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Thinking Of Going Affiliated Showjumping? What You Need To Know...

Are you thinking about taking the leap from unaffiliated to affiliated showjumping? Or even just starting to try your hand at competing in the discipline? Then here are a few tips on what to expect and how to get started.

Local, unaffiliated or affiliated shows – what’s the difference?

There are several types of competition that are open to all riders; we’ll start off by looking at the ‘local’ and unaffiliated shows. “How do the two differ?” you might ask, and some would say they don’t – but in my opinion, there are quite a few notable differences. The first is that you’ll find some of the local shows are a lot more casual with the rules, the type of jumps they use and the design of the course. Now, by this I mean that the jumps may not be full showjump wings, they could be training wings and blocks, and the poles could be lightweight, plastic or wooden, meaning they don’t meet affiliated standards.

At a local show, you may also find that the course could be less technical, or the design of the course could be one that would not meet the British Showjumping (BS) standards. However, if you attend an unaffiliated show, it will usually be held at a venue that also hosts affiliated events. This means they will tend to follow most of the same rules, the jumps (including their height and width) will likely meet affiliated standards and the course would be professionally designed. To some extent, the whole experience at an unaffiliated show would be very similar to that of an affiliated event.

Something to look out for, however, when making the step up from unaffiliated to affiliated, is that there may be some extra rules which won’t necessarily have applied to unaffiliated shows, such as penalties for resistance, halts or rears, anywhere on the course.

When it comes to affiliated shows, the key difference is the focus on promoting fair competition, so you’ll see consistency throughout all the affiliated competitions you might enter, from the way that they’re run to the rules that are used, and the design of the courses.

How should I prepare for affiliated showjumping?

The answer to this question depends mainly on the horse. Whatever your performance is like at home, it’s always sensible to start off by competing in a few local shows – this is especially important if the horse in question has never been out to a show before, in order to get them used to the environment more than anything.

If you feel like you are ready to go affiliated showjumping, but it’s your first time competing at this level, I would strongly recommend jumping at unaffiliated events at the venues you’re keen to compete at first. This will get you used to a more technical course design and the height/width of the jumps, whilst also allowing you to familiarise yourself with the venue itself, the setup and how the event is run. That way, when you compete at your first affiliated show there, you won’t have any extra stresses or worries, like “where’s the warm up arena?”, “how do they do the drawn order?” or “do I need to check in – and if so, where do I do that?” It just gives you a bit more peace of mind for your first few affiliated events. Then, once you feel more comfortable, you can start competing at venues you’ve not been to before.

British Showjumping membership options...

To compete at an affiliated show (and qualify), you will need to become a British Showjumping member. There are a few different membership options available, ranging in price from £30 to £144, and you’ll need to pay to register your horse too – prices start at £57.

You can find full details on the different membership options and prices, alongside information about how to join, here, on the British Showjumping website.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel ready to commit to a full year or even 6 months of membership without a bit more experience of the affiliated setup, you could purchase a day ticket to ride (one ticket must be purchased per class) for just £5. Unfortunately, this would mean you weren’t able to qualify and you won’t receive any prize money if you are placed, but it gives you a good taster if you enjoy jumping and are thinking of paying for a full BS membership.

What are the British Showjumping levels?

British Showjumping have a series of classes that have been specifically developed to suit horses and riders of all abilities and allow them to progress through the levels. There are junior and senior classes to cater to those under and above 16 years of age.

In order to keep the competitions fair, the level you compete at will be dictated by the number of points you have. The British Showjumping Association (BSJA) points structure works on a system called ‘upgrading’, which means that once you have too many points for a certain class, you will be required to move up a level and can no longer compete in the lower classes. The following shows you the senior (over-16s) class structure, based on points won and starting jump heights;

90cm – British Novice (Must have less than 125 points)
1m – Discovery (Must have less than 225 points)
1.10m – Newcomers (Must have less than 375 points)
1.20m – Foxhunter (Must have less than 700 points) 
Some venues may also include heights in between those listed above – such as 1.05, 1.15m and 1.25 – which could be speed rounds, qualifiers, or simply rounds in between two named classes for those who are not completely ready to move up to the next level or whose horse has too many points to compete in the named class below (more about ‘open’ classes and ‘qualifiers’ later).

Your horse will also be assigned one of the following 3 grades, based on the amount of financial winnings they have earned from competing in BSJA events;
Grade C (£0 - £999)
Grade B (£1000 - £1999)
Grade A (£2000 and over)
The grade of your horse will also determine the standard of the classes you can compete in, the complexity of the courses and the height of the fences.
While the ultimate success of any horse and rider combination comes down to the skill of both parties and how well they work together, the grade given to a horse relates directly to the recorded ability of the horse only, within BS affiliated events. So when you first register your horse, they will automatically be a Grade C horse.
However, if you were to buy a horse that had already been registered with the BSJA and had been allocated a higher grade, you would be restricted to competing in classes that match that of the horse’s grade, even if you yourself do not feel ready to compete at that level. This is well worth bearing in mind when you’re on the lookout for a new competition companion, and is a very good reason to focus on horses that match your current standard.

