Understanding your horse’s jumping mechanics can make you a better rider and trainer–and help him stay sounder.

Credit: © Bob Langrish John Whitaker’stwo-time FEI World Cup winner Milton, whose scapula was much more sloping than most top jumpers, did not push off as much with his front feet but relied more on his powerful hind end and extremely flexible back to compensate for his weaker front end.

All great jumpers have two qualities. First is the physical ability to get their bodies up into the air. Second is the mental combination of courage and a great desire to be careful—reluctant to touch, let alone wallop, a rail. In this article, I’ll address the first of these two qualities, but this is not meant to diminish the second. No matter how much physical ability a horse has, if he is not careful and brave, he’ll have little success in the show ring. As six-time Olympic show jumper Frank Chapot says, there is a delicate balance between being chicken and being brave, which all good trainers have to solve.

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Credit: courtesy Dan Marks When landing, the first leg to touch down is the non-leading leg, which absorbs about 20 percent more force than the leading leg. San Lucas, ridden by Frank Chapot, will depart on his left lead. The front landing legs reverse the rotary motion of the body.