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A Brief History of Jumping
 By Winniefield Park   •   3rd Feb 2015   •   1,508 views   •   0 comments
A Brief History of Jumping

Just as no one knows when the first horse was ridden, we canít be sure just when someone discovered that training a horse to be ridden over obstacles such as ditches and fences was useful. Xenophon who lived c. 430 Ė 354 BC in Greece, wrote a treatise on training and riding. He recommended that to teach a young horse to jump, you should lead it on a loose line and then encourage it to follow you over a small ditch. An assistant may encourage the horse with a whip from behind. As soon as the horse understands the exercise, the whip will no longer be needed. After the horse has learned to leap over the ditch, and not over-jump the obstacle, the exercise can be repeated with a rider on the horseís back. At the take off point, Xenophon suggests applying spur so the horse jumps with the full effort of its body.

Many different cultures used horses for war and transportation. And, there not being many things that required jumping other than ditches, streams and logs, itís difficult to say if there was much interest in doing so. Any obstacle that was too high to step or hop over comfortably was probably gone around, or trod through. When heavy armor was worn, it would have been impractical to jump anything. Horses like those trained in the Spanish Riding School, were trained to jump - but not jump obstacles. These airs above the ground were maneuvers for the battle field, and exercises to increase a war horseís agility and responsiveness.

Related: How to Ride a Dressage Test - The Eventerís Version
Related: The Eventers Dictionary

Jumping became more useful as landowners started to fence off sections of land to keep the public from their property. Where there was once open meadows, common pasture land and forests, with only natural objects to negotiate there now patchworks of partitioned pastures, woodlands and crop fields. To get to a destination on horseback, you either had to follow roads that might make your trip longer, or ride cross-country which shortened your journey, but meant you encountered fences. Humans on foot could easily climb fences, or use styles, but horses couldn't, and gates weren't always placed conveniently for travelling. The alternative was to jump the fences.

In Britain, Inclosure Acts made previously common land used to graze livestock or plant crops into private property owned by a single owner. As the Industrial Revolution advanced, more land became privately owned and fenced in by rich landowners who rented the land to farmers. For centuries before, royalty and the wealthy enjoyed chases, or hunting on horseback. By the mid-1500s, farmers used hounds to chase down pests such as fox and martins. Deer and boar hunting was also popular with the wealthy. This meant however, that horses had to be used to keep up with the hounds, who could easily go over or under fences. Field hunting as we know it today, began to develop in the 18th century as both horses and dogs were bred specifically for the job. And, the need to jump became a must.

From fox hunting developed steeplechasing and point-to-point racing which sent horse and rider over natural obstacles and fences. ďLeppingĒ competitions contested which horses could jump the widest or the highest. By the mid-1800s, jumping competitions were beginning to take off in Ireland, France, Greece, Germany and Britain. Riders still went cross country, but the competition was no longer a race. The first jumping competitions had rather loose rules based on style and skill, but eventually, the rules were standardized. And, the competition was moved into a ring.

We have Federico Caprilli to thank for making our jumps more comfortable and easier for our horses. He first introduced the concept of the Ďforward seatí. Previously, riders leaned backwards over the horseís haunches when they jumped. Using Caprilliís method was another leap towards the sport we know as show jumping. Today it is one of the most popular horses sports, with both competitors and fans.

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image ref: © MaxiSports | Dreamstime.com - Angelica Augustsson Rides Horse Walter 61 Photo
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