The Art of Show Jumping

Show jumping is a very difficult yet exquisitely exhilarating sport that is played in many parts of the world. The combined potential of a human and a horse at the same time make it an art, which quite frankly is astonishing and unbelievable, the way the horse jumps over the obstacles within a given time limit. In this thrilling sport horses are made to jump through different types of obstacles mainly including ditches, troughs, fences etc. The event may be of a given time limit or may sometimes be without a limit. However, a panel of judges makes the judgment because, just like other sports, show jumping is also played under some specified rules.

Jumping is played under four forms: Hunter, Show Jumping, Stadium Jumping, and Equitation. For the hunter style jumping, horses are allowed to perform on a smooth course, and to get a flowing performance the rider should come up with a constant speed over all the fences just like the ones found in the natural hunting environment. The criterion of judgment here is how the horse performs, its conduct, and the style of going. To be dominant in the competition the rider must ride the horse at a constant controlled pace particularly making a good takeoff, smooth jumping, low movement, and efficiency on the whole.

The obstacles in a show jumping course are set in different spreads over directions including, spreads, double and triple combinations, and verticals. The course is more complicated as the class moves in the upward direction, for example the grade A class in which obstacles are increased as compared to other grade classes. The objective is to complete the twisting course within the allowed time limit while jumping cleanly over the obstacles. In show jumping the fault occurs on knocking down the obstacle, and exceeding the time duration. Show jumping courses require mental toughness, control, precision, and most of all a constant steady pace during the run. The key to saving time in show jumping is by making sharp turns that require mental presence and boldness. On the other hand the rider must be in a very good and balanced position to get a perfect stride of his horse before each jump.

A certain number of refusals against obstacles are allowed to the horse, but as a rule faults are added to their final score. The rule was changed to 4 faults instead of 3 faults by the FEI (Federation Equestrian International) because after years of observations it was decided that it’s better for the horse to go for the jump rather than refusing to attempt, and that the penalty should not be less for a sterner fault. The rider earns one-fourth fault for each second if the time limit is exceeded, and fours faults for each pole disturbed and knocked down. The final ranking depends on the lowest number of points scored, and the rider with the fastest time is ranked higher in case of a draw. However, according to the original faults list in 1925, the penalty on refusing or running out at any fence was 8 faults for the first, 8 faults for the second, and elimination on the third. If in any case the rider or the horse or both fall the result would be elimination. The fault is not counted if the horse just touches the fence, because faults only add up if any part of the obstacle or a pole is knocked down. Four faults are levied on knocking down each obstacle and the same rule applies to the water obstacle if the horse lands one or more of his feet in the water. Water obstacles used to be 5 meters wide, and as a matter of fact the water always used to drain out of them before the last contestant’s run. During these times the horse had to start by jumping over a pole 5 feet high which seemed to be very difficult and so later on it was replaced with several poles and fillers in a single obstacle.

The sport has produced some champion horses, the names of which are well known to the show jumping world. Some of them are, Abdullah, Boomerang, Heartbreaker, Halla, Gem Twist, Nimmerdor, Snowball, Snowman, Big Ben, Dobles Cento, Milton and many more.

Article contributed by Farhan Asghar Abbasi