Whilst we would all love a course of professional showjumps, not everyone can afford a beautiful set to rival to the top show centres. You also may find yourself hours away from you nearest cross-country course.
Why not have some fun this summer, rope in some volunteers and get creative at home.
“You don’t have to get too worried about making anything too professional,” says eventer Sharon Hunt. “It doesn’t have to be brilliant, as long as it’s safe and you can make it yourself!”
Robust, long-lasting and very attainable. Tyres can have multiple uses — from raising poles, to being cut in half and used as makeshift fillers. Contact local garages and scrap yards and keep your eyes peeled on social media selling sites where you can often pick up tyres that are being given away.
2. Plastic barrels
Plastic barrels can act as great jump wings. Fill with sand to weigh them down and you can purchase barrel jump-cups online to hang on the barrels and hold the poles, turning them into your own showjumps.
Or think cross-country. “I use blue plastic barrels a lot,” says 2016 Olympic eventer Kitty King. “I use two barrels with a short pole between them to create skinnies, or I jump a single barrel with poles for arrowhead practise. These can be done on grass or an arena. You can build corner jumps and angles too — it’s great in the arena for introducing horses to cross-country ideas.”
Wooden pallets are a firm favourite with equestrians for their versatility. They can readily be picked up from distribution companies that discard them (often for free if you ask nicely) and these can then be broken down into sections providing materials for building wings, gates and fillers.
“When I very first started, I remember I didn’t have a gate and there was always one at Hickstead and so my dad got a pallet and built a gate out of one,” says showjumper Nicole Pavitt.
Sheets of MDF are inexpensive and can be picked up from DIY stores. If you’re feeling artistic why not paint your own filler design? Join these together with bolts to feet made from pallets and you can have your own bespoke fillers.
“I’ve used pieces of MDF in front of barrels to make into a nice skinny fence, ” says Kitty.
5. Poles and Planks
Sawmills and agricultural stores often sell wooden poles at a considerably cheaper rate to showjump poles. Leave them rustic or get creative and paint them any colour you choose for your own personalised jump poles.
“Paint them really bright — the brighter the better!” says Sharon, who has been doing more showjumping in recent years. “I used to knock down the Hickstead plank so we painted our own planks red with our names in white, exactly like the Hickstead ones to practise at home. It’s good to practise the things you have problems with. We used to speak to a local paint company and they would sometimes give us the leftover paint that nobody wanted.”
6. Hedges and logs
If you have your own land at home, you could be sitting on your own cross-country course. Sharon explains how basic raw materials helps her train for cross-country at home.
“We use logs cut down from trees and we have a wooded area that I put some jumps in and out of, so when you go through you are jumping from light to dark,” she says. “We also have a hedge on the edge of our field which I cut down and we jump in and out of it. You can make things really simply just using the things you have.”
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“I make coffin jumps simply using poles and a blanket,” says Kitty. “I’ll put a blue blanket on the ground with poles either side — just make sure the sides are pinned down so they don’t blow up and spook the horse!”
8. Plant pots
A plain looking jump can be made into a Hickstead-worthy fence in no time. Look around the garden and make the most of plant pots with bright flowers that can work really well under fences. Just don’t borrow any one’s prize specimens without asking first!
9. Water jumps
Sharon remembers practising water jumps at home by taking advantage of the great British weather.
“Our school would sometimes flood and I’d simply build a fence around that. Use the things you have to your advantage,” she says.
Before you throw out old poles or fence posts, cut off the broken ends and so you have a short pole to create a skinny.
When making your own jumps, always make safety the first priority. Care should always be taken when working with wood to ensure all nails are removed and there are no screws sticking out that could cause injury.
“Horses do have accidents and can stop at things so you have to use wood that won’t shatter or splinter and remember to make it jumpable and inviting,” says Sharon. “The jump has to be safe.”