History of Horses Show Jumping

Show Jumping is a relatively new equestrian sport. Until the Enclosures Acts which came into force in England during the eighteenth century, there had not been any need for a horse to jump fences as there had been none. The incredible physical capabilities of the horse became recognised when they jumped these fences as they endeavoured to take the shortest route possible whilst on their journey across the country.

The introduction of the Enclosures Acts also brought new challenges for those followers of fox hounds. Fences and boundaries were erected in many parts of the country as the common land was dispersed between wealthy land owners. This meant that those wishing to pursue their sport now needed horses which were capable of jumping these obstacles.

Cavalry schools in the 19th century at Pinerolo and Tor – di – Quinto in Italy, the French school in Saumur and the Spanish school in Vienna focused on a ‘ backward  seat ‘ when jumping for safety purposes ( as seen in old hunting pictures ) and long length stirrups ( steeple chasing ).

It was the Italian Instructor Captain Fiederico Caprilli who heavily influenced the ‘ forward seat ‘ concept with his ideas that the forward seat position would not impede the balance of the horse whilst negotiating obstacles. It is this latter style which is commonly used today. The true ability and agility of the horse was thus further acknowledged and gave birth to a new and exciting form of horsemanship…   Show Jumping.

In the early shows held in France, there was a parade of competitors who then took off across country for the actual jumping. This sport was however not popular with spectators as they could not see the jumping and so the fences were to eventually appear in arenas. This became known as a ‘Lepping’ competition and 15 years later these competitions were brought to Britain just prior to the turn of the 20th century. Thus, by 1900 most of the more important shows had ‘Lepping’ classes, but they rarely attracted more than 20 competitors.

The first big international show jumping class to be held in England was in the Horse of the Year Show held at Olympia in 1907. Most participants were of a military background with inter country competitions for a team trophy. Later, this further developed with sufficient civilians participating for the competitions to be divided into Military and Civilian sections.

The judging decisions in those early days were arbitrary to say the least ….. some judges marked according to the severity of the obstacle and others on style. Prior to 1907 no marks were deducted for refusals though a competitor may have been asked to continue to the next obstacle for the sake of the spectators.

Competitions continued for as long as each judge saw fit and often those with the least knockdowns did not even make the final line up ! In Britain, such questionable decisions led to the formation of the British Show Jumping Association  but even then, each other individual country held competitions under their own set of national rules. This state of affairs continued until eventually many years on, the formation of the FEI brought harmonization to the rules covering international competitions. Even in those days the current ‘disregarding’ those already qualified came into play with restrictions upon competitors who had already won a 1st prize.

Original Scoring Tariff — 1925

Refusing or Bolting at any fence       1st                            2 faults

                                                                 2nd                           3 faults

3rd                            Debarment

Fall of Horse or Rider or both                                              4 faults

Horse touches a fence without knocking it down            1/2 fault

Horse upsets fence with                  Fore Limbs                 4 faults

Hind Limbs                 2 faults

Water Jump                                        Fore leg in                  2 faults

Hind leg in                  1 fault

Upsetting or removing the water fence                              1/2 fault

The differences between the number of faults a horse received depending upon which limb hit the fence was a remnant from the origins in hunting whereby it was ( and certainly still is )  more dangerous for a horse to hit a jump with his forefront as he was more likely to tip up,

Today, show jumping has come a long way in a relatively short time. Jumping courses are now highly technical, requiring boldness, scope,power, accuracy and control from both horse and rider. In the early days the time element did not count and water jumps always contained water  until it eventually drained away  ( benefiting the later drawn horses in the competition ).

Further, it was some years before a competitor was penalised for circling between obstacles. In addition, the high jump would start with a single pole at a height of 5ft. ( 1.52m )  but this style of competition was abandoned due to the horses considering the easier option of going under the pole ! and led to the fillers and multiple poles etc that are seen on present day courses.

Show Jumping was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1912 and has thrived ever since. There have been calls recently to have all equestrian sports removed from the Olympics based upon the argument that the Olympics is about man competing against man and that there should be no involvement nor competition between any other living species. Well fortunately that argument did not gain much favour and we at Greenacres Stud cant wait to attend our first Olympics in London’s Greenwich park in 2012.

To list all the achievements of all the past great Olympic Horses would itself take until nearly 2012 to compile. We would however just like to give a very quick mention to just 2…. Milton who is a part Trakehner ( the breed close to our heart ) and Ahorn who is the grand sire of our own Dutch Warmblood Greenacres Hajla – Z and Holstein Warmblood Greenacres Hekabo – Z.

Whilst acknowledging the work and organisational necessity of the British Show Jumping Association and its world wide counterparts, we feel it is equally appropriate to acknowledge and thank all of the committee members and riders of the many local riding clubs throughout the world who keep our sport thriving at the grass roots level in this modern age.

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