The days when equestrian high jump records were regularly smashed are sadly long gone. But, as the excitement builds towards this year’s Christmas Puissance at Olympia (14 December), we at H&H thought it was time to delve into the archives and remember the good old days when riders required nerves of steel — and a horse with wings came in very handy…
1. The British record
The highest ever jumped in Great Britain is 7ft 7 5/16in (2.32m), set in 1978 by Nick Skelton, then aged 21, and Lastic at Olympia in a high jump competition (consisting of a single sloping fence of brush and a number of rails), before the modern day formula of jumping a red brick wall was introduced. It took three attempts but, 38 years later, the record still stands.
“The first time we tried the fence, we smashed through it,” said Nick. “My first thought was: ‘Thank God, I can come out now.’ I thought he might stop on the second attempt, but he tried. You couldn’t print what I was thinking as I rode down to it for the third time! When the poles stayed up, the crowd gave us a standing ovation.”
2. The world puissance record
The world puissance record is held by Germany’s Franke Sloothaak, who cleared 7ft 10 1/2in (2.40m) at Chaudfontaine in Belgium in June, 1991, on Optiebeurs Golo. In doing so, he broke the previous record (2.35m) which Franke also set, that time on Leonardo.
3. The highest ever jumped in the world
The record for the equestrian high jump stands at 8ft 1in (2.47m) and was achieved by Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales riding Huaso ex-Faithful in Chile in 1949. The successful leap took two years’ of training and three attempts on the day — Captain Larraguibel and Huaso fell after hitting the top rail on their second try. But third time lucky gave Chile its first world record and it still stands to this day.
4. Who needs a saddle anyway?
Great Britain’s Robert Whitaker holds the bareback puissance record after he and Waterstone jumped 2.12m without a saddle at the Stockholm International Horse Show in November 2011.
5. The Olympia puissance record
The highest ever jumped at Olympia in the current format over the puissance wall (rather than the previous high jump format) is 7ft 5 1/4in (2.26m), set in 1980 by Frenchman Patric Caron. The highest the wall has gone recently at Olympia is 7ft 4in in 2006 when John Whitaker, Robert Whitaker and Switzerland’s Markus Fuchs shared first prize.
6. And finally…
He may not have broken any records, but the prize for the best puissance celebrations we’ve ever seen came from Daniel Bluman, who cleared 2.20m (7ft 3in) in Dublin in 2013 riding Clyde. Putting the show back in to showjumping, the Colombian rider raised both hands to the crowd on landing and whipped out an Irish flag, to the delight of the packed crowds.