Equestrian Jumping In The Olympics

This video is truly amazing! I cannot believe how skillfully the horses jump, and how much second-to-second communication there needs to be between the rider and the horse to pull something like this off. I am sure each one of these riders has amazing memories of this Olympic event, and hopefully they have some tangible items to strengthen these as well, like canvas prints from photos of the beautiful jump!


Equestrian jumping started from necessity as more and more fences went up throughout the English countryside. This was a result of the Enclosures Acts which were put in place in England in the 18th century.  Prior to this legislation, foxhunters could gallop at will across open fields as they pursued their prey.  These new obstacles required foxhunters to ride horses who could jump.  The actual discipline of show jumping began as competitions among these same foxhunters.

Starting in 1900, equestrian show jumping started allowing both non-military and military riders, along with their mounts to compete.  Military school horses were still excluded, but now all men could conceivably compete in show jumping.  The sport continued to evolve and today both sexes are welcome to ride on any horse.

Over the Years:

The actual course for Equestrian Jumping in the Olympics has changed over the years.  In the early days, fences were built to appear more natural than the brightly colored poles which are the standard today.  Additionally, the fences were shorter and the course itself not quite as technical.  In today’s sport, riders attempt to clear all the jumps on a course in the fastest time without touching a fence and without garnering any points.

In the Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912, there were 31 riders competing.  These riders were from eight countries and each team could have four riders and two alternates.  Team scoring factored in the scores from the top three riders.  Additionally, there could be six riders entered into the individual competition, along with three alternates.

The course for the Stockholm Games had 15 obstacles comprising 29 jumping events.  During this Olympics competition, riders were requested to jump some of the obstacles twice.  This is no longer allowed.

Equestrian Jumping Events in the Olympics Today:

Today, the competition for Olympic Equestrian Jumping consists of more than five rounds.  The first round is individual competition first qualifier.  Additionally, the start order for the team competition is determined by the top three scores.  Round two and three determine the team medals.  This is a maximum of four riders per team and the top three scores are counted toward the overall team score.  These two rounds are held on different courses.  Out of round two, the top eight nations move into round three or the Team Medal Final.  The gold medal is awarded to the team with the fewest penalties or points.  In addition to determining the overall team winner, rounds one and two contribute to the individual competition line-up.

Each of the individual rider’s scores are added up for both rounds one and two and then the top 50 riders with the lowest scores move onto round three.  This number is whittled down to 35 after round three and these riders then move to round four.   Of note, however, only three riders from each country may move into round four.  Medals are awarded to the top three riders.

The sport of Equestrian Jumping in the Olympics is a difficult and challenging one.  These riders and horses are all extremely skilled and possess incredible determination, discipline and endurance.