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How High Can A Horse Jump? Equine Jumping Records.

Last updated: March 21, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

As I watched a showjumping competition, I was amazed at how high the horses jumped. Seeing them sail over hurdles made me wonder how high can a horse jump and what are some equine jumping records, so I decided to do some research.

A horse can jump 8 ft 1.25 (2.47 m); this is the current world record set in 1949 by Huaso, ex-Faithful in Chile. Competitive jumping horses can jump over seven feet, but the average horse can only leap about three feet.

Equine Jumping RecordsHorses’ NameRiderHeightYear
World RecordHuaso, ex-FaithfulCapt. Alberto Larraguibel Morales8 ft 1.25 (2.47 m)1949
Puissance World RecordOptiebeurs GoloFrank Sloothaak7 feet 10 inches (2.38 m)1991
North American RecordSweet N’ LowAnthony D’Ambrosio7 feet 7 1/2 inches1983
British RecordLastic Nick Skelton7ft 7 5/16in (2.32m)1978

Huaso ex-Faithful was an amazing athlete, but he is not the only horse with amazing jumping ability. In this article, we examine equine jumping records and how horses jump so high.

How high can top showjumping horses clear?

Most showjumping is a timed equine competition in which a horse and rider jump obstacles in a designed pattern. The team that completes the course fastest with the fewest faults (knocking down an obstacle) is the winner.

picture of a horse jumping in a showjumping competition,
Horse Jumping during competition

Top showjumping horses can clear seven-foot obstacles, but that height is accomplished only in “The Puissance,” one of the world’s most thrilling equine competitions. Unlike the other showjumping events, The Puissance is not a timed event but rather a high jump contest.

“Puissance” is derived from the Anglo-French word for “power,” a trait of all successful Puissance horses coupled with nerves of steel and a will to compete.

Puissance competitions typically have two jumps in their course. The first is a low-level jump the teams use as a warm-up before taking on the large wall.

The primary challenge in Puissance is a massive wall constructed from hollow wood red bricks. The enormous red-brick wall appears to be quite sturdy, but it’s designed to fall under the slightest pressure to reduce injury risk.

Puissance has been a recognized equine competition for over a hundred years, and though it’s not currently an Olympic event, the governing committee included it in the 1900 Olympic games.

In a Puissance competition, the World Record is 7 feet 10 inches (2.38 m) set by Frank Sloothaak riding Optiebeurs Golo in 1991. He broke the record of Nick Skelton of 7 ft. 7 inches set in 1978.

How high do Olympic horses jump?

The Olympics pit the world’s best athletes against each other every four years and includes the best equine athletes in dressage, eventing, and showjumping.

In Olympic showjumping competitions, the fences’ height is 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) and has a maximum width of 2 meters (6.5 feet). The triple bar obstacle can be 2.2 meters wide, and the water jump distance is set at a maximum of 4.5 meters (14.76 feet).

Showjumping in the Olympics includes five rounds of competitions, and each is scored to determine the winner. To compete at the Olympics, horses must be at least seven years old and pass a veterinary inspection.

The 1900 Olympic games in Paris were the first to include showjumping competitions. However, it wasn’t the same as we see today. First, the courses were smaller and the rules not as strict.

But interestingly, only male cavalry officers could compete in the games. The first time men and women civilians were allowed to participate was in the 1952 Helsinki games.

How high is the highest horse jump?

During a showjumping competition, I noticed the obstacles are different heights. Some of the fences are relatively short, while others look quite intimidating, which made me wonder how tall the highest ones are.

The highest obstacle in a Grand Prix course is 5 foot 3 inches tall (1.6 meters). There are many showjumping levels, but Grand Prix is the highest level of show jumping and has the most challenging courses to compete over.

The governing body of Internation showjumping is the FEI. The lowest level of showjumping established by the FEI is 4 feet 11 inches (1.5 meters). But in the United States, the USEf governs showjumping.

picture of a horse jumping an obstacle,
Picture of a horse jumping an obstacle.

In the U.S., showjumping levels range from 0-9, and the USEF set the height for the lowest level to begin at 2 feet 6 inches and proceed up from there. In the following chart is the U.S. showjumping levels.

