The Physics of Show Jumping
This article describes the basic forces produced by the horse in top level show jumping. This understanding can help horse owners adapt their training schedule to ensure the horse is not overloaded but progressively trained as well as fully appreciate competition at this level.
When a horse jumps, there are four distinct phases, namely approach, take off, flight and landing. One horse and rider were analysed when going over a 1.60 meter jump, showing that the average speed of the horse before liftoff is 4.0 m/s, while the angle of elevation of the horse just before takeoff was 40 degrees. With video analysis, it was found that the average time of flight was 0.70 seconds, while the time needed for contact between the ground and the hind hooves to produce liftoff was only 0.20 seconds.
When combining these factors with physics, it is found that the forces on the horse are 16 000 N (equal to approximately 1600 kilo) when landing after jumping a 1.60 meter jump. When the horse comes too close to the jump, these forces are drastically increased (20 000N)! It was also found that a water jump produced slightly higher forces on the horse (17 000N) due to the longer distance. These forces acting on the horse, even if only for a brief moment, are stressful and should therefore be managed well.
Expert opinion by Els Smet
Although these calculations may not be exactly the same for every horse, the author hopes an understanding of the huge stresses on the horse will increase the enjoyment of watching this top sport.
> From: Stinner, The Physics Teacher 52 (2014) 202-206. All rights reserved to Research Gate. Click here for the online summary.