Amongst the major disciplines
that make up the Horse of the Year Show is the sport
of Showjumping. The premier showjumping arena forms
the central area of the show and it is in this arena
that the major classes of the show are staged, including
the Horse of the Year title class on Sunday afternoon.
The sport of showjumping is not
for the faint hearted. Here the combination of
horse and rider are tested over a variety of courses,
the height and degree of difficulty depending
on the level of competition. Riders start from
as young as 11 or 12 jumping over less technical
but just as demanding courses on their ponies.
New Zealand has one of the best
climates and terrain in the world in which to
breed the sport horse or pony. The breeding of
these animals has become a very sophisticated
operation as people aim to breed a horse designed
for the million-dollar market of world showjumping.
These horses need to have the power to clear fences
that are only few strides apart and the athleticism
to turn tight corners, as well as the temperament
to cope with top competition. The ability of the
rider to place the horse in the exact position
to enable the horse to make the most of its natural
ability becomes of ultimate importance.
Any showjumping course is made
up of a variety of fences, all of which require
a different technique to jump effectively. Within
guidelines, it is up to the course designer to
work out the different combinations and the distance
between these. After a course is built all riders
have the opportunity to walk the course. They
do this so that they can work out the best path
to take for the particular horse you are riding.
The majority of competitions run
at the Horse of the Year, are shown in your programme
as AM3 which means that all horses jump the first
round and then those that have jumped the first
round clear, proceed to the second round. This
second round is usually jumped off against the
However there are variations within
this format, such as a Grand Prix, which is the
most advanced level for a horse or pony; and speed
competitions in which one round is jumped against
the clock with four seconds being added for each
fence knocked down.
Years of training are needed
to produce a grand prix showjumper. Most horses
or ponies begin their careers about 5 years of
age but will be at least another five years before
they reach their peak at Grand Prix level, and
at that only a small percentage reaches these
heights. However it is the rider's ability to
form a partnership of mutual respect with the
horse that is essential for any combination to
succeed within our shores or beyond.