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Watching Horse Shows | History of Show Jumping

How to Watch Horse Shows and Rodeos

Horse Shows 101 | Dressage 101

horse show spectatorDifferent Types of Horse Shows

Watching horse shows in America is a particular treat during horse show season when the show circuit is full, the best horses and riders are competing and its great to be outdoors.

Horse shows include dressage, show jumping, barrel racing, Polo, rodeos, and equitation. Each is fun to watch when you understand a little bit about the contest.

What to Wear to an Equestrian Event

Local Horse Shows and Rodeos

Dress for horse shows is the same as for any sporting event and should suit the weather. Some night time horse shows see spectators dressing up a little more. Rodeo fans often wear cowboy or cowgirl boots and western hats.

Rated Horse Shows including Dressage and Show Jumpingdressage shows

What to wear to a high level horse show, well, depends on whether the nighttime or daytime and what type of show.

Many venues schedule shows on Friday and Saturday nights which usually means combining the event with dinner somewhere and therefore is a little dressier.


Watching polo on a Sunday afternoon is often combined with a fancy lunch and dressing for the occasion. A polo match at equestrian centric Wellington may entail large sunglasses, big hats, and small sundresses. Bleacher fans tend to more casual sporting dress.

History of Show Jumping

Whatever you wear, the best way to watch a horse show is to understand the background of the show. The sport of show jumping began as something of an accident. During the 18th century a series of Parliamentary Acts were passed, called the `Enclosure Acts', which allowed wealthy English landowners to fence off their own estates. This in turn led to the need for horses and riders to negotiate these fences by jumping over them.

Recognition of the extreme physical efforts required by a horse to enable it to jump obstacles radically changed the rider style from a backward seat (leaning back, long stirrups, legs forward) to the forward seat (leaning forward, shorter stirrups) that was first used by Captain Federico Caprilli. This style was developed to aid the horse`s balance while jumping and it is the style still used today.

Horse Show Jumping Outdoor and Indoor

The popularity of this new type of horsemanship became widespread and led toshow jumping various forms of competitive jumping being devised and eventually to the sport of show jumping itself. The first international show jumping competition was held in 1907 at Olympia but it was first recognized as an Olympic sport in 1900 at the Paris games.

Stadium Jumping | Show Jumping

In modern times, show jumping or 'stadium jumping', as it is more often referred to in the USA, is a sport open to anyone who wants to give it a try and is enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. It is a major sport in its own right but is also included as a discipline in other sports, namely Eventing, along with Dressage and Cross Country Jumping and also in the Pentathlon with the other four elements being cross country running, fencing, swimming, and pistol shooting.

Show jumping is an all year round sport that features both outdoor and indoor competitions which can be entered by all abilities and ages of riders and their mounts. The sport is very entertaining due to the diversity of competitions now available and it enjoys a massive following amongst the non-equestrian public.


hunter jumperMany local level shows combine classes for both hunters and jumpers. Both types of class involve clearing a course of fences, but there the similarity ends. A hunter class is all about how well the rider and the horse are turned out, with full hunting dress for the rider and braided mane expected as a minimum for the mount. Classes are also judged on riding style plus the attitude, rhythm, steady paces and conformation of the horse as well as precision in jumping.

Jumper classes are much more informal and far more about jumping clear rounds and speed than looks, turnout or style of either rider or horse.

Jumper Classes

Local jumper events are held all over the country at various shows with competitors being divided into senior and junior with many further sub-divisions by age. Horses are sub-divided in many ways including age, height and ability. Jumper classes range from fun rounds suitable for anyone, Schooling (non-competitive clear round course with small jumps suitable for beginners) through to Advanced Qualifiers (levels 1 to 9.) Schooling class may include up to 15 jumps with a maximum height of 3`9". There are rarely cash prizes at this level; it is normally just ribbons and small trophies sometimes.

Thoroughbreds as Jumpers

There is much more affinity between jumpers and other branches of equestrianism in the USA and one of the closest connections is with the racing fraternity. This is due to the fact that a large percentage of jumpers are Thoroughbred horses. Some are bred specifically to be jumpers while others are off the track Thoroughbreds that have been introduced to new skills.

Show Jumping Venues

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