Showjumping levelObstacle height rangeWidth of obstacle
Level 0. Fences 2′6″ to 2′9″ in height 2′9″ to 3′0″ spread
Level 1.Fences 2′9″ to 3′0″ in height3′0″ to 3′6″ spread
Level 2. Fences 3′0″ to 3′3″ in height 3′3″ to 3′9″ spread
Level 3.Fences 3′3″ to 3′6″ in height3′6″ to 4′0″ spread
Level 4. Fences 3′6″ to 3′9″ in height 3′9″ to 4′3″ spread
Level 5.Fences 3′9″ to 4′0″ in height 4′0″ to 4′6″ spread
Level 6.Fences 4′0″ to 4′3″ in height4′3″ to 4′9″ spread
Level 7. Fences 4′3″ to 4′6″ in height4′6″ to 5′0″ spread,
Level 8.Fences 4′6″ to 4′9″ in height4′9″ to 5′3″ spread,
Level 9. Fences 4′9″ to 5′0″ in height5′0″ to 5′6″ spread,
Show jumping – Wikipedia.

If you are interested in horse breeds that excel in showjumping, you may find this article helpful: The Best Horse Breeds for Dressage and Show Jumping. Top 5

Is jumping good for horses?

When horses jump over obstacles, they land on their two front feet. Their entire body weight, along with the force of gravity, is borne by the joints, bones, and ligaments of the animal’s two fragile legs. This made me wonder if it is good for horses to jump.

Jumping is not good for most horses; however, it seems some horses love jumping, and it’s in their genes. All horses get injuries, but the pressure on a horse’s body when it jumps stresses tendons and ligaments, and the impact of landing can also damage the front feet.

I have no data to show you that show-jumping horses sustain more injuries than other horses; however, it’s common sense that repetitive stress on horses’ legs leads to problems and, eventually, lameness.

horse jumping an obstacle in training,
Horse and rider training

The most common injuries sustained by jumping horses are; suspensory ligament damage, front foot lameness, and joint deterioration. Each of these poses a risk of chronic health issues and lameness.

Horses running wild rarely jump over anything. If they have an obstacle in their path, they are most likely to veer around it. I’m sure if a tiger chases them, they will jump over something to preserve their life, but it doesn’t seem that jumping is instinctive.

How do horses jump so high?

The ability of horses to jump obstacles is dependent on the amount of energy transferred across their joints. Four joints are used in combination when jumping, the hip, ankle, knee, and fetlock or MP joint.

Picture of a showjumping horse leaping an obstacle.
By Fairv8

Through the movement of the animal’s joints, power is absorbed and generated in the horse’s hindquarters, allowing them to leap over high obstacles.

Researchers found that the horse’s knees generate 40 percent of the take-off power. These researchers focused on the power generated in horses’ hindquarters to jump obstacles.

How high can humans jump?

The human high jump record is just slightly less than a horse’s. In 1993 Javier Sotomayor set a new world high jump record with a leap of 8 feet .03 inches (2.45m)

Remember, the jumping record for a horse set in 1949 by Huaso ex-Faithful is 8 ft 1.25 (2.47 m), less than one inch higher than the height cleared by Javier Sotomayor.

How high can a mule jump

Mules are smart, durable animals, but they can’t compete with horses when jumping. However, mules do jump competitively; mule jumping, or as some observers call it, “coon jumping,” is an event you can catch at some rural county fairs.

There doesn’t seem to be an official record-keeping system, but most keen observers of the sport recognize the leap of a mule named Sonny. He cleared six-foot during a county fair in Pea Ridge in 1989.

Competitive mule jumping is nothing like showjumping competitions. Mules saunter to a bar, stop, and leap over it from a stationary position without a rider.

How high can a deer jump

Nearby there is a deer farm surrounded by 10-foot fences. It seems this would be plenty high enough to keep in even the highest jumpers. But that is not always the case.

Whitetail deer are known to jump as high as 12 feet, but there are reports that some can clear even higher obstacles. There is no official record on the highest deer jump, but it’s safe to say they can leap higher than a horse, human, or mule.