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  • Writer's picturePrixview Staff

SJ 101: Faults Breakdown

How do you determine and decipher a show jumping score? We've broken down how jumping and time penalties work in the sport:

Jumping Penalties

Jumping penalties come in multiples of four. For every rail had on course, 4 faults are assessed to the horse and rider combination.

For example: A combination that had three rails on course would be assessed 12 jumping penalties.

However, the fence height must be lowered in order for jumping penalties to be assessed. So, if the middle rail of a fence falls but the top rail is still in place, no jumping penalties are incurred.

The open water is a spread test. Four faults are assessed if a combination has a "foot in the water."

Refusals are also considered jumping penalties, and they are similarly assessed with 4 faults. A refusal is assessed with a disobedience as well as if a combination elects to circle or crosses their path on course. Two refusals on course result in elimination.

A fall on course results in the elimination of the combination on course. However, if the rider falls after crossing the finish timers, the course is considered completed, and the combination does receive a score.

If there are no clear rounds in a Grand Prix event (0 penalties) and no leading combination on time faults alone (<4), there will be a jump-off among the 4-faulters.

Time Penalties

For many years, the number four was also relevant with regards to time faults in international competition. One time fault was assessed for every four seconds over the time allowed that it takes a combination to complete the course. However, in 2022, a most impactful change was made.

For every second over the time allowed, one time fault is assessed.

For example: If a combination completes the course in 84.2 seconds with a time allowed of 82, three time faults would be added to their score.

The course designer sets the time allowed before the class begins, after building and measuring out the track. After watching the first three combinations execute the course (and only then), the course designer, with input from the judges, may decide to adjust the time allowed to be tighter or more generous.


If the time allowed is 78 seconds...

  • Combination A has a rail at Fence 6 and finishes in 79.8 seconds = 6 faults

  • Combination B completes the round with no rails or disobediences in 78.04 seconds = 1 fault

  • Combination C has no rails but circles before Fence 3 and completes the round in 84.2 seconds = 11 faults

  • Combination D has a rail at Fence 1 and completes the round in 76 seconds = 4 faults


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