How To Make Horse Jump Rails
Horse jump rails are one of the most important pieces to consider when you take on the project of making your own horse jumps. And of all of the pieces of building your own horse jumps, the rails seem to be the most difficult part. Finding ready made round rails that are long enough to be used as horse jump poles confounds me. I am always looking for something affordable that I can use for poles.
A lot of people will attempt to use PVC pipe for poles, and I can understand why. They have the ‘look’ that we are trying to achieve with our homemade horse jumps. They are the perfect size, and they just look like they are perfect for poles. But, really they aren’t. PVC pipe is not intended to be used as poles for horse jumps, so please don’t be tempted to use them.
Where To Find Horse Jump Rails
If you are fortunate enough to have a source of 10 or 12 foot long poles close by, and a way to get them to your house, consider yourself very lucky. For the rest of us, we have to figure out how on earth we are going to be able to afford to buy rails. Jump rails are not readily available, well at least not where I live. So that means coming up with alternatives to ‘real’ rails made to be used as horse jump rails.
Buying Ready Made Horse Jump Rails
Yes, you can buy ready made rails for jumps online, but they are not cheap. For example, I found these rails on Amazon:
And they cost $228.00 for a bundle of 6 octagonal cut rails, and you must add $195.00 for shipping. Bringing the total cost for 6 rails to $423.95, or $70.65 each. I’m sorry, but that is way too much to spend on rails.
You can make your own octagonal rails for about $18.00 each, depending on how long you want them to be, 10 to 12 feet.
Or you can get even more economical, and use 8 foot landscape timbers for the incredible cost of $4.00 per rail! Meaning you can buy 100 landscape timbers for the cost of 6 premade rails. Which way would you like to proceed? I thought so, landscaping timbers it is!
And if you get creative, you can fit 8 foot long wood in a standard sedan type car. True, it is not ideal, but where there is a will there is a way. And I am here to tell you, I have fit 6 landscaping timbers in my little Subaru Legacy without hurting my car. Thankfully, I know have a Subaru Outback. So I am able to get a lot more wood into my vehicle. The only wood I cannot get inside is sheets of plywood, and anything that is over 8 feet in total length.
Landscape Timber Make Great Horse Jump Rails
I like having my rails be 8 feet long. They are easier to move and work better in my very small riding area. I have a somewhat larger area where I have set up my hunter jumps, but it still is not very large.
And the timbers are substantial but lightweight. This means that if your horse knocks into the rail when he is jumping it, he will feel it. But they are not so heavy to make it difficult to move them. I can pick up 3 of them at a time and move them where I want them to be. So since I already have a bunch of these timbers, they will be the reference for the jump rails for this post. Everything will be the same if you are using the 10 or 12 foot long monsters, you will just be using more primer and paint than I will be.
Making Jump Rails With Landscaping Timbers
If you are not familiar with cherry tone landscaping timbers, click here. They are found at Home Depot in the garden section usually outside and at the back of the store, close to the outdoor bricks. Lowes does have some landscaping timbers, but they are skinnier than the Home Depot ones. They will work for jump rails, but they cost less at Home Depot.
What You Will Need
- Cherry tone landscaping timbers
- Sandpaper (I prefer 60 grit)
- Kilz 2 primer
- Latex painter’s caulk
- Orbital sander
- Paint brushes
What You Will Do
Once you have your timbers home, you will need a place to work with them. Saw horses work well, or you can make a stand in order to work with the large wood. I made a pair of homemade stands that work very well for holding large wood. This is necessary because you need the wood up off of the ground for painting.
Ok, so you have figured out what you are going to put your timbers on, great! First we need to sand the wood. You want to use a lower grit sand paper, because sometimes these timbers can be very rough. The lower grit sandpaper makes fast work of rough edges. When I am sanding, I sand all of the wood first, and then move them off of the stands.
Next using painters caulk, fill in all of the gaps in the wood. You want the wood to appear seamless, and that means no gaps or cracks. To make this easier on yourself, grab a pair of vinyl disposable gloves. Put them on, and then after you have applied the caulk, run your hand over the caulking to smooth it out. Once you have the timber caulked, it is time to grab your paint brush and the primer paint.
