*Oxers: These are also known as “spreads” and consist of two verticals placed a certain length apart to add both height and width to a fence. It may be wider than it is high and be lower (“rising”) at the front. If both front and back pole are the same height a commentator will often say the oxers are “square” or “parallel.”
*Combination: A “combination” is the term used to describe a group of fences that are placed in close sequence to one another, usually one or two cantering strides apart. Combinations can be made up of both verticals and oxers.
A “triple” combination is three fences in sequence in a line. They are considered as one, i.e., 3A, 3B, 3C. A “double” is two fences in sequence. A combination is considered as one obstacle albeit with two or three difficulties. If the horse refuses one fence of the combination or runs out between two elements, the pair has to jump all two or three fences again.
*Fillers: This is not a type of fence, but a solid construction below the poles which often depicts a sponsors name; a colourful design or flower boxes; it could also be a gate or planks.
*Numbered and flagged: Each jump has a number indicating its position on the course. Fences are jumped with the red flag on the top right “wing” and with a white flag on the top left “wing.”
Stride: One of the main difficulties of show jumping lies in the way the riders manage the strides of their horses between the fences. One cantering stride of a horse covers approximately 12 feet. The rider can shorten or lengthen the strides in order to adjust their number between two fences so that the horse can jump the obstacle in good condition, taking off neither too close nor too far.
When a commentator says “they’ve missed their stride,” the rider and horse have misjudged their take off distance or misunderstood one another. The “eye” of the rider and ability to make quick decisions are as important as the scope and athleticism of the horse.
Commentators may talk about “related distances” when describing a course. This refers to the number of strides needed to jump fences set on a related distance by the course designer. The distance between two jumps is considered to be “related” if there is room for a horse to take less than 6 strides between landing after the first fence and taking off for the second. In simple terms a rider needs to allow six feet for their horse to take off, clear and land over a fence, and another six feet for him to do the same over the second fence. This adds up to 12 feet. Add the 12 feet to the number of non-jumping strides between the fences and you will have got the total related distance. For example, four strides are 48 feet, plus 12 feet (for the two jumps), totaling 60 ft. With a one or two stride distance, the horse must take that exact number of strides – trying to fit in an extra stride or take one less stride (taking a stride out) will almost certainly result in a refusal or a fence down. With a longer related distance, adding or taking out a stride is possible.
Part of the art of walking a course is deciding the best way to ride a related distance on the particular horse you are competing on. Some riders seem to be born with a “natural eye” for a “distance”. They can ride nearly any horse and harmoniously sail around a course. Whether consciously or not, these riders accurately calibrate their current speed, rhythm and the ground stretching out in front of them as they approach the jumps. Riders, coaches and commentators use the words “distance” and “take-off spot” to reference the exact geography in which a horse’s legs lift from the ground in front of a jump. A good “distance” or “take-off” is a safe measurement typically about 6 feet away from an average 3- foot jump
Technicality: You may hear the commentator saying “this is a technical course” or “there are several related distances” or “the time is tight.” The higher the level of competition, the more complex (“technical”) the courses become and have tighter time allowances to complete the course. Not only is the height and width (“spread”) of an obstacle increased to present a greater challenge, “technical” difficulty also increases with tighter turns and shorter or unusual distances between fences. Horses sometimes also have to jump fences from an angle rather than straight on. For example, a course designer might set up a line so that there are six and a half strides (the standard measure for a canter stride is 12 feet) between the jumps, requiring the rider to adjust the horse’s stride dramatically in order to make the distance. They will make a distance slightly longer or shorter than the standard which will require riders to adjust their horses’ normal stride. For example, if a distance is slightly longer then a normal four stride distance a rider on a forward-going, long-striding horse might decide to take four long strides, whereas a rider on a short-striding, bouncy horse might take the alternative of five short strides.
The showjumping horse or pony: Producing a horse or pony for the competition arena is the fruit of long and patient work of our breeders and producers who are the lifeblood of showjumping. The young horse begins his sporting life at around 3-4 years old with light schooling, having been “broken in” (ridden for the first time). He/she will take part in his first competitions from quite a young age and by the time he/she has turned six their talent is usually shining through indicating future potential. Stallions, geldings and mares all compete in the same classes and there are a number of classes specifically designed to produce the novice/young horse through the levels with a focus on developing them into international horses of the future. British Breeding has come to the fore in recent years with many other nations coveting our up and coming horses alongside our performance pathway programmes.
The rider: He/she is more than just a pilot. The rider is the brain of this “athlete combination”. First of all the rider has skill and talent: an eye, and a sense of balance not to disturb the horse. He/she is the one who “moulds” the horse, requiring years of work, education, dressage, and patience. On the course, the eye of the rider and his ability to make quick decisions are as important as the skill and physical aptitude of the horse.
Prize money: The performances in a showjumping competition are most frequently rewarded by money. The winner usually receives a third of the total prize fund and the rest is distributed down the field in a 1:5 ratio.
British Showjumping is an Olympic Sport and competes under the Team GBR banner at least once a year whether it be at the European Championships, the World Equestrian Games or the Olympics. At the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Team GB Jumping Team showed the world their talent by securing Team Gold.
Looking after the sport in Great Britain, as its governing body, is British Showjumping formulating the rules and codes of practice under which all affiliated competitions are held. Our purpose is to improve and maintain standards of showjumping, while encouraging members of all standards and at all levels to enjoy fair competition over safe and attractive courses.
British Showjumping has classes to cater for all levels of ability whether you simply want to compete occasionally at weekends over a 70cm course or aim eventually, for top class competitions at the Royal International Horse Show, Horse of the Year Show or Olympia
For more information visit www.britishshowjumping.co.uk