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Showjumping show etiquette

Once you’ve decided to start competing, you will want to prepare yourself and your horse as best as possible.

Rules and regulations

Reading the showjumping rules is worthwhile (you’ll find them at They’ll help you learn about the different types of competitions, and tell you what you’re allowed to do both in and out of the arena. The judge has the final say and must be treated with politeness and respect at all times. If you disagree with a decision, first check the rules, then read the general regulations on how to lodge an objection. The judge’s decision is final unless your objection is upheld.

Getting it right

It’s useful to print out the show schedule and take it to the show with proof of entry and payment in case of any queries. If you have any concerns, sort them out at the show office before the start of your class. If you’ve bought someone else’s entry, submit these forms to the organiser at least 24 hours before the show. If you’re substituting a horse or rider for an existing entry, these forms should be filled in and handed in at the show office or judges’ box half an hour before the beginning of your competition (you may need to find out where to take them).

Calm and collected

Often the trick to a good show is being prepared. Check the show timetable and find out what number you’ll compete at, but keep an eye on the arena to see if your class is running on time, or if it’s early or late. Follow these tips to be calm and relaxed for your ride:

  • Allow yourself about 20 horses’ time to warm up for your first class (that is, the time it takes for 20 horses to complete their rounds). For subsequent classes, you’ll only need 10 horses’ time.
  • If your horse is nervous about other horses or might kick or buck, put a red ribbon in his tail so that other riders will give you space.
  • In the warm-up, pass left shoulder to left shoulder and be aware of people either approaching a fence or landing when you turn across the arena.
  • Get a friend, your coach or a groom to be in the arena to help you prepare over jumps, as well as to make them bigger, or smaller or pick up a pole you may have knocked.
  • Start your jumping six horses before your turn or you may be ready too early. Don’t overjump your horse in the warm-up – you should work on a maximum of eight efforts. Most horses can’t manage more than 30 jumping efforts in a day and you don’t want to exhaust your horse before you reach your class.
  • When the marshal calls you, make sure he knows you’re present. Remember he may call you early but you only have to go into the arena as the previous horse is jumping – you want to avoid standing at the gate for a long time.
  • If there’s been a scratching (that is if a rider has cancelled their ride), or if you have obtained permission to ride out of order, ride past the judges’ box and tell the judge who you are.

After the class

Once the class is over, if you are among the rankings, you must attend the prize-giving properly turned out, on your horse if the judge asks you to. Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed the show, thank the organiser, the judge and the course designer – running a show can be exhausting and the people involved are often not told that their hard work is appreciated!