Show jumping is a fast paced sport in the English riding style that costs riders, show hosts, and trainers millions of dollars. But what is show jumping anyway? And what’s the competition?
What Is Show Jumping Anyway?
Showjumping is a competition that English riders partake in with their horses. A horse needs to complete a course of jumps with as few mistakes as possible in the shortest time. The horse with the fastest and most perfect run wins the competition.
Where It Originated…
Showjumping actually originated in Italy after Calvary members would use their horses to clear the most fences during fox hunts. This was later changed to jumps in an arena where an audience looks on like in today’s time.
The showjumping competition that we know today started in the early twentieth century. In the early days of this sport, the Italians were the ones who dominated the jumping courses.
What It Tests
Show jumping tests both the horse and rider in skill as they work as a team through the course. It tests:
- The horse’s speed
- The horse’s jumping ability
- The rider’s ability to maintain control of the horse when running and jumping at fast speeds
- The time it takes horse and rider to complete the course
This fast-paced competition is competed in by a variety of riders from amateur to professional. Even children have showjumping competitons.
In this day and age, showjumping is of the most well know equine sports competed in today.
Do The Horses Like Jumping?
From what I have seen, jumpers love their job! There are even videos of horses who throw their rider when showjumping and complete the course without the rider. If the horse didn’t like their job, then they wouldn’t do that.
From personal experience, I actually tried to teach my Arabian Bronze how to jump. He would jump, though we stuck to mainly cross-rails. Because of his size and age, jumping higher wasn’t really an option. He absolutely loved jumping though. We would go out into the arena and he would get so excited just to see the jumps and we would need to stay on the flat for a long time before he got over the excitement about jumping.
My friends have Thoroughbreds who absolutely love jumping as well. Their horses aren’t used in any sort of jumping competition, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love clearing them in the backyard.
Jumping, especially showjumping, isn’t made for every horse and some may really dislike their job if made to jump. Do what your horse loves and don’t force them to do what they don’t want to do for a job. Horses will let you know if something isn’t right or isn’t for them.
Is Showjumping A Dangerous Sport?
Absolutely it is. Riders are astride a horse that weighs over half a ton and are clearing huge jumps often taller than the rider itself. The incident rate regarding injury is low, but when something goes bad, it can be catastrophically bad.
Riders can fall while the horse is jumping, running, taking off, and more. The horses that compete professionally in this discipline are huge powerful animals and may be difficult to even handle on the ground, let alone running and jumping as fast as possible.
There is a reason that English sports require helmets over most sports in riding.
How Old Should A Horse Be Before It Starts Jumping?
Some horse trainers will start jumping horses at the age of three which in many cases is way too early. Horses are potentially still growing and developing at the age of three or even four. The cartilage in the joints may not have fused yet meaning they still might not be old enough to be ridden, let alone jump.
Horses can begin jumping around the age of four or five as by this time the horse is likely to be done growing, the cartilage in the joints has fused, and they are ready to begin their career.
When Should Horses Stop jumping?
A horse will most likely tell you in some way or form that they are ready to retire. Some ways to know that it is time to retire the horse from jumping is if they are lame or unsound in any way, starting to refuse more jumps and are reluctant to jump at all, or if they have arthritis or are suffering from another joint or bone problem.
What Do Riders Who Compete In Showjumping Wear?
Competitive riders in show jumping wear an entire uniform when competing. The outfit includes gloves, helmet, breeches, collared shirt, show jacket, tall boots, and maybe even spurs.
Horseback riders wear gloves that are specifically designed for holding the reins. English riding gloves often have grips on the fingers and palm of the glove to give the rider a firmer grip on the rein.
This is the most important piece of a rider’s uniform. These riders wear black competition helmets when showing in an arena. Riders actually used to wear helmets that didn’t come with a chin strap. They were basically wearing hard hats rather than a secure helmet!
Breeches are a rider’s best friend, that is if they come with knee patches. Show-jumpers wear breeches either white or tan in color, and often they come with rubber or suede knee patches on the inside of the leg. This gives the rider more grip on the horse when riding and letting them keep a better leg position.
In showjumping, the most common color for breeches is actually white!
I absolutely love my breeches. All of mine have knee patches which is a lifesaver when riding and improving your equitation.
Most English riders actually have to wear a similar uniform and nearly all of them wear a collared shirt under a show jacket.
Most collared shirts that riders are expected to wear are white, but some competitions and organizations will let there be different colors too. Typically when a rider is wearing a collared shirt, all you can see is the collar poking out of the jacket.
These coats actually look more like a blazer than a jacket. They can be almost any color or pattern, but what is frequently seen in showjumping is a bright red color. A red show jacket paired with white breeches makes the horse and rider stand out from the sea of muted colors.
Riders who are doing it for fun or are taking lessons often only wear a paddock boot paired with half chaps. This is a much cheaper alternative to tall boots. Tall boots are what professionals will wear in the show ring when riding. They are not necessarily a requirement as half chaps and paddock boots are just as functional, but tall boots are what most competitors will wear in the ring.
Spurs are more closely associated with western riding, though they are really common in English riding too. The English spur isn’t as flashy or big as the western spur and often just consists of a small metal ball on the end of a curved metal piece that goes around the ankle/heel area. Some horses require harder commands or more contact and drive which is what these small English spurs will help in.