SCOPE.

A scopey horse is one that can jump high and wide–the scopier the horse, the higher and wider it can jump. I could see a horse that easily clears 4′ and say its scopey. I can also see a horse that positively scrambles to make it over 4’6″ and that horse would not be scopey.

Let’s take a look at some good and bad jumpers and what will and won’t get them in the ribbons.
Though a lovely and well taken care of horse, this one won’t be getting any style awards. He looks like a thrusty jumper, but those knees make me wish the rider was wearing a body protector. His knees are pointing down, right where that top rail will be in a millisecond. Any decent jumper should have at least level knees. This chestnut’s jumping form is not only incorrect and ugly, but it’s dangerous! Knees like that will be picking rails off all over the ring, and once he gets to a solid fence or hits a pole wrong and can’t quite get his knees over, he’s in a great position to flip, which is something no one needs to see nor experience. Now, this could have been a bad picture, captured at the wrong moment. Still, most any horse can get out of that spot with a tight front end.

Now, this is a cute little horse making a nice effort over this fence. Clearly, his knees are miles better, with fairly level forearms. however, he’s lazy and careless with his lower legs. Instead of snapping them up, he’s just letting them hang down, dangerously close to the back rail. There’s no doubt he’s a handy little jumper, but he needs to clean up those legs before he can get a clear round.

There’s only one instance in which I’ll excuse loose lower limbs, and that’s when the horse clearly has enough jump to clear the top rail, as in the picture above. This horse (which happens to be mine, but with a previous rider) is in no danger of rapping the pole. There’s a good eight inches of air between his hooves and the pole. He does have loose lower legs though, which could get him in trouble in a tight combination. His scope (which he has an abundance of) allows him to have messy legs, because he compensates for it by his sheer power and by giving the jump plenty of room.

The above picture also serves as an example of the two extremes-the round as a ball jumper and the flat as a pancake jumper. The bay is quite round from tail to poll, with his nose reaching just past his knees. This allows the horse to round over the jump, which means they can get a deeper distance, whereas the flat jumper often has to take off from a longer spot and power across the jump. A tight bascule is wonderful in tight combonations, but these horse often spend too much time in the air, which can be a disadvantage in a tight jump-off.

The last example is quite obviously different from the round bay. He’s flat, even concave from his tail to his withers, and his head and neck are raised instead of reaching down. Still, he’s easily clearing this oxer. The flatter jumping style seems more effective over spreads, where a horse has to reach across and flatten out. It would take a much bigger effort if a horse was tight and round over a really wide spread than if he could flatten like the one above. Over a tall vertical, though, a flat horse would need to get a longer distance, while a round horse could gallop right to the base, round over, and move on.

The above horse also shows exceptional knees. Notice how tight and even they are-there’s no chance they’re going to pull a rail over this oxer. This horse has his knees up above a horizontal level, and also has tidy lower limbs-they’re not hanging down, but pulled up close to his chest. This is true jumper form.