If you are looking to buy a horse or pony to use for showjumping, you have probably heard of the B.S.J.A. and the B.S.J.A. grading system for horses and ponies.The B.S.J.A., or to give it its full name the ‘British Show jumping Association’ is the governing body in the UK for showjumping competitions and the formal registration of horses and ponies that show jump competitively. If you are only interested in showjumping for fun, and in novice and lower level classes at local organised competitions, then the B.S.J.A. and their grading system and competition rules may not be relevant to you and your horse or pony. Many riders enjoy local pony club and riding club showjumping events without seeking to compete at a higher or more formally organised level.However, if you wish to ride in affiliated competitions, at official B.S.J.A. shows and in B.S.J.A. affiliated classes, you will need to become a member of the B.S.J.A. yourself, and ride a horse or pony with a B.S.J.A grade assigned to them. This will dictate what classes you can and cannot compete in and at what level, and formally recognise your winnings.The B.S.J.A. registers both horses and ponies, and runs and affiliate classes at levels from the competent novice right up to top-level riding.
If a horse or pony that you are considering buying is advertised as already being registered with the B.S.J.A. as a show jumper, and has a lettered grade mentioned in the advertisement, you might well wonder what exactly this tells you about the horse or pony in question.Any horse or pony can be registered with the B.S.J.A., and they do not have to have any prior record of accomplishment at competitive show jumping or winnings in order to get a foot on the ladder. Every horse or pony has to start somewhere, after all! It is important to note that, while the ultimate success of any horse and rider in competition comes down to a combination of both horse and rider and how well they work together, B.S.J.A. grades refer solely to the horse or pony in question, and not the rider. Once a horse or pony is sold on to a new owner, their grade goes with them, and the new owner ‘inherits’ the grade that the horse or pony achieved with the previous owner or owners.While this can be a good way to get a head start at being able to compete in higher level showjumping competitions that may otherwise have been out of the reach of the new buyer, this can also work against you too. If the horse or pony you buy is graded above the standard of showjumping at which you are comfortable and competent at competing in, it will mean that you will be unable to compete in official B.S.J.A. classes and competitions at the level at which you want to. You will be restricted to riding only in events alongside of other horses or ponies that have achieved the same ranking as your own mount, and so, this can effectively reduce your options for competition rather than increase them.Choosing a horse or pony that matches your own level of competence and standard of riding is important- you can always work with your new mount to increase their grade as your skills and standard of competition increases, but a horse or pony, once graded, can only go up in grade and not down!While riders must also be members of and registered with the B.S.J.A. in order to ride in B.S.J.A. competitions, riders are not assigned a grade and ranking. Membership for the rider simply permits them to ride any registered horse in competition.
The B.S.J.A. levels for horses and ponies are graded according to the amount of financial winnings that the horse or pony in question has earned from competition in B.S.J.A. events and affiliated competitions.The level of grading dictates to some extent the standard of the competition, and also the complexity of the course that must be ridden and the height of the fences. Classes for ponies with riders under 16 years of age generally start with fences of 70cm for the beginning grades and progress upwards, while for adult competitions (aged over 16) the novice class fences generally go from 90cm high upwards.
Grade JD is the first level that ponies can be registered at, and is the grade given to ponies whose total lifetime financial winnings from showjumping total from £0 to £99.Grade JC is the next step up, and is the grade given to ponies with total lifetime winnings of between £100 and £699.Grade JA is the highest grade a pony can achieve in pony classes, and is given to ponies with winnings totalling £700 upwards.
Grade C is the grade for initial registration, assigned to horses that have won between £0 and £999 in showjumping events.Grade B is given to horses with lifetime earnings between £1,000 and £1,999.Grade A is the top level, and reflects total lifetime winnings of £2,000 and over.If you showjump with a pony rather than a horse, however, you can if you wish use that pony to compete in horse classes, and attain the horse gradings of C,B and A in place of the pony gradings. This does not work the same way in reverse, and you cannot ride a horse in pony-specific classes.Hopefully this article has gone some way towards de-mystifying the B.S.J.A. grading system, and will help you to be able to make an informed decision about buying a horse or pony for showjumping or with an official B.S.J.A. grade. To join the B.S.J.A. as a riding member or to find out more information about what it takes to make it in showjumping and how to compete, check out the B.S.J.A. website.