How are points awarded?

In affiliated competitions, if you win or get placed, you get allocated points as follows;

1st place – 10 points
2nd place – 8 points
3rd place – 6 points
4th place – 4 points
5th place – 3 points
6th place (or below) – 2 points
Additionally, anyone who goes double clear receives 5 points (up to 1.15m/Foxhunter – above this, the points structure is different and more points are awarded for each placing).

As with the grading of your horse, the record of points won also stays with the horse, even when you sell them, so if you buy a showjumper, it’s worth checking its points. If the horse you’re buying has a good points total but you don’t yet feel ready for the bigger classes and would prefer to stick to competing at the lower heights, you can request that the points be cleared. 

Faults and eliminations

Under the British Showjumping rules, there are various actions that you will be penalised for, as there are in any unaffiliated competitions, however, you may not have experienced them in full until you compete at an affiliated level.
basic penalty system is as follows;
Pole knocked down – 4 faults
First refusal (stopping at a jump) – 4 faults
Second refusal – Elimination
Fall for horse or rider – Elimination
Time fault – 1 fault for every second over the set time

What is meant by ‘two phase’ or ‘single phase’ classes?

A Two Phase class, as the name suggests, involves two phases. All horse/rider combinations that manage a clear round (meaning those that are given no faults and complete the course within the given time limit) in the first phase progress straight on to the second phase without interruption or delay between phases. Those that don’t go clear in the first phase will not go through to the second phase and will be placed based on penalties and time.

The second phase (the jump-off) involves riding a shorter course with slightly higher jumps, and is done against the clock. Competitors will be placed based on faults and time.

A Single Phase class is where the course is divided into two sections; the first needs to be jumped within a certain time limit and the second is against the clock, with faults accumulated over the whole course. This means you are allowed to complete the full course* – including the second section – regardless of whether you went clear in the first, making it better value for money than a Two Phase, where you could potentially be stopped after the first set of jumps. When two or more competitors are placed first on the same number of faults, the winner will be decided based on their time in the second section.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll still want to make sure you complete the first half of the course in a timely manner, as it’s particularly frustrating to go double clear (no poles down in either phase) only to find you accrued time faults in the first phase!

*A full course will include somewhere between 10 and 15 jumps in total.

Top tip: In the jump-off, you are allowed to choose the line you take across the course, meaning you can tailor it to suit your horse and to increase your speed. If you happen to be later in the drawn order, you have the advantage of seeing what lines the other competitors take and how successful they are! 

Where should I start with British Showjumping?

If you have only competed at local or unaffiliated shows so far, it’s likely you won’t have any points when you start jumping in affiliated classes (unless, you have bought a horse with an existing points record, as mentioned above). However, this doesn’t mean that you should necessarily start at 90cm/British Novice, as you may already be confident in jumping higher jumps.

Note that the heights listed above for each class will also increase if you make it through to the second stage of the course. So to give you an idea of what to expect and help you identify where to start, here are the details of the starting heights for both stages in each class;

British Novice – Grade C horses with less than 125 points. Start height is a maximum of 90cm, which goes up to 1m in the second round.
Discovery – Registered horses with less than 225 points. Start height is a maximum of 1m, which goes up to 1.05m in the second round.
Newcomers – Registered horses with less than 375 points. Start height is a maximum of 1.10m, which goes up to 1.25m in the second round.
Foxhunter – Registered horses with less than 700 points. Start height is a maximum of 1.20m, which goes up to 1.30m in the second round.
So based on this, if you have a horse that has no points, you should enter whichever registered class seems most appropriate in terms of the height that you and your horse feel most comfortable jumping.

How to qualify for the British Showjumping National Championships

It can be tricky to get to grips with what changes as you go up the levels and what exactly qualifies you to progress through the rounds towards the goal of qualifying for the National Championships, so we’ve done our best to summarise this below...

But first, a quick bit of admin to help you understand the next bit!

Showjumping ‘rounds’ explained

The most confusing thing about the term ‘round’ is that it is used to describe the first two levels a horse has to progress through in order to qualify for the Finals (e.g. First Round, Second Round, Finals), whilst also being used to describe the phases of each individual competition (e.g. When talking about a ‘Clear round’).

For example, the ‘First Round’ of the British Novice Championships consists of taking part in at least four competitions, each of which will have two phases or ‘rounds’ in which the horse must jump Double Clear (no faults in the first round or jump-off).
For the purposes of the explanation below, we will refer to the former with capitalisation (‘Round’) and the latter without (‘round’).

The first thing you need to know is that the qualifying period for each competition level runs for the full year, from 1st May – 30th April inclusive. Whichever level or round you are aiming for, there will be multiple classes throughout the year in which you and your horse can compete in order to qualify. 

British Novice Championship

First Round

Height: 0.90m

Entry qualifications: Not to have won a total of 125 points.

How to qualify for the Second Round: Horses that jump a clear round in the first round, followed by a clear round in the jump-off (i.e. jump Double Clear), in at least four British Novice First Round competitions, within any one qualifying period.

Second Round

Height: Up to 1 Metre

Entry qualifications: Not to have won a total of 225 points.

How to qualify for the Final: Any horse that jumps clear in all three rounds of a British Novice Second Round competition will automatically qualify for the Final.

In addition, six horses will qualify for the Final based on the following;
One horse with up to 25 starters
Two horses with 26-50 starters
Three horses with 51 or more starters

Competitors that make it through the First and Second Round will compete at the British Novice Championship Final, as part of the British Showjumping National Championships, which is held at the Horse of the Year Show.

What are ‘open’ classes?

Some venues will offer open classes alongside their registered classes. These classes are open to any horse, even if it has exceeded the points level for the registered version of the class. For example, if your horse has 230 points – meaning you can no longer compete at Discovery level – but you don’t feel quite ready to step up to competing at Newcomers, you could enter an open class to jump at your current height, in order to get more practice.

Some of these ‘open’ classes may also have point restrictions – even though they will be higher than the equivalent registered classes – so it’s worth checking the details for each individual class.

British Showjumping Leagues explained

In addition to the points system, British Showjumping also run something called the British Showjumping League, which allows all competitors, at any class level, a chance of qualifying for the League Semi-final or Championship shows.

The league consists of four tiers, each with its own set of rankings and competitions. All tiers use a regional league structure to determine the horse and rider combinations that will make it through to the next stage (with the exception of the Gold League, which uses a national rankings system). There are four regions in the north of Britain and four regions in the south; the northern regions are Scotland, North, Wales, West Midlands, while the southern regions are East Midlands, East, South East and South West.

Here are the details of each of the four tiers;

Club League: Regional leagues for Club members competing in Club shows with first round heights of 70cm – 1m. The rankings are used to invite those with the highest number of points to compete in a Club Championship.

Bronze League: Regional leagues for National members competing in all classes with a first round height of between 90cm – 1.10m. The top 15 ranked members in each of the 8 regions will qualify for the Bronze League Semi-finals, which consists of one northern Semi-final and one southern Semi-final. 7 competitors from each Semi-final event will then qualify to compete at the Bronze Championships, which are held at the prestigious Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

Silver League: Regional leagues for National members competing in all classes with a first round height of between 1.10m – 1.35m. As in the Bronze League, the top 15 ranked members in each of the 8 regions will qualify for the Silver League Semi-finals, which consists of one northern Semi-final and one southern Semi-final. 7 competitors from each Semi-final event will then qualify to compete at the Silver League Championship Final, which is also held at HOYS.

Gold League: National league for National members who have 5 registered results or 5 double clears at 1.35m. Horse/rider combinations with any results at 1.40m or higher will automatically be placed in this league. The 2 highest placed combinations that are eligible for British Team selection (to represent Great Britain) are invited to compete at HOYS.

Note – There’s actually more than one way to qualify for the Bronze and Silver League Semi-finals. In addition to riding classes that allow you to rank in the regional tables, there are also 8 direct qualifier events held for each tier, from which 3 horse/rider combinations qualify to compete in the Semi-finals. Whether those competitors compete in the south or north Semi-finals for their tier will be determined by their registered postal address.

Hopefully this guide has helped you understand the way that Affiliated Showjumping works, get to grips with the basic rules and points systems, and given you a clearer idea of where to start with it.

There’s plenty of additional resources, help and guidance on the British Showjumping website, which is all available free of charge.

Looking for the perfect Show Jumping horse? With hundreds of new ad listings added to Horsemart everyday, the horse of your dreams is right around the corner! Take a look at the lastest Show Jumper ads here. 


Rachael Skinner - Eventful Eventing
Horsemart Brand Ambassador
Published on 09-03-2022
Rachael is an amateur Event rider from Kent and Bailey is a 7 year old 17hh gelding, and together they go by the name of Eventful Eventing. Rachael says "I may not be at the top of the game, doing 4 star Eventing, but I am a realist. I like to include the lows as well as the highs in training and competing, and general yard to yard activities. Although our main aim is within Eventing, I like to dabble in other disciplines too."