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AskHQ: What are the rules of showjumping?

Photography: Merlynn Trichardt

Q: What are the rules of showjumping?

The international governing body for most major show jumping competitions is the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), and in their rulebook the two most common types of penalties are jumping penalties and time penalties.

Jumping penalties

Jumping penalties are given for refusals and knockdowns, with each refusal or knockdown adding four faults to a competitor’s score.

Penalties for knockdowns are imposed only when the knockdown changes either the height or the width of the jump. If a horse or rider knocks down a bottom or middle rail, while still clearing the height and width of the obstacle, they receive no penalties.

Over water, penalties are given when any of the horse’s feet touch the water or white tape marking its boundary. If a rail is set over the middle of the water, faults are not accrued for landing in the water.

Refusals are now penalised four faults, up from the three of previous years. Furthermore, within the last years, the FEI has decreased the number of refusals resulting in elimination from three to two.

A refusal that results in the destruction of the integrity of a jump (running into the fence instead of jumping it, or displacing poles, flowers, or large clumps of turf) receives four faults for the refusal and an additional penalty while the timer is stopped for the repair or replacement of the jump.

A refusal inside a combination (a series of two or more fences with one or two strides between each element) means horse and rider must re-jump the entire combination.

Time Penalities

Each second over the time allowed results in one time penalty.

NOTE: Penalties in combinations

A refusal at any of the jumps in combination results in the horse having to repeat the entire set of obstacles in their order, not just the element refused. Therefore if a rider jumps A and B but refuses C, they have to jump A, B and C again. Despite in this way being considered as one obstacle, each element may result in penalty points if knocked down. Therefore if each of the three fences in a triple combination were knocked down the rider would receive 12 faults.