Skip to content

Breach and Spur 2: Is it mostly male or female, men or women, in show jumping?


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Personal)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2023/02/21

The world of show jumping gathers the most attention within the world of horse riders or equestrians. Upon entrance into the field with zero background knowledge or interaction, the discipline can be demarcated in a number of ways, after sufficient exposure.

The first of which is the split of owners, trainers/riders, clientele, grooms and stablehands, and support staff (e.g., gardeners, landscapers, lawn mowers, machine operators, shavings deliverers, manure bin truck drivers, janitors, electricians, irrigation teams, and various maintenance personnel).

The first impression from the outside is an overwhelmingly male dominated sport. In fact, this can be considered both true and false at different scales of analysis. On the level of the globe, especially Western European and North American, the best show jumpers remain, for the vast majority, men if simply taking the metrics of the FEI system and Longines Ranking.

The best women are farther down the list with lots of Canadian women. Canadian women riders truly punch well above our demographic weight. Per capita, our women, in show jumping, produce awesome results.

To that point of contact, the best women show jumpers in the world, often, are Canadian. Thusly, on the level of the national (Canada), this claim of mostly men can be considered true in historical terms and false now. The best show jumpers will be women in Canada: Tiffany Foster, Erynn Ballard, Amy Millar, Beth Underhill, etc.

The international reality: The best international show jumpers have been men in historical terms, continue to be men throughout the year, have increasingly been women in a decent sense, and Canada has been an outlier in production of outstanding women show jumpers.

Theoretically, the great equalizer is the horse. This theory has presented itself as its definition in realistic terms, a theory. If this theory, or rather hypothesis, is true, we should see more equality at the highest and at the lowest levels of the sport. We don’t.

Naturally, this raises questions about either the hypothesis about the horse being the great equalizer or the systems of training in place differentiating sexes and genders within show jumping at different age categories, or an unexplained other single factor or combination of factors.

Canada differs, according to silver medallist Mac Cone, in an interview with me, in a major training methodology, nuanced view, the focus on equitation and hunters. If this is true, and if an incredibly veteran show jumper considers this the case, then this can be considered a valid opinion with import. Not necessarily correct, but an informed position, therefore, it can be considered seriously.

In a sense, the lower end of show jumping is mostly girls, adolescent girls, young women, women, and elderly women. This shows in demographic studies too. For more egalitarian balance, the show jumping world, in Canada at least, may want to examine its perspective on training to attract more boys into the lower and the higher end while keeping equitation and hunters as a focus to continue to produce internationally qualified women.

While, in the Western European and other regional groups, with the continued vast dominance of men at the highest performance of show jumping, a change to their training methodologies — universalized by George Morris — could be considered for the generation of more great international-level women show jumpers: in the same sense as seen naturalistically in Canada, focus more on equitation and hunters.

This simple change may create better balance for women at the high end while other factorial changes would help bring more boys and young men into the lower end of the sport, if we’re serious about an egalitarian shift in the sport.

Which brings us back to the facts rather than the hopes, nationally, it’s mostly women and girls at all levels; internationally, it’s most men at the top and more girls and women at the bottom, but more of a balance, maybe, between girls and boys at the bottom. The world of show jumping could be considered like a good marriage and finding meaning in life: It’s what you make it.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: