Rules have evolved since then, with different national federations having different classes and rules.The international governing body for most major show jumping competitions is the Federation Equestrian Internationale (FEI). The rules used in Olympic Equestrian competitions are the international rules as set out by the FEI. The two most common types of penalties are jumping penalties and time penalties.
- A ground jury consisting of various judges and officials and qualified according to FEI standards inspects the course and judges the competition.
- Horses must be at least 9 years old for Olympic competition.
- A bell is used to communicate with the competitor and is used to signal various events such as when they may enter the arena, a halt or continue in case of an interruption, or to indicate the rider is eliminated.
- Red or white flags are used to mark obstacles or mandatory turns.
- Jumps generally are categorized as spreads, verticals or water jumps. Jumps may be set up in combinations.
Faults and Penalties
- Jumping Penalties: Jumping penalties are assessed for refusals and knockdowns, with each refusal or knockdown adding four faults to a competitor's score.
- Penalties for knockdowns are imposed only when the knockdown changes the height or width of the jump. If a horse or rider knocks down a bottom or middle rail while still clearing the height of the obstacle, providing the rails are directly underneath the top rail, they receive no penalties. Penalties are assessed at the open water when any of the horse's feet touch the water or white tape marking its boundary. If a rail is set over the middle of the water, faults are not accumulated for landing in the water.
- Refusals: Refusals now are penalized four faults, up from three. Within the last several years, the FEI has decreased the number of refusals resulting in elimination from three to two, and this rule has trickled down from the top levels of FEI competition to all levels of horse shows
- A refusal that results in the destruction of the integrity of a jump (running into the fence instead of jumping it, displacing poles, gates, flowers, or large clumps of turf or dirt) will not receive four faults for the knockdown, but instead the four faults for a refusal and an additional penalty while the timer is stopped for the repair or replacement of the jump. A refusal inside a combination (a series of two or more fences with one or two strides between each element) must re-jump the entire combination.
- Time Penalties: In the past, a common timing rule was a 1/4 second penalty for each second or fraction of a second over the time allowed. Since the early 2000s, this rule was changed by the FEI so that each second or fraction of a second over the time allowed would result in 1 time penalty (e.g. with a time allowed of 72 seconds, a time of 73.09 seconds would result in 2 time faults).
- Combinations: A refusal at any of the jumps in combination results in the horse having to repeat the entire set of obstacles, not just the element refused. Therefore, if each of the three fences in a triple combination were knocked down, the rider would receive 12 faults (4 per fence, instead of 4 faults for the entire obstacle.