Horse jumping is one of the many types of contests that a competitor can enter. Along with its beauty, grace and power, this sort of race requires training, focus and discipline. The rider in question does not have to be advanced to start training in this field; quite the contrary, a beginner can learn the techniques and start practicing since it helps acquire ease of riding, balance and confidence.
But where does this specific form of race come from? Although horseback riding in general has often been detailed and the first writings go as far back as centuries ago, the jumping races are not mentioned until the 19th Century. As a matter of fact, the English Enclose Acts in the 18th Century obliged racers to jump certain obstacles during their races, but other than that, there was no need to jump over anything in fields in general, so the idea of the obstacle race only appears much later.
However, by the late 19th Century, races where there is an enclosed trajectory start becoming popular in Great-Britain and in Europe. The first recorded race took place in Ireland in 1865. France only knew its first one in 1870. These first types of races were composed mainly of natural obstacles such as rivers, and the fences already in place. Finally, the honour of participating in the Olympics started in 1900, in Paris.
A technique that was developed to allow this form of jumping is to let the reins slide gently between the fingers. The invention of this necessary technique is owed to the French, who started applying it near the end of the 19th Century while hunting. This allows the horse to extend the neckline during the jump while the rider stays seated with the back straight.
It is only at the beginning of the 20th Century that Federico Caprilli creates the technique where the rider adapts his posture according to the horse’s movements during the jump. To this day, riders still use Caprilli’s method while mounting the horse.
The creation of that form of mounting brought about a few other changes. In the 1930s, the position of the legs changed, where the calves are held under the diameter of the horse, with the knee binding and not fixed as per Caprilli’s method. The saddle was also adapted to fit this new form of jumping.
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