Crash Course in Jumper Class Formats
You know your diagonals and your leads, you know the difference between a chip and a flyer, but in the world does “table II, 2.1” mean?! The formats of jumper classes are their own dialect inside the greater language of “horse show”. They can be tough to keep straight for even a seasoned jumper competitor, let alone their cheering squad who have never so much as swung a leg over a horse. I’m here to help demystify this strange lingo in hopes of making your next jumper outing less confusing!
First of all, for the jumper newbies, “faults” are penalty points for knockdowns or refusals, or going over the time allowed. Regardless of how many rails are knocked down at a particular jump, there is a score of 4 faults assigned to each jump where a horse causes a rail to fall. This means whether you just knock the top pole or you crash through the whole fence, there are 4 faults assigned to that obstacle. Four faults are incurred for each and every fence lowered by the horse around the course. Refusals also garner 4 faults, and can come in the form of a stop, a runout, or making a circle on course. The second refusal in the same course will result in disqualification. Finally, time faults are those that occur when the horse exceeds the set time limit for the course, with one time fault being incurred for each second over the time allowed.
On the note of faults, it’s very important to point out that faults trump time. If a rider has a time of 30 seconds and 16 faults, they will be beaten by a rider with a time of 50 seconds and 0 faults. (The only place this is untrue is in faults converted classes, which you’ll read about further down!) So if your favorite jumper rider had a blazing fast time but was a bit of a bulldozer at the fences, you can't get upset when she gets beaten by a slowpoke who went clear!
Table II - Clear Round
This class is typically a training jumper class, aka doesn’t count toward a division. Jump a clear round (no knockdowns or refusals) and stay within the time allowed - which is usually pretty generous in these classes - and get a blue ribbon! Nobody actually “wins” these classes. They’re just good for use as a warm-up or fun!
Table II, 2.1 - Speed
Also known as a "speed class", this format only has one round against the clock. The horse with the fastest time and fewest faults is the winner.
Table II, 2a
Typically seen in Grand Prix classes, this format is two rounds. The goal of the first round is just to be clear over the fences and on the clock (within the time allowed). Everyone in the class will jump the first round. Then, after everyone has gone, the horses who had clear first rounds will return for the Jump Off - a shorter second round where speed and faults determine the winner.
Table II, 2b - Jump-Off
Often called a jump-off class, this format is also two rounds. In this class, the riders will commence their jump-off without leaving the arena between the two rounds. The judge will allow the rider a few moments to collect themselves before sounding the buzzer again for the beginning of the jump-off. (This means the rider has to remember two courses at once!)
Table II, 2ab
A blend of the two aforementioned formats, this class gives the rider the choice between returning later for a jump-off or staying in the ring for it. The rider often has to make this decision prior to the start of their first round.
Table II, 2c - Power and Speed
Easy to remember by associating the “c” with the word “continue”, this format combines the first round and jump-off into one long course. The first part of the course, referred to as the power phase, is like any other first round - judged on faults and staying within the time allowed. If the horse is clear up to a certain point, the team will continue straight into the jump-off, aka the speed phase. The results of the class are determined by the jump-off, just like the other formats.
Table II, 2d
This format is just like the power and speed, except the rider will continue into the speed phase regardless of faults incurred in the power phase. The faults for both phases will be added together to determine the outcome of the class.
Table III - Faults Converted
This is the only place in the world where what I said earlier about faults trumping time doesn’t apply. In these classes, faults are converted to seconds added onto the horse’s time. So, if your time was 30 seconds and you have 4 rails, like I mentioned earlier, your actual score would be 46. Meaning you would beat that 50-second slowpoke. These classes are usually seen at the higher levels, where riders are trusted not to gallop around like maniacs.
Table IV - Optimum Time
On the flip side, these classes are usually seen at the lower levels. An optimum time is determined by subtracting four seconds from the time allowed. Faults will determine the winner, but in the case of a tie (say more than one horse has 4 faults), the rider closest to the optimum time will win. This format discourages riders from running around trying to win on speed, and is being encouraged for use in more entry level classes.
I hope that helped clear up some of your jumperland confusion! Have more questions about how the jumpers operate? I’d love to answer them!