Jumping is the best known – and probably most readily understood – of all the FEI disciplines and is one of the three Olympic equestrian sports, along with Dressage and Eventing. As in all equestrian disciplines, men and women compete on equal terms in Jumping in both individual and team events.
Jumping is a spectacular mix of courage, control and technical ability that takes horse and rider over 10 to 13 “knockable” obstacles, some of which may be double or treble combinations, with penalties incurred for each obstacle knocked down or refused. Jumping has also produced some of equestrian sport’s most memorable Olympic moments.
An example of this came in 1956 in Stockholm when Halla, still the only horse to have won three Olympic Jumping gold medals, threw her rider, Hans Günter Winkler, into the air after taking off for a fence too early. Winkler landed awkwardly back in the saddle, tearing a groin muscle in the process, but he knew that failure to continue in the competition would eliminate not only Halla and himself but the whole German team. He carried on valiantly despite being unable to give Halla direction, Halla completed the course without any faults, Germany won the team gold medal and Halla and Winkler the individual gold.
Winkler went on to become the only rider to win five Olympic Jumping gold medals, while household names associated with Jumping are Winkler’s fellow German multi-Olympic gold medallists Alwin Schöckemöhle and Ludger Beerbaum. Canada’s Ian Millar, meanwhile, equalled the record for the most Olympic appearances by any athlete in London in 2012, his tenth Olympic Games.