About Grand Prix

The Grand Prix is the highest level of show jumping. Run under International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) rules, the horse jumps a course of 10 to 16 obstacles, with heights and spreads of up to 6.5 feet. Grand Prix-level show jumping competitions include the Olympics, the World Equestrian Games, the Samsung Super League series, the World Cup Series, and the Nations Cup Series.

Courses usually include tight twists and turns, very high and colorful fences, and are designed to test the stamina, precision, power, and control of both horse and rider. A great deal of training and conditioning as well as many years of show experience are required to get both horse and rider prepared for such an event.

Top shows are found worldwide. The object of the sport is to ride the course with the fewest faults. If the horse and rider knock down a rail, go over the time allotted or refuse a jump, faults are given. Four faults are given for each rail down and each refusal, and one fault for each second over the time allotted. Riders are eliminated if they are disjoined from (fall off) the horse at any point during the round, refuse a jump more than twice, or if they go off course (take the jumps in the wrong sequence).

If more than one horse-and-rider team has a clear round, meaning they had no faults, they will come back to ride in the jump off. However, if none achieves a clear round, the riders who had the fewest faults will compete against each other. If only one rider achieves a clear round in the original Grand Prix round, that person is automatically declared the winner and there is no jump off.

The jump off is an abbreviated and more difficult and normally faster version of the original course, judged in the same way as the original. Obstacles can be raised for the jump off from the starting height.

Grand Prix Show Jumping History

The sport of Show Jumping was derived from fox hunting; Grand Prix Show Jumping began in Paris, France in 1866. Show jumping enabled owners to exhibit their horses' abilities in a more confined arena, as opposed to the fox hunting fields. As show jumping usually takes place in a small arena, or stadium, and is almost always timed, the horse in question must show flexibility, maneuverability, and extreme jumping proficiency. 

Show jumping was officially recognized as an Olympic sport in 1912, however; prior to 1952, equestrian sport during the Olympics were contested by men only. In fact, the riders had to be military athletes. More specifically, they had to be commissioned officers. Beginning in 1952, these restrictions were lifted, and since 1952, men and women have competed against each other in the equestrian events."

Rules for Grand Prix Show Jumping

The international governing body for most major show jumping competitions is the Federation Equestrian Internationale ("FEI"). The two most common types of penalties for Grand Prix Jumping competitions are jumping penalties and time penalties.

Jumping penalties are assessed for "Refusal" 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 the height of the jump. If a horse or rider knocks down a bottom or middle rail while still clearing the height of the obstacle, they receive no penalties. Penalties are assessed at the open water when the horse touches the water or white tape with any of his feet. If a rail is set over the middle of the water, faults are not accumulated for landing in the water.

Refusals: Refusals now are penalized four faults, up from three. Within the last several years, the FEI has decreased the number of refusals resulting in elimination from three to two, and this rule has trickled down from the top levels of FEI competition to all levels of horse shows (at least in the United States).

A refusal that results in the destruction of the integrity of a jump (running into the fence instead of jumping it, displacing poles, gates, flowers, or large clumps of turf or dirt) will not receive four faults for the knockdown, but instead the four faults for a refusal and an additional penalty while the timer is stopped for the repair or replacement of the jump. A refusal inside a "Combination (jump)"combination (one- or two-stride) must re-jump the entire combination.

Time Penalties:
In the past, a common timing rule was a 1/4 second penalty for each second or fraction of a second over the time allowed. Since the early 2000s, this rule was changed by the International Federation for Equestrian so that each second or fraction of a second over the time allowed would result in 1 time penalty (e.g. with a time allowed of 72 seconds, a time of 73.09 seconds would result in 2 time faults).