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The Art of Equestrian Show Jumping: A Beginners Guide to Horse Jumping

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Equestrian show jumping embodies the quintessence of grace, athleticism, and partnership

between horse and rider. It's not merely a sport but a sublime expression of harmony between these majestic creatures and their skilled handlers.

At its core, show jumping is a competitive equestrian event where horse and rider navigate a course of obstacles, aiming for speed and precision. The artistry lies not only in clearing hurdles but in the intricate dance between horse and rider, requiring finesse, control, and a deep mutual understanding.

Beyond the competitive arena, show jumping transcends into a recreational pastime that fosters a unique bond between humans and horses. It's a symphony of trust and cooperation, where riders develop an unparalleled rapport with their equine partners. The hours spent training, grooming, and nurturing the relationship forge an unbreakable connection, akin to an elegant ballet between two souls.

In terms of the industry, show jumping encompasses a rich tapestry of elements. From breeding and training exceptional horses to the expertise of coaches, farriers, and veterinarians, it's a multifaceted world. The allure extends to the fashion and style present in equestrian attire, the craftsmanship behind saddlery, and the technical innovations in equipment, all contributing to the sport's sophistication and glamour.

Moreover, the global nature of show jumping fosters cultural exchanges and international camaraderie. It's a platform where riders from various corners of the world converge, celebrating diversity while sharing a common passion. Major events like the Olympics and prestigious championships serve as melting pots of talent and sportsmanship, elevating the sport to a global stage.

Ultimately, equestrian show jumping encapsulates more than a competitive event—it's a lifestyle, an art form, and a testament to the profound connection between human and horse. Its timeless appeal lies in the elegance of its execution, the devotion between partners, and the unwavering spirit of those who live and breathe this enchanting world.

Glossary of Terms commonly used in Equestrian Show Jumping:

  1. Course: The arrangement of jumps and obstacles that horse and rider navigate during a competition.

  2. Jump: An obstacle typically consisting of poles, gates, walls, or combinations thereof that the horse must clear without knocking down.

  3. Oxer: A type of jump with two vertical elements spread horizontally, creating a wider jump.

  4. Vertical: A jump with poles placed one above the other without spread.

  5. Combination: A sequence of jumps set close together, requiring accuracy and agility to complete.

  6. Grid: A series of jumps set in a line or pattern, often used for training to improve a horse's form and technique.

  7. Striding: The number of strides between jumps, crucial for maintaining the horse's rhythm and speed.

  8. Clear Round: Completing a course without knocking down any jumps or incurring penalties.

  9. Faults: Penalties incurred for knocking down jumps, refusals, or exceeding the time allowed for the course.

  10. Refusal: When a horse stops before a jump or runs out, resulting in penalties.

  11. Time Fault: Penalties incurred for taking longer than the allocated time to complete the course.

  12. Double Clear: Completing two rounds (usually in a jump-off) without faults.

  13. Jump-Off: A shortened course for the fastest riders who have completed the initial course without faults, used to determine the winner.

  14. Tack: Equipment such as saddles, bridles, and reins used on horses for riding and control.

  15. Lead Change: When a horse changes its leading leg while cantering, often necessary when navigating a course's turns.

  16. Collecting Ring/Warm-up Area: An area adjacent to the competition arena where riders warm up their horses before competing.

  17. Striding Pole: A pole used to measure the distance between jumps during course designing or training.

  18. Liverpools: Water-filled obstacles that horses must jump over, usually with a blue color to resemble water.

  19. Groom: A person responsible for the care, grooming, and preparation of horses for competition.

  20. Bell: Often rung to signal the start or end of a round in competition.

  21. Rolltop/Quarter Round: A jump resembling a rounded-topped wooden structure.

  22. Scope: A horse's ability to jump higher or farther.

  23. Release: The moment a rider allows the reins to give the horse freedom over a jump.

  24. Engagement: The hind legs' ability to push off the ground during a jump.

  25. Rhythm: The consistent pace and timing maintained throughout a course.

  26. Bascule: The arc or curve in a horse's body over a jump, created by the horse's head and neck coming down while its hindquarters elevate.

  27. Impulsion: Controlled power generated by the horse's hindquarters, essential for a strong and energetic jump.

  28. Landing Gear: The way a horse positions its legs and feet while landing after a jump, crucial for balance and preparing for the next obstacle.

  29. Gaits: The different ways horses move, including walk, trot, canter, and gallop, each with its own distinct rhythm and speed.

  30. Athlete's Triangle: The ideal position between the rider's hand, elbow, and bit contact, crucial for communication and control.

  31. Rollback: A tight turn following a jump that allows the rider to quickly change direction and approach the next obstacle.

  32. Release: The moment a rider's hands give the horse freedom over a jump by allowing the reins to slip slightly, allowing the horse to stretch its neck and use its body efficiently.

  33. Counter Canter: When a horse canters on the outside lead while traveling in a circle or bending line, a useful skill for certain courses.

  34. Closed Frame: The position of a horse's body when it's collected, with hindquarters engaged, back rounded, and neck slightly arched.

  35. Contact: The consistent, elastic connection between the rider's hands and the horse's mouth through the reins, crucial for communication.

  36. Cadence: The evenness and rhythm of a horse's movement in each gait, reflecting the quality of its performance.

  37. Flexion: The bending or arching of a horse's body to the left or right, vital for maneuverability and balance.

  38. Vertical Flexion: The flexion or bending of a horse's head and neck toward the vertical axis, essential for proper collection and balance.

  39. Extension: The lengthening of a horse's stride within a gait while maintaining rhythm and balance.

  40. Collection: The gathering of a horse's stride, engagement of hindquarters, and lightening of the forehand to prepare for more demanding movements or jumps.

  41. Half-Halt: A brief, subtle cue from the rider asking the horse to rebalance and prepare for a transition or maneuver.

  42. Elevation: The height and lift a horse achieves while jumping, a testament to its power and technique.

  43. Light Seat: A position where the rider's seat is slightly out of the saddle, allowing the horse freedom to move while maintaining balance and control.

  44. Elastic Aids: The use of subtle, responsive cues from the rider's aids to communicate with the horse without tension or force.

  45. Spook in Place: When a horse reacts to a potential threat but doesn’t move away, displaying controlled fear and trust in the rider's guidance.

  46. Digital Flexor Tendons: Tendons located at the back of a horse's lower leg, crucial for movement and support during jumping.

  47. Suspensory Ligament: A vital ligament in a horse's lower leg that provides support and stability, prone to injury in high-impact activities like jumping.

  48. Gridwork: A series of jumps set in a line or pattern, used in training to improve a

  49. Course Design Elements: Elements considered by course designers, including related distances, distances between jumps, and use of technical challenges like liverpools, combinations, and related lines.

  50. Flying Lead Change: When a horse is cantering on a specific lead, the horse smoothly transitions from one lead to the other. For instance, from left lead canter to right lead canter, or vice versa. This transition involves a brief moment where all four legs are off the ground, allowing the horse to switch the placement of its leading legs mid-stride.

These terms form the lexicon that enriches the understanding and appreciation of equestrian show jumping, painting a vivid picture of the technical aspects and nuances inherent in this captivating sport.

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