I was fortunate enough at Barbury to watch a lot of show jumping. Firstly there was the 3* show jumping and then in the afternoon the show jumpers came out to do a 1.35m class.
For me there were several differences which I observed and it will be interesting to hear others’ views as well!
1) Show jumpers have a much more forwards canter.
I watched several riders including Pippa Funnell on her Newcomers/Foxhunters final winning horse Billy Baloo and what was noticeable was how forwards they were too a fence. The canter was a strong, powerful one. The eventers in comparison though they had a good canter would sometimes half halt a lot coming into a fence to try and get the horse sitting up a bit more or stop being so flat which would disturb the rhythm and the overall metronome of the canter. I also think sometimes the eventers looked a bit backwards to a fence almost to get the horse to try harder whereas the Show jumpers know their horse is going to be careful so can keep coming forwards.
2) The outline of the horse does not matter to show jumpers.
When jumping they are less fussed about the roundness into a fence. I wonder if eventers have an obsession with the horse staying round? I know in my lessons with sjers they never mention it but often with eventers they want my horse rounder into a fence. A lot of the sjers horses seem to poke their nose more. This is not to say sjers do not like their horses round in its work as much of the warm up work is done deep and round to get the hocks active and the back soft.
3) Showjumpers do not do noticeable half halts.
I think some of this comes down to the bitting as sjers are willing to bit a horse up a lot more so they can have fingertip control and have the lightest of touches. It means they can make such tiny adjustments that they keep saving time and the flow remains. I also think Showjumpers are more naturally sat on their hocks than eventers, so they can keep coming whereas eventers often need a half halt to be kept engaged.
4) There is a noticeable difference in the canter in the warm up and then in the ring.
In the warm up the canter looks quite slow, a little bit backwards but powerful. It really goes up a gear in the ring. Though the eventers show a difference between warm up canter and ring canter its not as marked a difference. I think this is one of the biggest mistakes I see amateur riders make in that they keep the warm up canter in the ring. It then takes a couple of jumps for the more forwards canter to come so the rounds often look disjointed.
5) Lower Leg
Showjumpers never seem to be so bothered about the lower leg as long as the rider has balance. They are obsessed with shoulder control though and all of the showjumpers had very strong upper body positions particularly through controlling their shoulders. They also tend to have a slightly lighter seat rather than sitting so deep those last couple of strides into a fence. When I have lessons with showjumpers they are really hot about what I am doing with my shoulders and I now ride uprights, doubles and spreads differently in my position which I never consciously used to do. They never comment on my lower leg (which is not great!) as long as the top half is strong. The eventers I go and see always want a strong lower leg yet leave my top half alone!
I asked on the UKSJ forum what they thought were the main differences about eventers and showjumpers and other than various comments about tweed, not being able to see a stride, and it being easy to go round Burghley because its only 1.30m there were a few comments such as:
‘Eventers sit further back in the saddle and ride with longer reins.’
‘Eventers try and jump from a dressage canter’
‘Showjumpers ride with a lot more leg than they appear to’
‘Impulsion is what is needed especially jumping 1.45m in a tight arena’
‘Eventers need to change their canter from a dressage canter to a more punchy canter with impulsion for the showjumping.’
Finally some videos of lovely rounds to inspire us all.
Kitty Boggis jumping a lovely round at Barbury
Showjumping – I chose this round as jumping on grass and though in NZ its a similar type to an eventer.
Finally Andrew Nicholson – same horse a couple of years apart but a big difference in result!