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 clock

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.