Langley Tbird spectators: What to watch for at the show

Organizers from Thunderbird Show Park offer insight into what to expect at a show jumping event.

Show jumping, or sometimes called “horse jumping,” describes the sport of jumping a 1,500 pound animal over 1.5- to 1.6-metre-high obstacles.

Many come to watch and are awed by the power, but not always sure of what they are watching. Show jumping competitions are unique in the professional sporting realm.

Men and women compete as equals.

This is true of all equestrian sport – dressage, eventing, and reining.

Riding is not a test of the rider’s strength. It is a test of their skill, and the horse’s strength, power, stamina, and accuracy.

It is also rare for a sport that has competitors sometimes ranging in ages of over 50 years. Show jumping, is a test of skill so whether you’re 20 or 70, it doesn’t matter. On team Canada top rider, Ian Millar is 70 years old, competing with teammate and local, Tiffany Foster, at 32 years old.

The goal in competition is to achieve a clear round. A clear round is when the horse and rider have not knocked down any of the jumps and finished the course within a set time allowed.

Most courses consist of 12 to 16 jumps, all set various distances apart. This is the mathematical part of show jumping many people don’t realize. There are set distances between the jumps. Think hurdles, but all different distances. The rider’s job is to control the horse’s stride to fit within those set distances. This wouldn’t be hard if all horses were the same, but of course, they come in all shapes and sizes. Every horse’s stride length is different. Riders typically aim for a 12-foot stride.

This may change if they’re going fast around a course, or if they have a larger horse, in which case are more likely to be on a 16-foot stride. Like any professional sport, there is more going on than there might appear to the untrained observer.

It’s harder than it looks.

– Emily Penn is press officer for Thunderbird Show Park

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