What is show jumping?

Date: 29 July 2022
Show Jumping

What is Show Jumping?


Why do women not compete in sports that men are predominant in? Well, here is why!  This Blog is a 7- to 10-minute read.


Show jumping is one of three equestrian sports at International level.  The others are, eventing and dressage.

In show jumping, competitors ride a horse over a set of jumps in numerical order, scoring penalties. The winner is generally the one with the lowest score in the fastest time. It is a test of ability and skill for the horse and rider.



How do the rules work?

The general rules for a show jumping competition are that each horse and rider jumps between 12 and 15 numbered obstacles, with changes in various directions. Every athlete who jumps a clear round, then competes in round two. This is called a jump off. It is a race held over a less set of fences that are slightly bigger. The fastest horse and rider with the lowest score is the winner. If a horse refuses, knocks, or does a slower round, this is how penalties are calculated. If a rider falls off, or has a refusal, here to, are penalties.


Here is a little on the jumps themselves.

A jump is made up of specially designed “stands/uprights” and with “cups” that the poles rest on. The poles are very easy to knock down if a horse touches them with any part of their body. At international level, the jumps may go up to 1.65m high (approx. 5 feet and 5 inches.

The world record; is held by, Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales riding Huaso ex-Faithful in Chile in 1949 at 2.47m (over 8 feet and 1 inch)

The obstacles are varied in shape, height and distance in-between them. They usually have bright colours, or bear a sponsors logo. There may be a water obstacle as well.


View Horse & Hound Aritlce

Nerves of steel (and horses with wings): 6 amazing moments from high jump history


Walk the course.

Riders are allowed to view all the jumps on foot before attempting to jump them on their horse. it is so they can memorise the route. You may also see them counting their steps between the obstacles – this is so they know how many strides their horse will take and can ride accordingly.


Is it the horse or the rider?

The ability of the rider is absolutely crucial and you need a very good horse to reach international level. Riding over these huge fences at speed requires immense skill from the rider. These athletes really are the best in the world and have to reach a high level to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Show jumping horses need to be brave, bold, and powerful, have the ability to clear big jumps, athleticism, control and speed. Show jumping riders tend to have two or three “top” horses, who they will compete with for many years.


The riders always look so smart! Why do they dress like that?

Typical riding attire includes riding boots, white jodhpurs or breeches, a shirt and jacket with a riding helmet, all designed for protection and comfort. Riders may be sponsored or represent a country, in this case, the sponsor or country flag will be on the riders attire or the saddle cloth on the underside of the saddle.


Whilst there are women in show jumping, there are not enough compared to men, especially at the top level. Lets find out why?


Show Jumping and many of the other Equestrian sports, are where women and men compete against one another in the same events.

“We are the Olympic champions on gender equality, and the only sport in the Olympic Movement that has true gender equality as men and women compete on a level playing field, for the same medals, across all our disciplines,” said FEI President Ingmar De Vos.

Despite this, records show that men win far more individual medals than women at the Olympic Games across all disciplines. In some cases, the disparity is staggering.

Whilst watching a live stream show jumping event, I was live chatting to the audience, and asked them why there are fewer women to men and what sort of percentage?

The majority answered with 70% men to 30% women

I also asked why they think this is so?

Most of them simply answered, “like most sports, women are the minority due to so many factors, even if the playing field is equal”.

It was also very interesting what the ratio is in eventing and dressage.

There appear to be more women than men in dressage and relatively even in eventing. However, there are more men at the top of the medal boards for eventing.


Olympic medals per gender

Here are some statistics

By Chris Stafford

Male riders have won individual gold in every single Olympic Games for the sport of Eventing since it was introduced in 1912, although women didn’t participate in the discipline at the Olympics until 1964 according to the FEI. Only five women have won an individual silver medal, compared to the 19 men who took home second place. Six women have won bronze over the years, and so have 18 men.

The results are similar in Show Jumping. Twenty-five male riders have taken home individual gold since 1900 – women’s participation began in 1956 – but no woman competitor ever has. Twenty-three men have won silver, while only two women have occupied that spot on the podium. And for bronze – 22 men, three women.

Women have made their biggest Olympic mark in Dressage. Women have had 40 less years than men to compete in Olympic Dressage, but only hold two fewer gold medals (13 men have won gold, along with 11 women). Both men and women have won 12 silver medals. And for bronze, women have won seven times compared to men who have won 17 times.

“With equestrian sport, because it’s so much about the horse, I think it’s more about having that horse and that partnership at the right time, peaking at the right time. So much depends on that,” said Chris Stafford, a veteran equestrian journalist who has covered the top Olympic riders for decades. “If you look at those statistics in Show Jumping and Eventing, those medals are particularly dominated by men, but it’s not to say that women weren’t a part of the team. But then you look at Dressage and it’s a different picture. You’ve got so many female medallists in Dressage.”

