Reading Course Diagrams Part II: Jumpers

Photo by Adam Hill.

BY TPH Staff

Recently we provided a guide on navigating one’s way through all the information that can be found and interpreted on a hunter course diagram. Now it’s time to head over to the jumper ring, where we’ll show you some examples of jumper course diagrams. We will identify all the elements and information that jumper course diagrams can provide. Compared to a hunter course diagram, there’s quite a bit more language to decipher on jumper course diagrams– and more numbers that you need to pay strict attention to.

Like we mentioned in the hunter course diagram article, once you get the hang of learning how to interpret your jumper course diagrams – it will become old habit. But if you’re new to the jumper ring, the data and information provided may give you a “deer in the headlights” look your first few times showing.

A 2014 Grand Prix course at Wellington Equestrian Festival.

Let’s get started!

We will begin with, “What elements are included on a jumper course diagram?” A few of these are similar to those noted in Reading Course Diagrams Part I: Hunters.

At any well-managed, well-run show, these are elements you can expect to find on a jumper course diagram:

  • The show name and date
  • The class name and number
  • The ranking of the class – i.e. National versus FEI
  • The name of the ring – Again, don’t laugh! So many rings share a fence line at many horse show facilities. Make sure you are looking at the courses for the correct ring you are showing in.
  • The name of the course designer – With jumper course designers, you may even see what country they are from and which course designing licenses they hold
  • The shape of the ring, and sometimes even ring dimensions – If see something on the course diagram such as “1” = 30’) – that is in reference to the “scale to size” of the ring. You may also see the center of each side of the ring marked with a “0”, and then the footage marked out to the end of each side – think about how football fields are marked on the sidelines. Some show rings presented like this on course diagrams will be marked in feet, others in yards.
  • All of the jumps set in the ring (whether they are part of your course or not) and if they are a vertical, oxer, triple bar, or water obstacle
  • Where larger decorations/islands are placed
  • The start and finish lines (along with where the timers are set) for the first round and jump off (if applicable)
  • Numbers on the take off side of the obstacles that are a part of your course – Many course designers will include arrows in the direction that the jumps are to be jumped on the course diagram. Combinations will be noted – i.e. 7A and 7B, 4A/4B/4C. This is different from the hunters when combinations are noted as two separate obstacles (7 and 8, as opposed to 7A and 7B)
  • Some jumper course diagrams will even have a chart that notes the set height of each individual jump
  • Often times, the course will be “traced” or marked with the intended track
  • What type of class it is – i.e. Table II, II.2.b, II.2.d
  • Number of obstacles included in the first round and jump off (if applicable) and how many efforts that totals – i.e. the highest jump number on the course might be 13, but that could total 16 efforts due to combinations
  • Length of the first round and jump off (if applicable) – noted in meters
  • The time allowed and the time limit in the first round and jump off (if applicable) – noted in seconds
  • The speed needed to achieve the time allowed – noted in meters per minute (m/min)
  • For power and speed classes (Table II.2.c, Table II.2.d), it will be designated on the course diagram where the “power” phase will end and where the “speed” phase begins
  • Where the ingate and outgate are located so you can decipher the course more easily
  • Some course diagrams will go as far to note where the “JURY” or jumper judges will be stationed
  • If the class requires those who are clean in the first round to return at the completion of the first round for the jump off (Table II.2.a), it may be noted if any jumps will be changing for the jump off (i.e. jump #5 is currently a triple bar, but will be an oxer in the jump off)
  • Larger shows may offer a QR code on course diagrams that allow the viewer to pull up all the courses for that day’s schedule. This can be a great asset for large, spread-out show venues.
A 2023 Puddle Jumper course.

Additional tips:

  • Unlike hunter courses, the distance between related elements will not be marked on the course diagrams for jumper classes. This is for the riders to determine when they walk the course.
  • Always check your course diagram again right before you show to make sure the designer didn’t have to change anything due to scheduling, time constraints, the condition of the footing or a recent monsoon
  • To the prior point, the course designer is often one of the hardest working people at the horse show. Mistakes happen. They are human. After the first horse goes, they may realize they marked and element incorrectly on the course diagram. CHECK THE COURSE BOARD AGAIN RIGHT BEFORE YOU SHOW. Numbers may have changed or scratched out and updated since you looked at the course diagram earlier in the day.
  • If you see something that’s amiss on the course diagram, kindly mention it to the starter and they will contact the course designer to see if any corrections need to be made

We hope this guide will serve as an educational resource on reading jumper course diagrams. Again, it can definitely seem like a lot to learn and digest at first glance, but once you have the “lingo” down pat – and have navigated around a variety of courses and class types, approaching the course boards in the morning will be a lot less stressful.