a horse jump set up

What Paint Should You Buy To Paint Your Own Horse Jumps?

One thing that I know a lot about is building, and painting, horse jumps. I got started building and painting my own jumps over 15 years ago, and since then I have built at least 1,000 jumps for myself or others. And because of this, I have experimented with every type of paint you can imagine to get some color onto a jump.

And since the weather is finally turning nice, and the temperatures are above freezing all day and night long, now is a good time to paint or repaint some jumps. And in case you were thinking about doing the same, I thought it might be helpful to go over some of the choices you have to paint your jumps.

I have a lot of new jump ideas in my head right now. And getting them out of my head, and into reality is my goal over the next month or so. But choosing the best paint will make all the difference in the world when it comes to the longevity of the jumps I build.

You wouldn’t think paint would be such a big deal, but it really is. If you are building your own jumps, you will understand how much time goes into making the jumps, and then painting the jumps. And if you don’t want to be repainting your jumps several times every year make sure you do the research before you begin painting.

Latex Paint

different colors of paint

Latex paint is everywhere today and super easy to find a huge variety of products. Today’s paints are not technically “latex” like the original water based paints developed in the 1940s and 1950s. Most are now 100% acrylic, which is a big improvement over their predecessors. It might be easier to refer to these paints as water based, instead of latex because honestly, there isn’t any latex in this type of paint.

Water based paint contains acrylic in it now a days. And depending on how much acrylic is in the paint will determine the cost. The more acrylic in your paint, the higher the price tag. And this paint does serve a purpose, I just don’t prefer this for painting jumps.

Water based paint is more affordable, dries faster, and is easier to work with. But when it comes to horse jumps and how much they get moved, stored or bumped into, and this is where the cheap water based paint falls short.

paint brush with paint on it

And even though it is tempting to buy a gallon or two, especially when you find the ‘oops’ paint section at Home Depot, in the long run you will be spending just as much as you would with a higher quality paint.

If a water based paint product is your only choice, I would tend to go with the smaller quart sizes of paint by Rustoleum. You can usually find it at Wal Mart as well as Home Depot.

If you want to get the best water based paint, try Sherwin Williams or Behr Marquee from Home Depot. Yes, they are more expensive, but they last the longest of the water based paints.

Kilz 2 Primer

Kilz2 primer container close up

And even though I tend to stay away from the water based paints, there is one that I love and use over and over again, Kilz 2 primer. This is a paint, sort of. But more than that it is a primer paint. A primer paint is a preparatory coating put on materials before painting. Priming ensures better adhesion of paint to the surface, increases paint durability, and provides additional protection for the material being painted. And the Kilz 2 primer is affordable. I can usually find a 2 gallon container of it for around $27.00.

horse jump rails painted white

And if you are wanting to do one coat of something on your jumps, and nothing else, you can do that with Kilz.

This primer is water based. Which means it is easy to clean up. Soap and water will clean your brushes, as well as your skin. And this stuff is durable. And it’s bright white color is perfect for painting jumps. Several of my jumps are strictly painted with Kilz 2 because that was all I had at the time. But I can use the rails on the ground, or setting in the jump cups and these rails (and standards) rarely show any wear. If my horses decide they want to taste the paint, and run their teeth across a rail, then there will be some removal of paint. But for the most part, the primer is very strong and resists knocks and rubs.

a homemade horse jump set up in an arena

The finish is flat though, so no shiny rails or standards. But it will work to give you a bright white jump. And the primer dries fast. On a normal summer day, a coat of the primer will dry in about an hour.

Oil Based Paint

rustoleum oil based paint open with a paint stir stick inside

Though there are fewer options for oil based paint. But this type of paint is my first choice because no matter how hard I search, I cannot find a latex paint with the same performance as a good old-fashioned oil-based enamel.

Oil-based enamels provide for a glassy smooth finish and is as hard as nails. This paint is so durable and can withstand a lot of abuse. Oil based paint is by far my favorite paint for horse jumps. Unfortunately, oil based paint is getting more difficult to find. But this stuff is so strong, and works so well for horse jumps.  It is very durable and lasts a very long time, even when jumps are left outside in the elements.

This type of paint does have it’s drawback to keep in mind though. First, it is difficult to work with and takes forever to dry. It is also very difficult to remove from your skin, as well as your paint brushes. And this can be difficult because in order to get the best finish on your rails and standards, you want to use a higher quality paint brush. So you spend $20.00 on a paint brush that is very difficult if not impossible to clean. So many times I will sacrifice the finish by using a dollar store paint brush, and then toss it when I am done painting my jumps.

a homemade horse jump in black blue and white

But this type of paint will give you the longest lasting paint job on your jumps that I have found so far. However, if you are planning on doing a lot of striping on your rails, keep in mind that it will mean a lot longer dry time in between the painting of different colors.

As an example, I painted these multi color rails with turquoise, brown, tan, and white. It took 2 weeks before the rails were ready to use in my arena. For me, the end product was worth it, but it took a lot longer in the beginning. However, these rails will last a long time, if I care for them properly and put them away when I’m not using them.

rustoleum gray oil based paint

My first go too choice for affordable oil based paint is Rust-Oleum. You can find the quart size for around $10.00 and the gallons cost about $28.00. There isn’t a huge selection of colors, but they are affordable and it’s a great product. Sherwin Williams also makes a great oil based paint that is very durable, but it’s also really expensive. At around $26.00 a quart, I reserve this for colors that I can’t mix myself by combining different Rust-Oleum paint colors.

Spray Paint

I love spray paint. It’s affordable and can make fast work of painting standards. I can paint 6 standards with 2 cans of paint in the same amount of time it takes me to brush paint a single standard. Now that is fast.

diy painting horse jump rails

And there is minimal clean up, especially when I remember to wear gloves.

However the down side to spray paint is the durability. If your jumps are used inside, and stored inside the paint job will last. But if your jumps are stored outside, I have found the paint flakes off and doesn’t last. But if you are looking for a quick touch up, or want to change the look of your jumps you can do it quickly with spray paint.

I have found that the spray paint is good for jump cups though, and it lasts.

I had a lot of black jump cups that I wanted to change the color, so they would match my standards. And I have had good results with all brands of spray paint when using them on my jump cups, even if they live outside all winter, and summer long.

Marine Paint

Marine paints are most commonly used to coat the exterior of boats that have constant exposure to water. These oil-based paints provide a durable surface, but like all oil based paints, it takes a long time to dry.  The upside to this is the finish it gives to your jumping equipment. The marine paint gives a very tough and weather proof finish to your jumps.

I have used this type of paint mainly for standards because the choice of colors is very limited. But if you are painting your standards (or rails) white, this paint is a good choice.

rust-oleum marine paint in white gloss

Some affordable options are Rustoleum Top Side Marine Enamel and Duralux both which can be found at Lowes and Home Depot.

But honestly, I have had just as good results that are just as durable with the regular oil based Rust-Oleum, and its more affordable.

Well now that I have given you a lot of information on the different types of paint you can buy to paint your jumps, the time has come to decide. Which type of paint are you going to choose to give your jumps a facelift?


I am horse crazy and love DIY projects, and finding great deals on everything horse related. When I have a new idea, or find a great deal I love sharing this information with you.

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