Probably the best known discipline, jumping is frequently
shown on TV. The excitement of watching horses power over
the brightly coloured fences is a delight to horse lovers
from all walks of life. But, while leaping over large barriers
may seem to be all there is to the jumper ring, there is more
to it than that.
Any breed of horse can jump, but not all horses have the
ability to show well over fences. It takes a very special
horse to make it to the top levels of the discipline, and
a very special rider to take it there.
Most jumpers that you see are Warmbloods, the product of
selective breeding programs that primarily use bloodlines
imported from Europe. You will also see other breeds at the
higher levels, but generally the horses that make it that
far have been specifically bred for the purpose. On the other
hand, at the lower levels you will find a wide range breeds
represented. Since jumpers are judged on performance rather
than in a subjective manner like most other disciplines the
breed or even the conformation type is not as important as
the horse's physical and mental ability to handle the job.
Jumpers need to be brave. They need to be able to approach
any type of fences from the mundane to the truly weird and
jump it without hesitating or knocking down any rails. The
ideal jumper is built uphill, with its primary power in the
hindquarters so that it can push itself over the larger jumps.
Good conformation in the front end is also important as there
is a ton of downward force as the horse lands after a big
In the lower levels many riders just race around the courses
trusting their horses to get them out of any jams they might
find themselves in. This is ok over small fences, but as the
heights go up a lot more thought and riding skill must go
into a course. Wide jumps require a longer stride while high
jumps require the horse to set back in order to make the height.
When these kinds of jumps are combined together they can make
for a very challenging ride.
Jumper courses are much more technical than hunter courses.
The distances will vary sometimes requiring a long stride
and sometimes a short one. The jumps are set up with approaches
that can be challenging and even with multiple possibilities
available depending on how handy the horse is when making
turns. Many jumps are deceptive in their construction either
unusually thin, sloped to one side or another or otherwise
intimidating to the horse. It takes a very honest and brave
horse to be successful in a truly difficult course and sometimes
only one or two riders will get a clear round.
The courses are judged on a number of things. First there
is a maximum time allowed to complete the course. Sometimes
this is quite tight and requires a fast ride. If you go over
the time allowed you receive a ¼ time fault for each second.
The next thing judged is whether you hit any jumps. If your
horse knocks down a jump you get 4 faults. Sometimes a jump
will stay up even if rattled, other times flat cups make it
much easier to knock a rail flying. A horse who is intimidated
and refuses gets 3 faults. If a fence is refused three times
the horse is excused from the class. A fallen horse or rider
is automatic dismissal.
If a horse and rider gets a clear round they will be invited
back for a jump off. The jump off consists of a shortened
course including several elements of the original course.
Time is the most important thing in a jump off. You still
get faults for knocked rails and refusals, but they are added
into the time rather than just as faults. The fastest time
wins the class.
There are several other ways in which classes are run that
do not necessarily include a jump off. Special classes may
also be set up that allow the rider to pick his own course
with a time limit to collect points, or to test for the horse
that can jump the highest and the widest. Each class is evaluated
in its own way, but the basics remain the same: get over the
fence and don't know down any rails.
Jumping is an exciting sport and is often the first thing
non-horse people think of when they think of riding. It is
a lot of fun and can be very challenging. While beginners
should take their time learning in the hunter ring, many hope
to make it to the jumper ring in the long run.
About the Author
Lydia V Kelly is a writer for www.HorseClicks.com,