The oldest equestrian discipline, show jumping was created by the English. During the 18th century, a decision by the British Parliament obliged the enclosure of certain open fields. As a result, some of the faster fox hunters started to jump over these hedges between properties.
In the mid-19th century, a competition not dissimilar to hunting was created, but on a smaller circuit and with jumps such as tree trunks, small ravines and streams. The first official competition took place in Ireland in 1900, the same year that equestrian competitions debuted at the Olympic Games in Paris with three events: high jump, long jump and a time-trial course.
The discipline was not included in the programme of the St. Louis 1904 Games nor at the London 1908 Games, but returned in the 1912 edition, in Stockholm. The Swedish capital also witnessed the first introduction of a series of fences in the event, the idea of Italian captain Frederico Caprilli, widely considered the father of modern equestrian competitions.
Another important change presented by Caprilli was a way of jumping at events that is still used to this day: resting slightly above the saddle with the body, leaning forward while the horse is in the air.
In jumping, the aim is to complete a course with eight to twelve obstacles, including parallel bars, ditches and small walls, in the shortest possible time. Knocking down an element on the track, deviation from the correct course, or exceeding the time limit all accrue penalties, which are then taken off the final scores.
Individual events have five phases, all eliminatory, and the 20 best riders compete for medals in two rounds, called the A and B finals. Whoever performs best in these rounds is the winner. If two or more participants make no mistakes, they go back around the course in a tie-break round. Regulations permit only three sets per country in the final individual competitions.
Team competitions feature two stages, and only the eight best teams go through to the decisive round. The best performing team in both rounds wins. Only four participants may jump in the event, discarding one of the results – normally the worst one. Each team has four sets, and a spare horse and rider.