Build Your Own Jumps

If you board your horse at a farm that already has jumps, you haven’t experienced the sticker shock of buying a set of standards or eight sets if you want a full course. But, filling a ring with jumps doesn’t have to break your bank account — if you’re willing to do the work.

Susan Liggett of Cincinnati, Ohio, has become creative in the art of jump designing. She uses the traditional materials of wood and PVC to create most of her jumps, but at a fraction of the price.

If you buy pre-constructed wood and PVC jumps, they can cost roughly $60-$150 per standard and $25-$35 for each rail (see February 2000). A simple vertical with two standards, two rails and two ground rails will net out at about $300. Now factor in oxers, gates and brush jumps, and you’re looking at some serious cash for a course, albeit a beautiful one.

Safety First
In building her barn’s jumps Liggett had four criteria:

1. The jumps had to be safe.
2. Materials must be inexpensive.
3. Jumps must be low maintenance.
4. Jumps resemble show jumps.

“Safety is primary,” said Liggett. “I don’t like having anything that is permanently attached to the standards. The jumps must be able to break apart, fall apart or roll over when hit. But by the same token the materials must be sturdy enough that things aren’t going to splinter.” Following that, the materials must be inexpensive.

Garage-Door Recycling
Liggett’s garage-door fences are a perfect example of her creativity. Many garage-door installers throw away old garage- door panels when they install the new ones. Liggett built a brick wall, a stone wall, a panel and a coop using garage doors that otherwise were headed for the dump.

The brick wall is constructed of three wood panels painted to look like brick. The three panels make up the front, back and top of the wall. Liggett leaves the top piece unattached for easier mobility and also cuts each long panel in half to create two smaller pieces that are lighter and easier to move.

In order to transform the doors into a brick wall, Liggett painted the three-sided structure gray and then used masking tape wherever the “grout” would be. Her next step was to paint the open areas brick red using a roller. After that, she mottled it with brown paint using a sponge. When Liggett removed the tape to expose the “grout,” the brick wall was built.

For the stone wall, Liggett used two panels to create the front and back. She then built a box using 2x4s and scrap wood on the narrow sides and kept the top open for brush. Like with the brick wall, Liggett cut the long panels in half to create two smaller boxes for easy mobility.

To create the illusion of stones, Liggett again painted the wall dark gray and used masking tape over the dry paint wherever she wanted to have “grout.”

“I did the masking tape unevenly and fudged the curved part to round the stone,” said Liggett. “The trick is not to make it too even, make those big stones with some horizontal and some vertical so it looks like people used uneven sized rocks.” Once the tape was on, she painted on the “stones” using a sponge with light and dark gray to make it realistic.

To fill the wall with “brush,” Liggett recycled artificial Christmas tree branches (be sure to bend over the ends of the metal branches so they are not sticking straight up).

The coop jump is made using two aluminum-clad sections angled together, like a pup tent, and screwed together at the top. Liggett supported the triangle using a 2×4 on each end of the coop. By cutting the ends of the 2x4s at 45-degree angles, she could screw the panels into the 2x4s.

Liggett also created a panel that can be hung under a rail from the jump cups by leaving the rollers on a garage door panel.

Wood-Pallet Brush Boxes
Wood pallets, which often can be salvaged free at hardware stores, landscape centers and other businesses, make good brush boxes. However, the store may be reluctant to give away good, sturdy pallets, so be sure to take more than you need of the less-than-perfect free ones.

You can cut the pallet slats vertically or horizontally, depending on what you want to do. If you want a fully open top to stuff brush into, cut across the slats. By cutting them in the same direction as the slats you end up with a closed top. If your pallets don’t have sides to create a closed top, use a slat from one of your extra pallets and nail it on top. You will also need extra slats to nail onto the jump as feet.

When cutting pallets, be careful of the many nails found in them and pull out any that are in the way. When you’re ready to cut, use protective eye goggles (you may want ear protection as well). A reciprocating saw is best for cutting pallets as it will also cut through nails that you may have missed. However, if you don’t have a reciprocating saw, a sabre saw or even your trusty hand saw will also work fine.

Cellular-Tower Spools
One of Liggett’s heaviest and trickiest acquisitions was three cellular-tower spools: “There were these rods through the center and they said you just undo the bolt and pull the rod out of the center and it’ll fall apart.

“But it didn’t. It was nailed together,” she said. “But I made the commitment to do something with them and if I couldn’t I was the dummy that needed to take them to the dump.

“So I fussed trying to get it apart until the grass turned brown underneath, and I finally thought that I’m just going to start hacking away at it, and it’ll fall apart. I started making the cuts I needed to do and stopping worrying about getting it apart, and it fell apart on its own.”

It was worth the wait. Liggett created 12 wing standards out of the spools and had enough material left over to make a coop and a jump she named “The Wave.”

Think Unconventionally
Aside from using free stuff, Liggett also visits her local home-improvement store for ideas. She built an attractive maintenance-free standard using a vinyl gothic fence post, normally used for residential fences. She said, “It looked great, will never need painting and cost under $10.”

Liggett created a base for the gothic post using pressure-treated 2x4s nailed or screwed together in a windmill pattern. In the center of the “windmill,” she affixed two pieces of ripped-down 2x4s that are used to slip inside the vinyl post. Liggett recommends measuring the inside dimensions of the post so you will be sure to cut the center 2x4s to the right width. Liggett chose not to permanently attach the post to the base to make moving the standards around much easier.

To create holes for the jump-cup pins, she marked the heights and drilled the holes using a spade bit. The jumps cups were made of a PVC piece called a coupling, which is used to join two pieces of four-inch pipe. She began by attaching the coupling to a table using a vise and then cut the coupling perpendicular to the direction of the seam. She then cut out the area where the standard goes and finally drilled the holes for the pins that go through the standard.

Drilling the hole was the trickiest part because it was on a curved surface. Liggett suggests using a nail to notch the place you want to drill. Doing so will give the drill bit a dimple to rest in so that it won’t skip across the surface of the PVC.

For jump-cup pins, Liggett uses landscape pins but recommends tying a string from the pinhead to the jump cup so the pin doesn’t accidentally end up lost on the ground.

Flower and Brush Boxes
Rectangular PVC planters are great flower boxes. Liggett drills holes in the bottom, then sticks artificial flowers in the holes and intertwines the stems on the inside so the flowers stay upright. “After a few years when the flowers begin to fade, spray paint will freshen them up,” s he said. The obstacle could also be made with brown or green planters stuffed with artificial Christmas tree branches to create a low brush jump.

Designing The Jump Rails
Liggett has clearly found many uses for the inexpensive, maintenance-free PVC pipes readily available at home-improvement stores. Obviously, they make good jump rails. For striped rails, add colored tape.

Remember, if you’re using PVC rails on your jump, you should still use a wooden rail as the top pole and fill in below with PVC rails. We feel PVC rails are too easy for a horse to knock out in front of himself, risking him stepping on it after landing.

Liggett also uses split rails, which make an attractive natural fence and are low cost. You may even have a neighbor looking to get rid of an old split rail fence, in which case you will have hit the jackpot.

Once you begin to build your own jumps you’ll find that your creativity will blossom. Don’t be surprised if a trip to the home-improvement store inspires you or if you slow down going past the dump or a garage sale. Think safety first and then let yourself go. You’ll eventually have a ring full of jumps.

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