Is loose jumping damaging young horses? Olympic champion joins the debate

  • The subject of loose jumping always seems to ignite healthy debate among breeders and producers – it’s a tried and tested formula in the production process of teaching many young horses to think for themselves, but can it also be detrimental to their health and wellbeing?

    Many top names have spoken out on the subject from both sides of the argument and when we caught up with the Olympic gold medallist Eric Lamaze (pictured) recently, he revealed he had firm opinions about loose jumping horses when they’re younger.

    “There are people that believe in free jumping. But when you’re free jumping a horse you’re constantly chasing it with a whip, so already his first experience of jumping is attached to somebody chasing him,” says Eric.

    “It doesn’t tell you what they’re going to be like in the future either – if you took top horses such as Hickstead, Baloubet Du Rouet or Shutterfly and loose jumped them, they probably couldn’t do it that well. So I’m not a fan.”

    Instead, the highly decorated Canadian showjumper gave an insight into his own production process with his youngsters.

    “I’m a fan of letting them grow and become strong,” explains Eric, winner of an Olympic bronze medal in 2016 as well as being crowned Olympic champion and taking team silver riding Hickstead in 2008.

    “At three years old, put a rider on him, give him a couple of little fences under tack then put him back in the field. Bring him back as a four year old, teach him the ropes a bit, go to a show or two and put him back in the field. As a five year old, do a few more shows, then back in the field. At six you can do almost a whole year and then at seven years old you know what you have.”

    With thanks to Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping.

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