The niche sport of equestrian show jumping has caught the eye of some of the wealthiest people in the world.
For those who can afford to take part in competitions, show jumping offers millions of dollars of prize money and international glory.
In the US, some of the sport’s most high-profile participants are the daughters of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Bloomberg, and Bruce Springsteen.
But despite the high stakes and noteworthy names that compete, show jumping remains far outside the public eye.
Here’s a look inside the exciting, lucrative, and sometimes dangerous world of show jumping:
Equestrian jumping has long been associated with royalty.
Only the wealthiest of families can afford to break into the sport. Today, prized horses can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost of maintaining a horse can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars a month.
There are various equestrian disciplines, including dressage, eventing, and show jumping.
Show jumping is the discipline of choice for the children of some of the most famous and wealthy Americans, including Gates’ daughter Jennifer, Jobs’ daughter Eve, Bloomberg’s daughter Georgina, Springsteen’s daughter Jessica, and Tom Selleck’s daughter Hannah.
In fact, Jennifer Gates and Eve Jobs have dueling estates less than a mile from each other in the town of Wellington, Florida, home of the annual Winter Equestrian Festival.
Gates, Jobs, and Springsteen are all among the top 30 show jumpers in the nation, according to the most recent rankings from the US Equestrian Foundation. Bloomberg and Springsteen have represented the US in international competitions.
Show jumping has been a fixture at the Summer Olympics since 1912.
In jumping competitions, riders lead their horses around a course, jumping over a series of obstacles of varying lengths and heights in an allotted amount of time.
Every course is different, so riders need to carefully control their horse’s stride and angles of approach.
Riders are penalised if a horse knocks down a railing, refuses to jump over an obstacle, touches a water jump, or falls down.
Whichever rider clears the course with the fewest penalties is declared the winner.
Show jumping uniforms consist of jackets, boots, breeches, jodhpurs, and a protective helmet.
Show jumping takes participants to competitions all over the world, including Mexico City, Paris, Monaco, and Doha, Qatar. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake at some competitions.
It’s an extremely dangerous sport. Both rider and horse can sustain serious injuries in the event of a fall or miscue.
But for those who compete in it, show jumping is well worth the risks. “The elements of trust, talent, training, love, and danger make show jumping a thrilling and aesthetic experience,” wrote author Ainslie Sheridan, who has published novels on the sport.
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