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Show Jumping, also known as "stadium jumping", "open jumping", or simply "jumping", is a part of a group of English riding equestrian events that also includes dressage, eventing, hunters, and equitation. Jumping classes are commonly seen at horse shows throughout the world, including the Olympics. Sometimes shows are limited exclusively to jumpers, sometimes jumper classes are offered in conjunction with other English-style events, and sometimes show jumping is but one division of very large, all-breed competitions that include a very wide variety of disciplines. Jumping classes may be governed by various national horse show sanctioning organizations, such as the United States Equestrian Federation in the USA or the British Showjumping Association in Great Britain. International competitions are governed by the rules of the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI, from the body's French name of Fédération Équestre Internationale).
Proper show jumping attire, as seen in the show jumping phase of a three-day event. Attire at an event includes a mandatory armband as seen here, although the armband is not required in general show jumping.
Show jumping events have hunter classes and jumper classes.
Hunters are judged subjectively on the degree to which they meet an ideal standard of manners, style, and way of going. Conversely, jumper classes are scored objectively, based entirely on a numerical score determined only by whether the horse attempts the obstacle, clears it, and finishes the course in the allotted time. Jumper courses tend to be much more complex and technical than hunter courses because riders and horses are not being judged on style. Courses often are colorful and at times, quite creatively designed.
Hunters have meticulous turnout and tend toward very quiet, conservative horse tack and rider attire. Hunter bits, bridles, crops, spurs, and martingales are tightly regulated. Jumpers, while caring for their horses and grooming them well, are not scored on turnout, are allowed a wider range of equipment, and may wear less conservative attire, so long as it stays within the rules. Formal turnout always is preferred; a neat rider gives a good impression at shows.
In addition to hunters and jumpers, there are equitation classes, sometimes called hunt seat equitation, which judges the ability of the rider. The equipment, clothing, and fence styles used in equitation more closely resemble hunter classes, although the technical difficulty of the courses may more closely resemble jumping events.
Courses and rules
Jumper classes are held over a course of show jumping obstacles, including verticals, spreads, and double and triple combinations, usually with many turns and changes of direction. The intent is to jump cleanly over a set course within an allotted time. Time faults are assessed for exceeding the time allowance. Jumping faults are incurred for knockdowns and blatant disobedience, such as refusals (when the horse stops before a fence or "runs out") (see "Modern rules" below). Horses are allowed a limited number of refusals before being disqualified. A refusal may lead to a rider exceeding the time allowed on course. Placings are based on the lowest number of points or "faults" accumulated. A horse and rider who have not accumulated any jumping faults or penalty points are said to have scored a "clear round". Tied entries usually have a jump-off over a raised and shortened course, and the course is timed; if entries are tied for faults accumulated in the jump-off, the fastest time wins.
In most competitions, riders are allowed to walk the initial course but not the jump-off course (usually the same course with missing jumps, e.g., 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 instead of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) before competition to plan their ride. Walking the course before the event is a chance for the rider to walk the lines he or she will have to ride, in order to decide how many strides the horse will need to take between each jump and from which angle. Going off course will cost time if minor errors are made and major departures may result in disqualification.
The higher levels of competition, such as "A" or "AA" rated shows in the United States, or the international "Grand Prix" circuit, present more technical and complex courses. Not only is the height and width ("spread") of an obstacle increased to present a greater challenge, technical difficulty also increases with tighter turns and shorter or unusual distances between fences. Horses sometimes also have to jump fences from an angle rather than straight on. For example, a course designer might set up a line so that there are six and a half strides (the standard measure for a canter stride is twelve feet) between the jumps, requiring the rider to adjust the horse's stride dramatically in order to make the distance.
Unlike show hunter classes, which reward calmness and style, jumper classes require boldness, scope, power, accuracy, and control; speed also is a factor, especially in jump-off courses and speed classes (when time counts even in the first round). A jumper must jump big, bravely, and fast but also must be careful and accurate to avoid knockdowns and must be balanced and rideable in order to rate and turn accurately. The rider must choose the best line to each fence, saving ground with well-planned turns, and lines and must adjust the horse's stride for each fence and distance. In a jump-off, a rider must balance the need to go as fast as possible and turn as tightly as possible against the horse's ability to jump cleanly with good scope.
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