History of the Christmas Puissance
The Puissance is one of the most famous type of show jumping competitions in the world, designed to push both horse and rider to their ultimate limits. But despite its popularity amongst spectators, there are only a handful of Puissance competitions that take place throughout world – due to it taking a specialist rider and an exceptional horse in order to succeed. One of the most famous and respected Puissance competitions is the Alltech Christmas Puissance which takes place at Olympia, The London International Horse Show – which traditionally takes place in December every year. Tickets for Puissance night sell out weeks in advance demonstrating its huge popularity with the London audience. What makes the Alltech Christmas Puissance stand out is perhaps the famous Olympia arena which is well renowned for the incredible closeness that competitors feel to the audience, and vice versa. During the competition silence falls upon the 10,000 strong audience, who hold their breath as the rider approaches the jump, followed by huge gasps and cheers when the riders go clear – the roller-coaster of emotions makes it one of the most exciting competitions in show jumping. The class involves a maximum of five rounds – the opening round followed by four jump-offs. Accuracy and power is key as there is no room for a mistake from either the horse or rider when jumping at such vast heights. The starting heights can vary and for the jump-offs, the fences are raised each round. The winner is the horse and rider combination that clears the brick wall at the greatest height. In the event of equality after the fifth round, riders share first prize.
The word “Puissance” is the Anglo-French word for “power”
The jump is built of hollow red bricks’ made from wood. This is for horse safety, as they easily fall off the wall when knocked.
The Puissance competition is a development of the equestrian high jump competition which consists of a single, slightly sloping fence made from a hedge topped with timber rails.
Nick Skelton and ‘Lastic’ holds the Olympia Puissance record of 7ft 7ins which was set in 1978 before the modern-day formula of jumping a red brick wall.
French rider Patric Caron holds the Olympia Puissance record in the new format at 7ft 5ins which he set in 1980.
The world indoor record for Puissance is held by German rider Franke Sloothaak, who in June 1991 jumped 7ft 10ins (2.40m) in Chaudfontaine, Belgium on Optiebeurs Golo, breaking his previous record set on Leonardo.
The youngest winner of the Olympia Puissance is William Whitaker who won it at the age of 18 in 2008 riding Insultech Leonardo.
The event has been contested once at the Olympic Games, in 1900.
In the last 10 years there has been no winner from outside Europe of the Puissance competition at Olympia.
The record for the equestrian high jump stands at 2.47 m (8 ft 1 in), and was achieved by Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales riding Huaso ex-Faithfull, at the Official International Event at Viña del Mar, Chile, on 5 February 1949.
The Alltech Christmas Puissance takes place during Olympia, The London International Horse Show, UK on 16-22 December 2014. For tickets and more information please visit www.olympiahorseshow.co.uk