These Equestrians Fly Over Jumps, Mounts Aren’t Along for the Ride

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(from the Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2012) As Summer Pasquantnio, a 10-year-old competitive horseback rider, entered the arena, she picked up her canter and flew over the first of many jumps. Unexpectedly, her horse was nowhere in sight. Ms. Pasquantnio was a competitor in a “horseless horse show,” a new kind of event that allows participants to jump a course themselves without their four-legged ride. These types of shows are not horseplay; they are quickly making an appearance in the major horse-show circuit. Regardless of the lack of horses, the show is almost exactly the same as a typical horse show.

The young competitors are judged much the same way as if they were on horseback. They are timed and given faults for knocking down a rail or part of the jump, but the contestant with the fastest time wins. There are even ribbons awarded for first through sixth place, just like a normal show.

This type of event is staged all over the world, including Europe, Central America, Canada, and the United States, with about 20 shows a year. The number of participants ranges from 40 to 130 with ages from 3 to adult.  The shows are organized by JustWorld International, founded by Jessica Newman, a former elite show jumper. It is nonprofit and the “events help to fund projects for poor children around the world.”

Many of the participants train for the events. To add a realistic element, some of the participants even strap on horse boots, the same kind of boots that actual horses use to protect their legs.  Ms. Newman recently hosted the organization’s first horseless show in Europe. She said “it was a huge hit,” the show drew 80 to 90 participants simply because “it’s just fun to be a horse.”