What are the Best Show Jumping Competitions for Beginners in the USA

horse show jumping

Some of the best show jumping competitions are held in the USA every year and you too can be part of this sporting extravaganza even if you have varying skill levels at horse riding. Show jumping is exciting to watch, a regular part of the Olympics, and most importantly, great exercise. This article enumerates some of the most popular show jumping events that beginners to intermediate skill-level horse riders can participate in and enjoy. The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) conducts seven levels of national show jumping competitions and there are five levels of international competition which operate under the Federation Equestre International (FEI).

Some Initial Show Jumping Competition Levels for Riders in the USA

The ‘beginner novice’ level features a jump height of 2 feet and 7 inches. These courses are meant to introduce beginner riders and unseasoned horses to a combination of horse trials including dressage, cross-country, and initial jumper tests. The next level up is the ‘novice’ level. This level raises the height of obstacles to 2 feet and 11 inches. Competing at this level requires some experience at the beginner novice level and is basically a continuation of training for new horses and riders. The third level is the ‘training’ level at which there is some examination of skill and suitability of the horse and rider. Because this article is meant for beginners and intermediate-level learners, we will ignore talk of the higher competitive levels for equestrian show jumping.

man in black jacket riding brown horse during daytime

What Does a Beginner Novice Test Consist Of?

The Beginner Novice Dressage test consists of a walk, trot, or canter within a 20-meter circle with a mandatory halt at the end of the test. The cross-country test lasts for about 4 minutes of moderate cantering and between 14-18 simple jumps that must include a bank-up, a water crossing, and a shallow ditch. The show jumping test includes between 9 and 11 fences with only one two-stride combination allowed between jumps.

Note that even though the ‘beginner novice’ level is so named, the tests are not meant for absolute beginners to horse riding. You must have been trained at a horse barn or school that teaches dressage, cross-country, as well as show jumping. To avoid injuries, the tester will want to see you canter between 2 points in an open field before he or she allows you on to the ‘beginner novice’ obstacle course.

Here are two sample area event that targets beginner novice, novice, preliminary, and training level riders organized by the United States Eventing Association (USEA).


(Preliminary, Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice)

GMHA SEPTEMBER H.T., September 18-19, 2021

Placing to Qualify: 1st through 3rd at one event includes amateur placing.

Qualifying Period: 8/26/20 – 8/31/2021

In Area: BN, N, T
Any Area: P

Placing 1st – 5th at the 2019 Championships will count as a qualifier for 2020.

For a detailed account of Area I Championship policies and specifications go to www.area1usea.org.

man riding on horse jumping over obstacle course


Open Intermediate (OI-CH), Preliminary (OP-CH), Training (TR-CH & TH-CH), Novice (NR-CH & NH-CH) and Beginner Novice (BNR & BNH)


Placing to Qualify: Beginner Novice through Preliminary: 1st through 5th at one event with no cross-country jump penalties. Intermediate: Completion of a minimum of 2 events at Intermediate/three-star with no cross-country penalties.

Qualifying Period: 6/1/2020 – 6/8/2021
Qualifying scores between June 1 – September 15 2020, used for 2020 area championships cannot be used for 2021

In Any Area: BN, N, T, M, P, I

Open to members of other Areas but non-residents must qualify within Area III.

For a detailed account of Area III Championship policies and specifications go to www.usea3.org

Can I Get Schooled in a Horse Jumping Barn Before Jumping Into a Beginner Novice Competition?

You can also train or school yourself at various schooling events that offer a much more controlled environment suitable for educating beginners and novice level riders before you aim for higher levels. Happy Comly Sport Horses offers excellent horse show jumping and horse training services in Texas and surrounding areas. Have questions, contact a pro showjumping trainer today.

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