Free Jumping – with Video!

American Quarter Horse Billy free jumping for the first time

Billy free jumping. For videos, see links in post.

My husband, Jaime Navarro, and I won a silent auction item at the recent Maryland Horse Council annual barbeque: 1 Free Jumping Session with Steuart Pittman. At Pittman’s Dodon Farm, he and an assistant school a horse through their jumping chute in the indoor arena. According to the auction flyer, “Most horses only need to do it once or twice for them and you to find out just how much talent they have.”

A life-long horseman, Steuart Pittman’s credentials include certification to teach eventing through the preliminary level. I featured him in Believing In Horses as “the current President of the MHC, a well-known local equestrian, and a former grassroots lobbyist,” all true. Dodon Farm’s business ranges from breeding, training, and starting horses to improving riders. I also consider Steuart a “horse saver” (my term), for his tremendous efforts in supporting the MHC’s Unwanted Horse Project and in his work retraining off-track Thoroughbreds. He and his wife, Erin, created The Retired Racehorse Training Project, which recently received its official 501(c)3 charitable status.

My husband really enjoys silent auctions — following the bids, the last minute scramble before the pens go down, and the wins. When they announced he won the Free Jump session, he turned to me and said, “I can’t wait to see what Billy can do.” Billy is Jaime’s Quarter Horse, a former racehorse, who masquerades as a Thoroughbred.

“Billy?” I thought to myself. “Well, okay. That’s not exactly what I had in mind, but it will work.”

I guess we’ve known each other long enough for him to read my expression, and he continued, “Or Lucky – maybe we should take Lucky instead.”

And so we ended up bringing both Billy and Lucky, after discussing it with Steuart.

Upon arrival, Steuart brought us into the indoor arena, one horse at a time, and explained the set up. He, and his assistant, Emily, would be free longeing the horse around a circle, having him run through the chute. It would start with a trot, no poles, then progress to a cross rail, then a series of jumps.

Our role was to stay in the middle and watch, and not distract the horse by talking to him, coaxing, clucking, etc. Do you have any idea how hard that is to do? Non-horse people, that’s like asking you to go to your kids’ soccer game and watch from the sidelines and not say a thing! You can grade us from the videos as to whether we got a pass or fail on that one.
I posted a few video clips together, showing the progression. I’ll start with Billy.

We learned so much from this. We anticipated Billy would be a bit uncomfortable in the new setting, but the last thing we thought is that he wouldn’t want to canter. He loves to move – fast – so this surprised us. We also noted an unusual maneuver with his left hind during the flight of the jump and the landing. This is something we’re going to keep an eye on and see if it’s consistent, and also see if he does the same with his right hind when moving in the opposite direction. It’s nice to have an idea of what’s going on beneath you when in flight.

Lucky, Andalusian cross, free jumping

Color Me Lucky believes he likes to jump!

As Pittman said, “There are no two horses that jump alike.” The next clip, of Lucky (AKA Color Me Lucky) demonstrates this. At five-years-old, this was Lucky’s first attempt at anything above two feet; he seemed to like it.

Overall, the Free Jump Session showed us what our horses can do, as Pittman says, “without the rider in the way.” A completely enjoyable experience, run by true professionals, I highly recommend it. For a complete paper on the issue, see Pittman’s Teaching Horses How to Jump. And for more information on Dodon Farm, in Davidsonville, Md., please see Of course, comments are always appreciated here, too!


  1. It was as fun for me as for the horses. Lucky Has developed into a real athlete since we knew him as a lanky teenager. And he loves to play the jumping game !

  2. Latest Blog – Horses Free Jumping with Video – fun, even for non-horse people. #horses #horsechat -Valerie