Show jumping attracts huge interest amongst the viewing public, especially at the higher levels of this equestrian sport.
Graceful agility, strength and excellent communication between horse and rider, are the hallmarks of famous partnerships, in the more advanced levels of international competition.
To become a champion show jumper, a horse has to be very athletic, have nerves of steel and to withstand the pressures of top performance competition, they need to have near perfect conformation.
The horse also needs to have that willingness and desire to compete. It is essential that the horse enjoys what it is doing.
Although warmbloods seem to dominate the show jumping ring, their are many other breeds that are excelling in this very interesting and demanding equestrian sport.
Warmbloods, which include, the Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Salle Francais, Trakehner, Oldenburg, Westphalian and the Dutch, Danish and Swedish warmbloods, are the product of selective breeding that involves crossing a "hotblood" horse, eg: Arabian or Thoroughbred with a coldblood horse.
A coldblood horse, being a draft or heavy horse breed, combines its attributes of an easygoing temperament, with the athletic abilities of the hotbloods, making it an ideal and suitable choice for all kinds of equestrian disciplines, but particularly dressage and show jumping.
One of the first countries to introduce showjumping as an equestrian sport was France back in the latter half of the 19th century and competition rules at the time merely stated that "the obstacles had to be cleared to the satisfaction of the judges."
Of course things have changed since then, much to the professionalism of the sport.
There are various types of competition including:
The Grandprix, which is generally the most challenging event and of course, the most well rewarded in terms of prize money. The rider with the least number of penalties and the fastest time, determines the winner.
The Speed Derby, and as the name suggests, the rider with the fastest time is the winner. However, accuracy is still important as a five second penaltywill be added to the total time for any fences that are knocked down.
The Puissance, which is a course of jumps ending with a wall. The final round may have a wall reahing over seven feet.
The Six Bar is where riders have to take six vertical fences that are placed in a straight line. The first fence is the lowest, and each subsequent fence is higher than the previous one. The fences are raised after each round.
As the event progresses, some of the fences are removed, and there may only be two fences in the final rounds. However once again, these fences may be well over six feet.
The Gamblers Choice is an event where competitors choose their own course and are awarded points according to difficulty, for every jump cleared.
The rider with the greatest number of accumalated points, is the winner.
In international competition, the show jumping course usually consists of between 15-20 fences, which range in height from 4 ft 3 inches, to around 6 ft. The course designer sets a time limit for the course and the rider will be penalised should they exceed this time.
Courses should be designed to be both inviting and challenging for both rider and horse.
There are a variety of fences, which include, the Vertical, the Wall, the Oxer, the Triple Bar, the Gate, the combination and the Water Jump.