I'll preface by saying that there are multiple methods of training horses to jump, and everyone has their own way. This is simply what I have found to work! Please keep in mind that not all horses are suited for jumping.
In competitions, miniature horses are not permitted to jump until they are three years of age. personally, I wouldn't start jumping them until the age of five. This gives horses the chance to mature mentally and physically. Some horses love to jump, and some hate it- some are good at it and some are terrible. Keep these things in mind, as an unwilling horse will not excel in it's classes. You can teach any horse to jump, but it doesn't mean they will be good at it (believe me, Scottie is terrible)!
Before you can start jumping, you need to start with the basics-poles and ground work. Lots and lots of poles. Miniature horses don't have the benefit of having a rider to control their strides and judge distances. We, as handlers, can do it to some extent, but it is mostly up to the horse. Poles help horses establish their stride, and teach them at what distances take off and landing work for them. first teach them to trot over poles at a consistent speed without hitting them or tripping. Once they can do this well, I suggest setting a cross rail (maybe two inches high) with two poles (set to their appropriate stride) on either side of the jump.
Once your horse has mastered these distances, move onto cavalettis. On the second height, line your cavalettis up like this:
(2 Strides) (4 Strides) (1 Stride) (4 Stides) (2 Strides)
X X X X X X
This will aide the horse's distances even further. You can mix up the cavaletti placement and distances, and mix the heights on them as well.
Once a horse has mastered these exercises, you can move on to jumping heights. The key to teaching your horse to jump higher is to do it slowly. Don't try and teach a horse to jump a 3 foot standard in a day- more like a couple months. Your horse needs to build up muscle gradually. When training your horse to jump, I wouldn't work them for more than 15 minutes. Keep it short and to the point. As your horse learns and becomes more able, you can extend your jumping time a little. Always end on a good note! If your horse has repeatedly refused a jump, lower it to a height they can comfortably and willingly jump, and then call it a day. Sometimes they just don't feel like jumping as high (just like we don't always feel at the top of our game, either). Some days they won't jump as high, or as long, and that's ok! Always reward them afterwards, cool them down, hose of their legs, etc. After a workout with Patrick, I always use Absorbine's Botanical foam on his joints and legs. Teaching your horse to jump just takes time and patience, and a willing horse!
HUNTERS v. JUMPERS
In hunter classes, just like with large horses, the horse (and handler) are judged on fluidity, appearance, and style. Hunters should keep the same gait throughout the course and they should not charge jumps. They may circle once upon entering the ring and once upon exiting, but not during the course. Horses will trot past the judge after the course for a soundness check, and any unsound horse will be disqualified. Horses with three refusals are eliminated, as well.
Additional training exercises when working with a hunter- oriented horse:
In jumper classes, horses are judged on the accumulation of faults gathered in the course. Faults can be accumulated through knock downs, refusals and, in AMHR time. In AMHA, time does not matter, and competitors may walk from jump to jump, if they please. If a horse has a clean round (no faults), they move into a jump off against the other horses who have had clean rounds. Anyone who has another clean round continues to move on until only one horse has a clean round, or the least number of faults. In AMHA, the jumps are raised (up to 6 inches at a time) each round, and can reach a height of 44", and in AMHR the jumps are raised, but the handlers and horses must race against the clock, as well. The team with the fastest time and fewest faults is the winner.
Additional training exercises when working with a jumper-oriented horse:
I hope this helped, and feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions or suggestions. Always keep your horse's health and well being in mind- it's the most important thing! Happy Jumping!
One of my most frequent training questions is always "how do you teach a horse to lie down?". My method takes time, but it is completely humane and only requires a lead rope, a dressage whip and some carrots!
Before you teach a horse to lie down, you need to teach them how to bow! To do this, stand on the left side of your horse. Under their stomach, tap the right leg with the handle end of your whip, very lightly. Eventually, they will get annoyed and pick up their foot. When they do so, reward them immediately. After your horse is taught to pick their foot up on command (just takes lots of repetition), you can take a treat and hold it toward the ground. With their leg still being held up, they should ease down into the bow position. You may have to hold their leg up, at first, or continue to tap it, so they hold it up, themselves. Just make sure you are always in a safe position around your horse. Keep doing this over and over and eventually your horse will bow when his right leg is tapped. Give your horse his treat when he is down in the bow position, and verbally praise him, as well. This will make them want to stay down, longer.
Once your horse has mastered the bow, you can move on to lying down. First, take your lead rope and throw over the right side of your horse (as seen in the header photo). Ask your horse to bow, and then tap on their left leg- your horse will, most likely, want to go into the kneeling position to escape the annoyance of the whip. This may take a few times for your horse to understand, so be patient! When your horse is in the kneeling position, pull your lead ever so slightly towards you. this will turn their head, and make them want to lie down. he first time your horse lies down, they will, almost certainly, get up immediately (with this method). It is important that, for the brief period they are down, to reward them immensely. Give them treats- verbally praise them, etc. Make a very big deal out of it. Horses are prey animals, and lying down in broad daylight at the mercy of a "predator" really isn't their thing, so this trick takes immense amounts of trust on your horse's part. Rewarding them and reassuring them is vital.
I hope this helps, and if you need any clarifications or have anymore questions, leave them in the comments section and I will answer as soon as I can!