Today, show jumping is one of the most exciting, skilful and entertaining of all equestrian sports with riders around the world taking years to perfect their skills.
Now an integral part of equestrian competition, show jumping is actually a relatively new equine sport which emerged out of necessity following the British Enclosure acts of the 18th Century.
Before the enclose acts, there was no real need for riders to jump fences and hedges on a regular basis as few existed in the countryside up to that point. Following the acts, divisions appeared across the landscape and riders following hounds were forced to jump fences and hedges during a hunt.
From these practical beginnings, show jumping soon emerged and the sport was first mentioned in a French Cavalry manual from 1788. It took almost 100 years from this point for show jumping to become a popular part of horse games, with events taking place at The Royal Dublin Society Annual Show in 1865 and in Rome and Paris in 1866.
In 1900, the second modern Olympic Games was held in Paris and featured three show jumping events as well as a range of other equestrian sports and exhibitions.
Competitions also took place at the 1904 and 1908 Olympics but it wasn’t until the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, that the event really established itself in the competitive sporting programme.
Though the sport was initially dominated by military teams, after the Second World War more civilians took up show jumping and soon the event was open to all.
Women competed for the first time at the 1956 Olympic Games and became strong advocates of the sport.
At the same time that show jumping was establishing itself at the Olympics, the sport was also becoming increasingly popular in the UK. British show jumping was showcased at the first International Horse Show in London in 1907 and featured again at The National Horse Show in 1909.
Known as “the father of modern riding”, Federico Caprilli took a good look at show jumping and realised that the position riders took when jumping was uncomfortable for the horse and impractical for the rider.
To solve this issue, he created the “forward seat” position in 1920. This was something that cemented the establishment of modern show jumping and the technique soon became standard; still being used to this day.
Modern show jumping
In the mid 1940s, show jumping regulations were introduced to standardise the rules of national and international events. The following decades saw the sport become increasingly popular with a range of new competitions appearing around the world.
In 1957, the first women’s championship took place while in 1965 the FEI introduced the first President’s Cup. The late 1990s saw another revision of show jumping rules, bringing the event right up to date for the 21st Century.
An incredible display of horse training and rider ability, show jumping is a fantastic sport practiced by thousands of people every day. Challenging, exciting and entertaining, it is one of the most popular equestrian events in the world.