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HorseShowCentral > Riding Styles & Disciplines > Show Jumping

Show Jumping - Riding Styles & Disciplines

Horse and rider clearing a jump. Show Jumping Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below

Jumping is like flying, being flung by the surging impulse of forward motion, from a steel spring under the saddle! The discipline of Jumping means conquering the obstacle in a flowing gallop, and conquering oneself.


The birth of Show Jumping took place in 1866 when a class for show jumpers was held at a Harness Show in Paris, France. Fifteen years later the sport came to England, known as leaping competition. By the 1900’s jumping took place at the more important shows with separate classes for ladies riding side-saddle. Of course long before there were classes in shows, horses were jumping and when the forward seat was developed, riders could aid the horses success in clearing obstacles.

An Italian, Captain Caprilli, proposed the natural method of riding, based on observations of horses jumping at liberty and his teachings dominate the world of show jumping to this day. He allowed the horse’s head and neck to remain unconstrained, unlike the previous method riders used of leaning backward and impeding the horse’s take off by weight and rein. He taught a forward seat which relived the horse’s back and kept the rider’s weight from disturbing the horse’s balance. For many years thereafter, foreign officers were sent to Italy for training.

The style of jumping called Grand Prix first took place in France in 1866 and show jumping was included in the Olympic Games in 1912, but it took the formational of the Federation Euestre Internatinale to standardize show jumping rules between countries.

England formed, in 1907, the first International Horse Show which is still the scene of the finest jumping competitions in England.

Although it wasn’t until 1965 that the first Grand Prix took place in the Untied States the sport of jumping has thrived throughout the world and is now a national sport in most countries.


Show jumping is a tough, combined struggle to conquer faults and time, measured in fractions of seconds. An extreme physical effort is coupled with an athletic sense of balance. The rider instills courage in himself and in the horse, to infect the horse with his own determination.

At no point can a horse read his rider’s mind more clearly than in front of a jump. The riders throws his heart over the fence, the horse jumps to pursue it.

Neither horse nor rider is able to look over the walls they must jump. Obstacles are sometimes broad and sometimes narrow. There are double and triple fences. In show jumping nothing must be touched - no wall section dislodged, no rail either, and all in less time than other competitors. All of the qualities a good jump rider should have are also required of the horse, to the same degree. Physical ability, courage and intelligence determine the quality of the horse, and often there is also a definite fondness of clearing obstacles!


The horse must have powerful muscles, especially in the hind quarters to provide the spring for high jumps. A long extended stride in the gallop will allow more speed rather than a shorter stride that makes for scratchy leaps.

Catapulting the combine weight of horse and rider, landings after heights of more than six feet, require very sound legs and healthy broad hooves. A long neck, carried freely, is the balancing rod during and after the jump.<br.
The show jumping horse must have a fighting spirit, be intelligent, be able to judge obstacles wisely, and must have lighting reactions and good nerves. The courage needed by the rider is provided by the horse, and it is returned to the horse by the rider!


No two Grand Prix courses are ever the same and a course and the alteration of courses is determined by the level of difficulty required

The rider is allowed to walk the course but the horse only sees the course once! All classes use the same scoring systems. Obstacles must be taken in a certain sequence, the goal being no faults in whatever time is allowed or of course even less time.

Information about types of obstacles and scoring can be read on the Hunter Jumper Horses page of this site.

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There are several breeds or types of horses that are trained to compete in show jumping such as Thoroughbred Horses, the Warmbood horse, or the Sport Horse. Other Horse Breeds are also used in eventing, like the occasional Standardbred and many specific breed shows offer competitive classes in jumping.

Also of interest to those who compete in jumping is information about Hunter Jumper horses and the discipline of Dressage and especially Three Day Event - Eventing

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