Applying The Primer
I primer paint while the caulking is still wet. The primer helps to smooth out the caulk and you can’t even tell it is there. I love it! I have never had a problem with the caulk cracking with the primer, so I promise, it will look good when you are finished!
The primer paint is necessary, so please, don’t skip it. The primer helps the paint adhere evenly to the wood, and provides the base coat. In fact, when I have been in a hurry and just wanted some white rails, or cavaletti, I apply two coats of primer, and then I have rails, poles, or cavaletti that look somewhat finished.
And then in the future if I decide I want to paint the rails, the primer coat is already done!
Oil Based Paints for Horse Jumps
After you have allowed the primer to dry, now it is time for the finishing paint. I prefer to use oil based paint for every component of my jumps. The oil based paint provides a very protective finish to the wood which will withstand being outside in the elements. You can use latex based paint, but it won’t last. Spend a little bit of extra money and buy oil based paint.
I will typically use Rustoleum, because it is readily available almost everywhere. When I want a more custom color I will go to Sherwin Williams. It is more expensive, but sometimes you just need some different colors, and thankfully Sherwin Williams has many colors to choose from.
When you are painting with oil based paints, they take longer to dry than latex. Keep that in mind when you are painting because all your components will need to completely dry in between coats of paint.
For these rails, I am painting them high gloss white. You can use whatever type of paintbrush you like, I prefer to use a 2” brush. And the brush I use is on the cheaper end because with oil based paints, you will go through paint brushes unless you clean them. And even though it is wasteful, I don’t clean them. I use them up, and then toss them out. It just isn’t worth the hassle. So even though I really like the Purdy brand of brushes, I stick with the economy versions and when I have completed a project or two, and the brushes dry out I will throw them away.
The Paint Brushes
You can make the brushes last longer by keeping them covered. I will use grocery store bags and wrap the brush with 2 bags and store it while I am waiting for the paint to dry on whatever it is I am painting.
Again, when painting your rails, it is best to have them lifted off the floor and around waist height while you are painting. I love the stands I made. They are very helpful for all aspects of jump building.
When you are painting, you don’t want to do heavy thick coats of paint. It can be tempting, especially when you see the beautiful, shiny gloss of the wet paint. But if you do too thick of a coat, your paint will run and it won’t look good! So refrain from the excitement of applying to much paint. Your patience will be rewarded in the end, I promise! So paint all of the areas that you can see with a thin coat of the oil based paint. You will be able to see a gloss.
And I would recommend painting as many rails that you have room for on your stands. Even if you are only needing 2 rails, but you have 5 primed and ready to go, you may as well paint them.
Patience Is The Key
After you have painted all visible areas of your rails, allow them to dry. Depending on where you live, and what time of year it is, you can anticipate at least 12 hours of drying time. I like to paint my rails after I come home from work, and have already gotten my barn chores done. I like to do it this way because it can always be light in my garage, and I only have so many hours of daylight, or temperate weather to be with my horses. So after I have gotten my barn chores and horse work done, I will come to the garage and paint my rails. It will take me about 30 minutes to paint 6 rails. And when I’m done, I go inside and watch TV, or write an article or two. But then when I come home from work the next day, I flip the rails and paint the remaining sides.
By doing the painting of the rails on my work, or week nights, I will be able to get a little bit of work done, and allow plenty of drying time for the paint before I come back to it again.
And once the finish coat of paint is done in a period of 2-3 days, then I still have 2 days left of the work week that if I wanted to add stripes, I can do this too!
And for these rails, I am keeping them solid white, so no stripes. This means my rails are now complete, and after they dry, I only have one more thing to make for this jump, and that is the flower fillers! I get really excited about adding the floral component because that means the jump is near completion! And that is what I will be going over next time with you.
But in the mean time, if you would like to ‘see’ the process I go through with making and painting the jump rails, there is a new video of my process on my YouTube channel, The Budget Equestrian.