What is Show Jumping?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Show jumping, or stadium jumping, is an equestrian sport which involves navigating a course of jumps set up inside a ring, a stadium designed for equestrian events. In addition to existing as a standalone discipline, it is also integrated into many combination competitions, such as the modern pentathlon and eventing. In a show jumping event, the stamina, speed, and flexibility of the horse are tested, along with the relationship that the horse has with its rider. Competition rankings are determined by the number of faults accumulated and the overall speed with which the course is completed.

Show jumping courses range from simple to the most complex, called the "Grand Prix".
Show jumping courses range from simple to the most complex, called the "Grand Prix".

A fault is a point in show jumping which counts against the horse and rider team. Faults can be accumulated in a number of ways, and it is rare for a course to be completed flawlessly. If a horse kicks or knocks down a jump, this is considered a fault. Likewise if a horse refuses or walks away from a jump. If a horse destroys a jump, the timer will be halted until the jump can be fixed, and if a horse refuses too many jumps, the pair will be disqualified from the competition.

Depending on the style of show jumping, the course may be made simple or complex. The highest level, called Grand Prix, features complex and intimidating obstacles which include a wide spread, meaning that the horse has to jump high and long, and obstacles like hedges and ditches. In addition, the arrangement of the jumps determines the difficulty of the course. Grand Prix show jumping typically involves jumps set at strange angles, requiring horses to be quick on their feet, or jumps at awkward distances which require the horse to be skilled and adaptable. Traditionally, the rider walks the course before riding it, so that he or she is aware of the layout.

The dress code requirements for show jumping are not as rigorous as they are for hunter classes and some other equestrian events, in which the physical appearance of horse and rider are judged along with performance. Typically, a rider wears traditionally colored breeches, tall boots, and a helmet. At most jumping events, a jacket is required, with Grand Prix jumpers wearing red jackets to designate their status. The horses are expected to be neatly groomed and in good shape, but they do not need to be as flawlessly arranged as horses in other classes, such as dressage, do.

Show jumping is one of the most dynamic and engaging equestrian events to watch, as even people without horse experience can appreciate the athleticism of the horse. Riders typically sit in a forward position with short stirrups, to center their weight well and assist with balance, allowing the horse to move quickly through the course. Show jumping horses tend to be tall, muscular, and built for speed and immense power.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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This was very helpful for my project on horses and equine sports!

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