How is show jumping scored? A beginner’s guide to understanding the sport

May 17, 2021 2 min read

How is show jumping scored? A beginner’s guide to understanding the sport

Showjumping is one of the most exhilarating and fascinating equestrian sports to watch. It’s easy to follow and the atmosphere is always electric as you watch your favourite rider around the ring. Like with most sports, it’s always more fun when you know and understand the rules. That’s why we’ve pulled together this short guide to help shed some light on show jumping and how it’s scored.

What is Show Jumping?

For those of you who are completely new to equestrian sports, we will give a quick overview on the main aim of showjumping. The main goal is for a horse and its rider to successfully jump over a series of fences in an arena. Normally, there are 12 fences in a course, and these can be a combination on upright jumps, spreads, double fences and sometimes triple fences. The horse and rider have got to work in harmony together to make it round the course without knocking any poles down or refusing any fences. When they do this, it’s called a clear round. Interestingly, it’s also one of the only sports where male and female riders can compete in the same classes!

There are also two types of showjumping – affiliated and unaffiliated. Unaffiliated competitions are where competitors mainly go for fun and a nice day out with their horse. These events are not regulated by British Showjumping, and therefore some rules won’t always be applied here. In contrast to this, affiliated events are overseen by British Showjumping. To compete at affiliated events you must first become a member of British Showjumping. British Showjumping have a points system in place, and will assign you points at every competition where you place (basically, you need to be in a finishing position and not disqualified to place). These points are recorded and added up as you compete.

The Rules

Showjumping is based on the number of ‘faults’ incurred during a competitors round. These faults include the horse refusing the fence, knocking down poles or running past obstacles. Here are the basic faults that can be incurred:

  • Pole knockdown = 4 faults
  • First refusal to jump a fence = 4 faults
  • Second refusal = Elimination
  • Fall of horse or rider = Elimination
  • Time faults = 1 fault for every second or fraction of a second over the time
  • Foot in water = 4 faults

There are usually two rounds for every competition class. The first round is judged based on the faults, and all horses and riders who have jumped a clear round will progress to a second round. This is called the jump off round, and fences are usually heightened, and the course is also shorter. In the jump off, time is the deciding factor as to who wins so the aim is to get round a quickly as possible with no faults.  

We hope that we have managed to clear things up for you if you were a little unsure of how showjumping all works! As with any sport though, the rules are quite extensive, and we can’t cover absolutely everything in this guide. However, if you’re interested you can head over to British Showjumping to take a look at their rule book.


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