Show jumping is a relatively new equestrian sport. Until the Enclosure Acts which came into force in England in the 18th century there had been little need for horses to jump fences routinely, but with this act of parliament came new challenges for those who followed fox hounds.
The enclosures act brought fencing and boundaries to many parts of the country as common ground was dispersed among the wealthy landowners. This meant that those wishing to pursue their sport now needed horses that were capable of jumping these obstacles.
Today, Show Jumping, comprises of a series of typically brightly colored fences usually made up of lightweight rails that are easily knocked down. The test takes place in an enclosed ring and the course must be negotiated through a variety of fences of differing heights, widths, and technicality, in order for the horse and rider to successfully complete the event. This requires the horse be balanced and supple for tight turns and short distances between fences. He must be able to lengthen or shorten his stride in an instant. Therefore, the rider must know exactly where he is on the approach to a fence, with an obedient horse that will respond to his commands.
The show jumping course requires very exact riding; it consists of between 12 and 15 show jumping obstacles, which normally include at least one combination, two spread fences, and in some cases a ditch. This phase is also timed, with penalties being given for every second over the required time. Jumping skills, like eventing, tests the fitness and stamina of the horse and rider. The winner is the horse and rider with the fewest penalties. Awards are usually presented while mounted, before the placed riders take a lap of honor around the arena.
For the spectator, this sport is both exciting and breathtaking to watch, as just one single rail knocked down can change the final standings dramatically.