All About Olympic Show Jumping

World champions of three equestrian sports will be contested at the 2016 Olympics and whether you’re a horse enthusiast or someone who has never touched a horse, we can bet you don’t know about every single discipline.


Jumping is a fast-paced, technical sport based on a very simple premise; the horse and rider who knock down the fewest rails in the fastest time win. According to the FEI, the jumping ability of the horse was first developed in the 18th century, when fox hunting required riders to jump fences that enclosed properties.

Since then, Jumping has evolved into an exciting and thrilling spectator sport and is one of three Olympic sports at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

How does it work?

The objective of Jumping is to test both horse and rider on their skill, accuracy and training, by presenting them with a challenging course of obstacles to jump. The Jumping competition is held in a large arena where obstacles have been set and are jumped in a specific order.

In general, the jumps on the course are vertical fences or oxers (wider jumps that can be as wide as 2.20 meters or 7? 2?).

The degree of difficulty of a jump is determined by its height, width, construction, and its placement on the course. In competition, a variety of fences can be used including walls, panels, gates, oxers, water jumps, combinations (two or three jumps set up so they must be taken in quick succession), and banks.

To complete the course, competitors must negotiate the jumps in a prescribed order. Courses are set in advance so that riders and trainers may memorize them. There will also be an opportunity for riders to walk the course to determine the distance between jumps and look closely at the obstacles. No two courses are ever exactly the same. There are typically 12 to 16 fences on each course.

How is it scored?

The scoring for Jumping is based on a penalty system, and none of the competitors are judged subjectively. The best possible score in the competition is zero penalty points (faults), which is known as a clear round. A clear round means the rider has completed the course within the time allowed and without incurring any penalty points.

Knocking down a rail is the most common penalty in Jumping. For each rail a competitor knocks down, they will receive a four point penalty. Riders will also receive a four point penalty for having a run-out at a jump; this is where the horse refuses to jump or misses it entirely. Two refusals result in elimination, as does a fall of the horse or rider.

In addition, riders who exceed the time allowed will receive one penalty point for every second they go over the time allowed.

Riders who ?go clear? during their round (during individual competition) will move on to the jump-off. The jump-off is a race against the clock, in which riders complete a shorter course, which may be increased in height and/or spread.

Information for this Olympic primer on show jumping was provided by the U.S. Equestrian Federation, partnering with

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