What is Showjumping?
The goal of showjumping is for combinations to jump over all the fences on the course in a test of the rider’s skill and the pony’s/horse’s power, scope, speed, athleticism and
It’s all about teamwork between horse and rider working in harmony jumping a course of fences within a set (optimum) time without knocking down any poles or refusing any of the showjumps.
It’s one of the very few sports in which male and female competitors (both horses and riders) compete in the same classes and while it may sound simple, the sport requires athleticism, precision and quick thinking from both horse and rider.
This is the stadium or stage where the competition (or “class”) takes place. The arena or ring is often separated from spectators by a man-made fence such as white plastic post and rails or at smaller local shows a simple rope is often used to create a temporary arena.
Major international competitions offer bigger venues such as football type stadiums with grandstands. Competitions are held at both “indoor” (covered) and “outdoor” arenas and the floor, (“surface” or “ground”) off which the horses jump comes in a variety of surfaces.
There are several types of “surface” ranging from grass arenas similar to a football field to purpose built arenas using a sophisticated mixture of fibre and sand developed to protect the legs and the joints of horses. You may hear the announcer talk about the “footing” and this is when he is referring to the floor covering and condition of the ground off which the horses are jumping. Common phrases when describing both grass and man-made surfaces include “the horses love this footing,” “the ground is superb,” or in more negative terms “the footing is hard or slippery.”
Listen to David Andrews on the #HorseHour Podcast discuss different types of Equestrian Surfaces. AndrewsBowen Equestrian Surfaces created the London 2012 Olympic surfaces and he explains in detail why selecting the correct surface is so important. Plus why different breed prefer certain surfaces.
The course builder is at the heart of the competition in creating the course and designing the route
placing the obstacles in an order to test the skill of the horse and the rider who aim to jump “clear” within the set time. The course designer spaces the obstacles at such distances so that horses will have to show their obedience and athleticism under the control of their rider.
The course builder considers the level of the competitors and the rules applicable to that
particular “class”. His goal is to adjust the level of difficulty in order to bring the best riders to the top, while allowing all competitors to complete the course safely.
A showjumping course will be made up of anywhere between, on average, 10-15 fences and the course designer displays his course plan for the riders to study the route and the time allowed.
Show jumping is becoming an increasingly “technical sport”. Fences continue to get lighter and easier to knock down. The distance between areas requiring long strides, for which the horse may stretch out its movements in the interest of speed, and short strides, for which the horse must make its movements more compact for jumping.
Shows the general layout of the course including the start and finish posts, the position of the fences with their type and numbers and any compulsory passages or turning points. It also shows the length of the course, the right track to be followed, the marking system to be used, the time allowed and the time limit (if applicable). It also includes the obstacles to be used in any jump-off and the length of the course and time allowed for the jump-off.
Course plans are posted and made public in advance so the riders can learn them prior to
“walking the course” and riding their round.
Walking the course:
After the course is built by the course-designer and his team it is approved by the judges.
Then before the competition/class starts, riders are allowed to “walk the course”. They
memorise the route, study where the fences are placed, walk the lines they will have to ride and pace the distances between fences in order to decide how many strides the horse will need to take between each jump and from which angle.
The horse or rider has no opportunity to practice over the course before the event begins. Each rider knows the length of his or her horse’s stride (the rate and distance that the horse covers the ground) and walks the course accordingly calculating the number of strides between the fences determining how best to adjust their own horse’s strides. When participating in the course walk, riders also take note of the “footing” or condition of the ground and any other potential problem areas when planning their route. Many riders walk the course with their mentor or coach to discuss their plan including any short cuts which may save time in the jump-off.
You will notice riders pacing the strides. They have practised pacing out a distance of 3 feet (or 90cm) in order to determine the distance between each fence when walking it. They must remember to allow for the horse’s landing and take off points – allowing half a stride (i.e. 6 feet for landing and 6 feet for take off). If there are two fences, with one non-jumping stride in between, the distance between the two fences will be 24 feet (i.e. 6 feet to allow for landing over the first fence, 12 feet for the non-jumping stride, 6 feet for take off for the second fence).
Warm-up arena or collecting ring: It is the smaller ring outside the main arena where the riders can warm-up the horses before jumping the course and cool them down afterwards. At least two obstacles comprising of one vertical and one oxer, are available in the “warm-up”. Their height must not exceed the height of the obstacles in the competition arena. It’s an excellent place to watch riders at close quarters as they prepare for the competition.
“Drawn” Order: At many shows the order the riders jump in the classes is determined by a draw made by the judges before the competition begins. The “drawn order” is literally the “luck of the draw” as riders “drawn” later in the class have the advantage of watching previous rounds and seeing where mistakes are being made before attempting their own. At smaller shows riders simply chalk their own name and number on a board at the “collecting ring” where the “collecting ring” steward calls out their number as their turn comes along.
The Bell: The sounding of the “bell” is the signal for a rider to start the round. This also kickstarts a 45 second countdown allowing the combination 45 seconds to cross the start line. The timing equipment is set up at the start of the course and again at the finish-line. When the combination crosses the invisible beam sent out by the timing equipment it ignites the clock and at the finish line the beam is broken which stops the clock and records the time taken to jump the course. There is a public display board connected to the timing equipment so that riders and spectators can see the progress of the countdown and the time of each round.
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