Use and characteristics of Show Jumpers
Top ranking horses on the show jumping circuit are often described as “bold”. Whatever their breeding, a showjumper needs to show courage and commitment when approaching fences. Most advanced adult competitors will buy a showjumper of 16 hands or more (64 inches/163 cm). Some breeders and trainers will also sell a show jumper that is pony-sized for juniors who compete over lower fences. “Scope” refers to the athleticism the horse displays when it flies over the jump. Riders look for horses with a good length of stride, a capacity to spring from the hocks as they lift into the air, and a superb “bascule”, the trajectory that the horse makes to clear the jump cleanly with a rounded back. Horses need to be fast and agile to compete in speed events, and powerful and focussed to succeed in Puissance classes.
Origin and history of breeding Showjumpers
Although humans have been riding horses for thousands of years, there was little need for any horse and rider to jump large obstacles when riding across country until early modern times. It was mainly the enclosure of open land that encouraged riders to start clearing man-made hedges and fences. Riding hard and fast at fences and ditches became part of the tradition of fox hunting, particularly in Britain and Ireland, and this, in turn, developed into other active cross-country sports such as steeplechasing. The requirement for bigger, bolder, more athletic horses also suited military needs, and for a long time, the two went together in the hunting field. Hunters were often part-bred Thoroughbreds. Spectators enjoyed watching the horses jump but it wasn’t always possible to see them across country. In 1866, the first jumping event in an arena in Paris immediately proved a hit with spectators. The first “lepping” classes were held in Dublin in 1869, and in England in 1881. Women participated at a relatively early stage and show jumping quickly became a sport in which women competed equally against men. It was an Olympic sport by 1912. Captain Federico Caprilli brought about a revolution in jumping by promoting riding with shorter stirrups in the forward seat, which is much more comfortable for the horse and allows it greater freedom of movement. Horses began to be selectively bred for show jumping ability from the 1920s onward, with the military still dominating the sport until the middle of the twentieth century.
Showjumpers in equestrianism
By the 1960s, show jumping was a globally popular televised sport, and European warmblood breeds such as the German Warmbloods and the Selle Français were proving very successful. Irish Sport Horses and Thoroughbreds also ranked highly in international competitions. However, one of the most famous showjumpers ever was Stroller, a 14.2 hand (58 inches/147 cm) high pony who won an Olympic silver medal.