There are three main areas of competition for people who ride horses over fences. These equestrian events include show-jumping classes, three-day eventing, and hunter/jumper classes. Although all consist at least in part with horse jumping, nevertheless, they judge horses and riders for different qualities.
Horses that excel in show jumping exhibit several characteristics that enable their excellence in the field. First, they must be powerful horses. Arena jumps for showjumping horses tend to be the largest of the jumps offered in any style of jump competition, and it takes a horse with excellent strength to have the power to rise and land continually from each substantial jump. Next, the jumper must be fast. Showjumping events are timed, and the horse with the fewest mistakes and the best time wins the class. Finally, they need a great deal of agility. The jump course in show jumping often features wing standard horse jump obstacles with very tight turns and combination jumps where the horse must bounce down or only take one or two strides between obstacles. Consequently, the horse must be flexible and highly trained to perform well under these conditions.
Three-day eventing highlights the horse’s versatility in three different areas. They consist of dressage, cross country, and show jumping. A single day focuses on one of the three aspects, with events usually running for three days, hence the name. Dressage events are riding tests where horses must execute certain maneuvers at specific points in the arena, and a judge grades each tested item for precision. The tests become more complex as the horse and rider advance through the five national levels and proceed further to four international levels. Next comes cross country, focusing on riding the horse over obstacles out in the field instead of in an arena. Finally, on the final competition day, show jumping commences, and the horse and rider with the best scores in all three areas become the overall winner.
These types of classes showcase the skill of the rider as well as that of the horse. Classes for hunters judge them on the style they execute over jumps. Hunter equitation classes judge the rider on their riding skill and physical position while mounted. Confirmation, or the horse’s build, also comes into play in this competition style. Hunter/jumper shows also host jumping classes, and horse show judges evaluate them as described previously.
Although all of the events mentioned above feature horse jumping, they all vary in their judging. Horses, and riders, over time, discover where their strengths and skillsets lie and often will focus on their primary areas for competition.