EN Today: The evolution of the water jump

When did eventers get the bright idea to ask their horses to leap into bodies of water in the first place? Kate Samuels digs into the question.

Top photo: Karen & Mandiba through the H20 at The Fork

From Kate:

We all know that Eventing has changed a lot in the past few decades, and we even see it changing in recent years to accommodate the new FEI regulations (no comment there) for shorter courses and more technical questions. We’ve also seen a huge upswing in the awareness of safety in the jumps that we have, including the invention and implementation of frangible pins at all upper level competitions.

Besides the whole long format/short format controversy, I feel that there has a definite change in course design in my career alone. There are more technical questions, more combinations that really require accurate riding and honest horses who seek their next obstacle. However, along with this, there is an increased demand for perfect course design. If the striding seems absurd, or even the first 10 horses out don’t read the jump right, we have the ability to get those changed in the moment for your ride that weekend. This is an amazing advantage that we certainly didn’t used to have. If it didn’t ride well in the old days, well…tough bananas!

One portion of the cross country that has really changed is the water jump. The first official water jump was at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. The water itself seems to have been a poorly judged pond, the depth was unregulated and the result was a bit disastrous. Nobody knew how to ride a water jump, and bless those horses that went in anyway, because most of them ended up with water in their ears from landing chest deep in muck.

I found this video a while back, and it’s worth the 7 minute watch. It shows some footage from the 1964 Olympic Trials in Gladstone, as well as the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Created and narrated by Bernie Traurig (assistant coach to George Morris on the US Showjump Team), it lets us see just how crazy Eventers used to be, nevermind now!

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