Show Jumping

A Real Crowd Pleaser

The sport of show jumping is possibly the most popular and well-recognized equestrian event outside of thoroughbred racing. This heart-pumping sport is spectator friendly, easy to understand, and has been growing in popularity worldwide since the early 1900s. Along with eventing and dressage, show jumping in the Olympics represents the highest competitive level of the sport. 

How Does Show Jumping Work?

In showjumping, the rider pilots their horse over a set of 12-15 jumps (also called fences), in a specific order and pattern, within the allotted time. Penalties or “faults” are accumulated for knocking down a fence, refusing a fence, and taking longer than the allotted time to finish the course. If a horse and rider pair finishes the initial course with zero faults, this is called a clear round, and those who have managed to clear the first course will go on to compete in a jump-off. Round two, the jump-off, will consist of a shorter course with bigger fences. The fasted pair with the lowest points at the end of the jump-off will be the overall winner. Showjumping in the Olympics is conducted differently, with the athletes jumping several rounds over server days to determine the winners. In this instance, there will be a jump-off if more than one rider has the same score at the end of the several days. In addition to penalties, a rider can be disqualified for the following: jumping the wrong obstacle by straying from the course pattern, refusing the same jump more than once, the rider falling off, or rider and horse falling on the ground. 

What are The Different Types of Jumps?

There are several types of jumps (or obstacles) that you will see on a show jumping course. The most straightforward jump is called a vertical, with a single row of poles set above each other. And Oxer is wider, essentially two verticals set parallel to each other, and the space between them makes the jump wider. A triple bar is like an oxer, but three jumps wide, and they ascend in height. A Swedish oxer has its poles in a crisscross so that it looks like an X head-on. A vertical or oxer with water underneath it is called a Liverpool. An open water jump is just that, a shallow pool of water; the horse must jump the width of it without getting its feet in the water. When two or three jumps are together in a sequence with only one or two strides between them, it’s called a combination. When a horse refuses one jump in a double or triple combination, they must re-jump the entire combination, not just the one obstacle they missed. 

How High are the Jumps in a Show Jumping Competition?

Competitions in the US, governed by the USEF, have jumping levels from 0to 9, representing the range of heights. For example, at level 0, jumps are 2’6” to 2’9”, and at level 9 the fences are 4’9” to 5’0”. International competitions are governed by FEI, and have fences starting at 4’11”.

What Types of Horses are Suited for Show Jumping?

What are the best horses for jumping? Indeed, any type of horse can practice the principles of show jumping, and many can be competitive. However, to be successful, a horse must first of all be brave, agile, and athletic. The height of the horse does not necessarily predict its talent for jumping, and smaller horses have made it to the top of the sport. However, most show jumpers are 16 hands and taller, and the most popular breeding of these horses includes thoroughbreds and warmbloods.