Named after the French word for ‘power’, a Puissance show jumping competition is just that: a high-jump competition that tests a horse and rider’s scope, courage, and most of all, their trust in one another. The end result is both thrilling and nail-biting to watch. Now while the above photograph might look like the horse is jumping a solid brick wall, don’t worry, they’re not – the top portion is made of lightweight building blocks topped with felt and designed to break apart at the slightest rub.
The competition usually takes place over five rounds, or until there is one competitor left, with the giant wall being raised after every round, the height being determined by the course designer. In the first round, riders must complete a short, three-jump course before tackling the wall. However, if they make it into the subsequent rounds they usually just jump an oxer (a spread jump) before facing the wall. If they knock a rail at any of the jumps on the course they are disqualified.
The top prizes go to whoever jumps the highest, with the jump sometimes reaching over 2.1m high! Often just the helmet of the rider can be seen from the other side of the wall. Those who make it this far reach the coveted “7-Foot Club”, a highly exclusive group of horses and riders who have jumped higher than anyone could have ever dreamed!
The current world puissance record is held by Germany’s Franke Sloothaak, who cleared 7ft 10 ½in (2.40m) at Chaudfontaine in Belgium in 1991 on a horse named Optiebeurs Golo. In doing so, he broke the previous record (2.35m) which he had also set, that time on Leonardo. However, believe it or not, this record is only a puissance record, NOT the record for the highest ever jumped. The record for the equestrian high jump stands at 8’1” (2.47m) which was achieved by Captain Alberto Morales riding Huaso ex-Faithful in 1949. The successful leap took two years of training and three attempts on the day. This record still stands today.
I don’t know what else to say globetrotters except “Wow…just wow!” I hate to think what’s going through a horse’s head as they are cantering towards a wall that’s higher than their head. It’s just testament to their courage and trust in their rider that they take off from the ground and give it their all to clear it. Has anyone had the chance to watch a puissance competition live in action? Or better yet, a bareback puissance competition (yep, those exist)?
Reference: Horse Network
Image credits: Jump Media