Tips to choose a showjumper

The right jumper for you?

The right jumper for you?

Nicole Horwood has been a sensation on the circuit with the lovely grey stallion, Mark White Nissan’s Capital Don Cumarco, with whom she won three consecutive Derbies and a slew of showjumping titles. She also achieved high praise with the fantastic young stallion.
While Nicole is recognised for her professionalism and dedication to her sport, she’s the first to admit that the right horse is crucial to the mix.

Finding the right horse

With her top rides coming from the well-established South African Capital Stud, Nicole is clearly a fan of the breeder. “Capital Stud  have introduced the South African market to the best of the best in terms of top class international breeding stallions as well as top class international mares. The performance of their horses in the ring is testament to this, offering South Africans access to top quality horses at competitive prices.”

Several local stud farms have gone to great lengths to tap into international trends. The pool of local horses has been growing steadily, providing buyers with an increasing number of choices, particularly for those looking for a young prospect. When choosing a young jumping prospect, Nicole has some common sense advice, starting from the ground up. Here are her tips.

Conformation

The horse should gather himself greatly for the jump

The chest and body should be well proportioned to the rest of the horse. The hindquarters should be well muscled.

The feet must be of good quality. Small, upright feet should be avoided as well as big, flat feet. The angle of the hoof wall should be a continued line from the slope of the pastern. The feet should stand squarely and evenly on the floor.

Ideally go for a horse who looks as if his knees are bending ever so slightly forwards; this allows a lot more flexibility when landing over a fence. However, you don’t want too much forward bend as this will indicate a possible stumbler. The cannon bones should be flat at the front and on the short side is better than longer ones.

The slope of the pastern is also important. Too much slope and the tendons will be under constant pressure; too little slope and the concussive effects on the foot will be very great.

The chest and body should be well proportioned to the rest of the horse. The hindquarters should be well muscled. A young horse may well be up on his back-end, meaning that the hindquarters are higher than the front. However in an older horse this is undesirable as it will make the horse very difficult to bring up off the forehand. Personally I like a horse with an upright neck and good topline.

A good temperament is vital. A horse with a trainable brain and the right attitude towards his work will make life easier and more enjoyable for the rider at every level.

Temperament

A good temperament is vital. A horse with a trainable brain and the right attitude towards his work will make life easier and more enjoyable for the rider at every level. A good work ethic is a must; a genuine, willing temperament is extremely important.

Things to avoid are rearing, constant bucking, aggression or a crib biter. When trying out a horse, if he wants to stop, shut down, or quits trying when he’s a little bit tired, this is not a good sign. A bit of a temper is not always a bad thing but not if expressed by quitting.

Nicole and Capital Colnardo

Nicole and Capital Colnardo

Movement

A good walk and a good canter are essential. A good walker is a horse who looks like he is going somewhere in a purposeful manner. The walk is a difficult pace to improve, so a horse with a naturally good walk is a bonus. I like a horse to have a big, active canter. Look for a canter that is comfortable even when the canter is ‘small’.

In the trot, look for even strides from both pairs of diagonals and a good ground-covering technique. A good horse will flick his toes out without any effort and will use his shoulders, back and hindquarters actively.

Watch Nicole and Don Cumarco in action here.

Text: Brigitte Billings and Nicole Horwood. Photography: TBImages

 The full story appeared in the February 2015 issue of HQ Magazine. Look out for Nicole’s tips on analysing a free jumping session!