The purpose of this study was to quantify performance characteristics of good jumping horses, and to determine whether these were already detectable at foal age. Kinematic data were collected of horses performing free jumps over a 0.60 m high fence at six months of age and of these same horses jumping with a rider over a 1.15 m high fence at five years of age. At five years of age the horses were divided into three groups on the basis of a puissance competition: a group of seven best jumpers that made no errors and in the end cleared a 1.50 m high fence, a group of nine worst jumpers that were unable to clear a 1.40 m high fence, and an intermediate group of 13 horses. Longitudinal kinematic data was available for all seven best jumpers and for six of the nine worst jumpers. Average values of variables for the best jumpers were compared with those of the worst jumpers for the jumps over 1.15 m. In the group of best jumpers, the forelimbs were shorter at forelimb clearance due to increased elbow flexion, and the hind limbs were further retroflexed at hind limb clearance. The same superior technique in clearing fences with the limbs was also found in this group at six months of age. Nevertheless, for individual horses it turned out to be too far-fetched to predict adult jumping capacity on the basis of kinematic variables collected during submaximal jumps at foal age. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.