Look at diminutive riders who have been successful on big warmbloods, so it doesn’t come down to strength there.

It’s worth noting that the history of equestrian sports in the Olympics is deeply rooted in the military. It wasn’t until the 1952 summer Olympic Games that male competitors other than military officers could compete in equestrian disciplines. Women were allowed to compete in Dressage that year. Four years later, women were permitted to compete in Show Jumping, and then finally in Eventing in 1964.

These trends aren’t unique to the Olympics, either. The Eventing and Show Jumping World Championships are also dominated by men, especially at the top of the podium. Only one woman has ever won an individual gold medal at the Show Jumping World Championships, compared to 17 men, and men have eight individual gold medals from the Eventing World Championships compared to five women. Dressage, again, is a different story, with 12 women individual gold medallists and only five men.


Across all sports at the Olympic Games, female athletes have been historically underrepresented.

At the lower levels of the sport in all three Olympic disciplines, competition seems to be dominated by women. So why do women seem to struggle to stand out among their male peers as they climb the ranks from amateur to professional to Olympian?

Physical strength between the sexes doesn’t seem to be a factor here. Women riders have clearly shown they have the athletic ability, stamina and expertise to compete against men on the toughest courses around the globe.

“Look at diminutive riders who have been successful on big warmbloods, so it doesn’t come down to strength there. They don’t ride by strength. They ride by feel and timing and just exquisite (skill) – Margie Engle comes to mind,” Chris explained. “Talk about powerhouse horses that she’s ridden.”

It’s been widely reported that women have considerable societal and cultural factors to face in their 20s and 30s that don’t affect men the same way. Motherhood, for example, is a factor that’s been studied as a major contributor to the gender wage gap. For a professional athlete, there’s no question that could cause a monumental shift in their career, too.

“We are perhaps one of few sports where the world ranking list, the jumping ranking list – which is essential for gaining invitations to key competitions with high prize money, is frozen when an athlete declares she is pregnant,” says Will Connell, director of sport with U.S. Equestrian. “I consider all our riders to be athletes, regardless of sex or age. We took 12 athletes, three teams of four across three disciplines to Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games. Six females and six males made up the squad, nine athletes returned wearing a medal.”

And across all sports at the Olympic Games, female athletes have been historically underrepresented, with Tokyo 2020 promising to be the first Olympics with a (nearly) equal gender split.

So while equestrian sports promote a gender-neutral playing field, giving men and women the same competitive opportunities might not make up for external pressures that women still face, or the historical underrepresentation that women have worked to overcome at the top level of the sport.

“I cover so many different sports and in other sports as well, you can see women getting stronger, fitter, having the endurance, having different training techniques that are allowing them to reach much greater potential than they did years ago,” said Chris. “It’s extraordinary the things that women are doing now versus 10 or 20 years ago.”


For some interesting information



As an equestrian myself, I have seen how the cogs go around. Here are some points that I have witnessed personally.

  • The fact remains that female comes second best to men in almost every sport and even still in the workplace.
  • Men are sponsored more than females.
  • Men are more marketable
  • Tv and radio coverage is mainly for men
  • Companies prefer men to advertise or wear their brands
  • Men are on social media more than women
  • Men get all the best horses to ride
  • Men are more memorable at the top level than women
  • Men earn more money than women
  • Men are offered more rides than women
  • Men are stronger than women
  • Men take more daring chances than women
  • Men don’t have babies, so it means time off
  • Men take the podium more than women
  • Men are reliant on bringing home the gold
  • Men are stronger than women and are more dependable
  • There are more instructors than women
  • There are more judges and judicators than women
  • There are more men in the equestrian military
  • Sexism is still a factor
  • Racialism is also a factor
  • Same-sex partners are also a factor
  • There are more men spectators
  • Men have more followers
  • Men are invited more to special events

These are just some truths

How can we change this?


Like other sports with female athletes, things are changing slowly. Make them more inclusive and reverse their roles and the magic will happen!

I would also say to women, never give up!


Where are riders of colour?

Take a look at these interesting articles


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Jen Spencer: Meet the Creator of Instagram’s ‘Black Equestrians’



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Equine super store 


South African Suppliers

Horseman’s Haven

Western Shoppe

Solo saddlers

Trident Saddlery

Stable Gate 


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When you are ready to take on those mounts, Please take a moment and bow for people that are disabled, that cannot take part in such sports.



To all you avid gamers out there, here are some equestrian games for you to enjoy!

Phar Lap

Champion Jockey

Gallop Racer

Melbourne Cup Challenge

Go directly to this link for more equestrian games


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