Tonka Jumps

By Terry Golson

It was bound to happen. You know we’d have to jump. Tonka is a dressage and trail horse. But we’re now at a hunter/jumper barn. There are always jumps in the ring. We’ve been using the poles for gymnastic work. Tonka enjoys it.

A couple of times a month, the resident trainer, Stephanie Plaisted, gives us a lesson. She has an experienced eye for the right distances to place the poles, and she knows how to incrementally increase the difficulty of the exercises.

The pole work is exactly the sort of cross-training that Tonka needs to develop muscles so that his back and joints stay sound. We didn’t have to take it to the next step, but we’ve been watching the girls canter around over fences. It looked like a lot of fun. I asked Stephanie for a jumping lesson. She said we were ready.

After a few reps over the trotting poles to loosen up, she set up a small cross rail. Tonka, being a good boy, who has been trained to trot over any poles put in front of him, trotted over it.


Stephanie raised the jump, but Tonka still trotted it. Then she put a pole down on the ground so that he had to actually jump.

Tonka still trotted over, but this time he rattled the rail.


He knew that wasn’t right. The next time we approached the line to the jump, I could feel a difference in Tonka’s body. This was a determined horse.

He was a bit of an overachiever!


Look at that clearance! And the perfectly tucked knees.


Stephanie said to stop and give the horse a cookie.


Then we started up again. We jumped – truly jumped – only three times.

It was enough for both of us to get a taste of the sport. Tonka put out a big effort and used some muscles he doesn’t normally use. We didn’t want to over-exert my overachiever.

After the last jump, I trotted and cantered him around to loosen out any kinks he might have gotten from the jumping. Tonka felt great. And happy. Stephanie said he was “wagging his tail.”


Yes, there will be more jumping lessons in our future. My goal is to do a two-phase (dressage and stadium jumping) next springtime. In the tadpole (18-inch) division. Nothing too lofty! My horse takes those cross rails quite big enough!

13 thoughts on “Tonka Jumps

  • Elisa Smith

    Have fun! You will probably also find that jumping improves the canter as they learn how to rock back on their hocks and bend the stifles and hip joints and push off. Looks like Tonka likes it also

  • sara russell

    It was very interesting reading this post. We are an Arabian barn and have never done jumping before several months ago. The horses and riders have been having a lot of fun.We have been to several schooling shows and are headed to Spooktacular Sport Horse Show in Apopka, FL The horses and riders have costume for a class costume.
    I don’t take part in the jumping, but I enjoy watching.The horses and riders are hoping to qualify for Regionals. I don’t know if I am allowed to post pictures in the comments section because I am not sure of the rules.
    Thanks again for posting! I always enjoy your posts !!

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Time for you to “jump” into the jumping. Even if it’s just poles on the ground 🙂
      This format of comments doesn’t allow for photos. Sorry! Send me an email with a photo of your costume!

  • Trina P

    Correct me if I’m wrong but you look like you have a big smile in the jumping video. So fun to watch and read this blog.

  • Tracy

    As counterintuitive as jumping over obstacles seems to be for an animal with the eye placement of a horse, I often feel that horses actually enjoy it if they’re not fearful they will hit the obstacle, have someone yanking on their mouths, or get thrown off balance by an unstable rider, etc. I love watching a calm rider on a balanced, ears forward horse run a hunter-type course. (Hate watching open jumper classes because the horse often seem so stressed.) Conversely, although I loved riding dressage at the lower levels at which I rode it many years ago, now, I watch for different things. I rarely see a horse actually enjoying itself while performing dressage, with the possible exception of Valegro — the Baryshnikov of the equine population. But most of the high level performers have gobs of saliva dripping from their mouths because of irritating bits or rider’s hands, sometimes seem contorted into such unnatural positions, and just seem to be earnestly trying to do what they’ve been asked to do rather than loving it.

    Who knows, you may find you have a little tail swishing, ear perking, knee tucking, flashy coated, kind eyed little hunter on your hands! You can have a boatload of fun in those 3’ and under classes, and your trust relationship with Tonka sets you up beautifully. You go, Terry!

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