If you’re jumping 90cm and want to move up to 1m, there are loads of variables in terms of the partnership’s collective experience.
For instance, a very experienced rider might be ready to do it within a month even on a very green or inexperienced horse. A rider who is new to Jumping might take six months, even if they’re on a very well established schoolmaster who has jumped far bigger in the past.
If your goal involves reaching a height that you haven’t jumped at before (or haven’t in a very long time) then you should take this into consideration and try for a show that’s known to build kind courses for your first attempt at the new height.
2. What are you jumping at home?
The standard advice is to always be jumping one level higher at home than you are at shows. The logic goes that if you’re comfortable round a track of 1.20m fences with the occasional bigger fence thrown in, a 1.10m course will look easy. Plus, you don’t want to get into the jump-off and jump bigger there than you have at home!
If you’re cruising around fences higher than you want to compete at with no problem at home, you know that as a partnership you have the ability to jump well enough to move up a level.
3. How are your results?
Results aren’t everything. Some horses are perpetual four-faulters and will never have the show results to back up their ability. Sometimes a horse might jump better at a bigger height than smaller.
Others jump better at certain venues or on specific surfaces and often you can just have a really bad day at a show. Regardless, your results can give you a general idea of whether you’re ready to move up a level.
If you’re jumping consistent clears and double clears then it stands to reason that you’re ready to try the next level. If you’ve had faults but they’re mostly silly poles that were caused by minor errors or by you taking risks in a jump off, chances are that you could still move up.
If, however, you’ve had multiple eliminations or are getting faults that are related to your horse stopping or are knocked poles as a result of something lacking in either you or the horse (e.g. scope, confidence, ability, experience) then you probably need more mileage and exposure before moving up.
4. Is your horse better over bigger fences?
Some horses simply do need slightly bigger fences before they start jumping properly. Many competitive horses have poles at lower levels but start to pay attention and develop a better technique over bigger fences – the reasons for this depend on the individual horse and can vary from them being lazy, to careless, to simply big and goofy! If your horse is of this persuasion and both he and you are confident jumpers, you could be ready to try one grade higher and see whether it produces better form.
If your horse is reaching his limit in terms of scope, pressure or physical demands and struggles with an entire course of bigger jumps, then you’re not ready to move up.
This might be temporary or it might be related to his schooling, stage of physical maturity, or level of mental development. In any case, if the horse performs better over lower fences then the time to start jumping bigger is definitely not at a show!