Show jumps are filled with choices when it comes to style, but when it comes to materials consumers have two options: wood or plastic.
Traditional wooden jumps are what most farms and shows use to construct courses. But just because wood is traditional, it’s not necessarily best for everyone. Because of technology developed and improved in the past few decades, the industry offers a plastic jump made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC jumps are maintenance-free and lightweight, the biggest benefits over traditional wooden fences.
By choosing plastic you won’t be forced to give up style. Many designs are available, including gates, walls, roll tops, flower boxes and coops. In addition, all PVC products are rot-resistant, so you’ll never have to peel the old carpet off to fix that rotting roll top again.
The downside to PVC also is its weight. Yes, lightweight jumps are great for maneuverability, but when you’re building large jumper courses they can be a problem. Lightweight rails that fly away from the jump can be dangerous as can standards that topple more easily than wooden ones.
Although creative horse owners have for years attempted to build their own PVC “jumps” using four-inch PVC pipe from their local home improvement store, be assured that not all PVC is the same. The pipe from the store yellows over time and can shatter into dangerous fragments when hit in the colder weather. That piping is meant to be used underground. It is not designed to be durable in the elements with horses smacking their hooves into it.
JUMP PVC claims to be the first company to successfully harness the technology of PVC for horse jumps. By using additives in virgin PVC, they were able to create a strong, resistant surface. They say that by using virgin PVC instead of ground, recycled PVC, they are better able to determine the additive amounts, thereby controlling the quality of the final product.
JUMP PVC set up their plastic jump business in 1985, and by 1986 their jumps were being used at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Palm Beach and Tampa, Fla.
JUMP PVC offers many different styles and also offers a uniquely colored PVC. The wing and schooling standards along with walls, gates and flower boxes are available in “gray flannel” and “weathered wood.” The gray and brown coloration is impregnated in the material, so the color will not wear off.
A more recent competitor in the PVC market is JUMPS USA. JUMPS USA also markets through tack shops, which allows consumers to examine the jumps in person. If your local tack shop doesn’t carry them, see if they can get a sample jump sent in.
We find these two companies, JUMP PVC and JUMPS USA, are leaders in the industry for a versatile line of jumps. They both design and construct quality products with prices that are almost identical.
Silk Tree Manufacturing, based in Dillwyn, Va., doesn’t make standards or rails, but it does make well-designed cavaletti in addition to a line of dressage products, such as plastic arenas, cones and arena letters (see August 1998). As a piece of equipment that takes a beating and is used frequently, the design of your cavaletti is critical.
The cross design on Silk Tree’s 4×4 legs is constructed to easily adjust to three different heights. The cavaletti are eight feet long and can also be stacked to create small jumps. There is nothing to fall apart while moving them because the legs are attached to the pole. It is a traditional design made of a modern product.
If price were not an issue we would choose Silk Tree hands down for cavaletti, but at $97.50 for one, we are tempted by JUMPS USA’s $49 price tag. JUMPS USA offers a good design that is also attractive, although it isn’t as simple as Silk Tree’s and takes time to change feet in order to change the height.
JUMP PVC offers an even more economical alternative if you already have an excess of poles available. Their cavaletti or “Cava-T” is only $22, but it excludes the pole. The pair of ends have three holes for height adjustment and slip on over a 4” pole that you supply in your choice of materials, plastic or wood.
Safety System Show Jumps also uses plastic construction. The jumps are manufactured in Europe and are sold through distributors. The poles are Scandinavian pine, covered and sealed in PVC, while the schooling standards are round PVC poles set in a galvanized steel base designed with four feet. Their starter kit uses four standards to make three jumps. The three jumps are set in a row with the two middle standards using jump cups on both sides.
As with all companies, you can purchase individual jumps or kits that include a group of jumps. Safety System Show Jumps’ starter kit includes four standards, six poles, 12 cups and six color tubes for striping the rails and is priced at $695. That’s about $100 more than the schooling package from JUMPS USA that lists for $591 and includes six schooling standards, three cavaletti, five PVC white rails, 10 metal jump cups and 20 vinyl stripes for the rails. The JUMPS USA set allows you to construct three jumps in separate areas of the ring, while Safety System Jumps limits you to build two separate jumps.
The JUMP PVC schooling package is priced at a competitive rate of $595. It includes six schooling standards, a turf box ground line, a flower box ground line, five white rails and 10 jump cups.
You can see the prices between JUMP PVC and JUMPS USA are close, as are many of their other features. Although the companies offer almost identical products, we liked two features from JUMPS USA:
1. Two of the biggest problems with the original JUMPS USA construction were found with the feet. They either stuck on so tightly that you couldn’t remove them again (a big problem when wanting to adjust the height of the caveletti) or the feet slipped off when moving the jumps to change the course. Both problems have been corrected with a new snap-on design. The snaps are tabs that stick out from the “ankle” of the foot. When you slide the standard or cavaletti onto the foot, it is tight enough not to fall off, yet the tabs flex so that the foot doesn’t get stuck.
2. The product comes fully assembled. The only loose parts are the removable feet. We like the fact that there is no assembly because the integrity of the product is not harmed by non-mechanically minded people, and because the time it takes to assemble a course could be better spent teaching lessons or going to shows.
Brands aside, the most important decision you must make is deciding if PVC jumps are right for you. To do that, you must assess what your usage will be and where the jumps will be placed in regard to wind. Are you a schooling stable that changes courses frequently’ Are you looking for maintenance-free jumps’ Perhaps a combination of wood and PVC is the way to go. By using wooden rails with lightweight PVC walls and standards, you get the benefits of both materials. Also consider mixing and matching between companies to get what you want. And while you’re searching for what’s right for you, keep in mind it’s a fine line between light enough to carry and light enough to blow over.
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