It was previously unheard of in an Olympic Games: six horses jumping off for the gold medal. But then it was a previously unheard of depth of field, too.

“If you see the start list, it’s unbelievable,” said Dutch show jumping champion Jeroen Dubbeldam at the start of the day. “The horse and riders are so strong. I’ve never seen a field like this.”

By the end of two rounds, the field of 35 horse and rider combinations in the Olympic Individual Jumping Final had been whittled down to six. Nick Skelton (GBR), Sheikh Ali Al Thani (QAT), Steve Guerdat (FRA), Kent Farrington (USA), Peder Fredricson (SWE), and Eric Lamaze (CAN) all posted fault-free efforts, forcing a jump-off for the medal.

Farrington, who was made his Olympic debut in Rio, felt that was too many clear rounds.

“Six horses in a jump-off is a lot. I think that’s too many for an Olympic Games. That’s our sport and that’s what it was today, so we all had to give it a shot and go for it,” he said.

“I think my horse was a little bit tired coming back late like that. I think maybe if he had more time to rest before the jump off also would have helped. Skelton’s horse finished early, went back to the stable, had a bit of time there to cool off before it came up. The rest of us were here. I think you saw a lot of tired horses jumping at the end.”

Class winner Skelton was also critical of having so many horses in an Olympic jump off:

“I think everybody all along was surprised. I think to get 13 clears in the first round was a lot. Then to have six in the jump-off. Great for us, but you have to feel for the fourth, fifth, and sixth [place] riders that have been here and jumped clear rounds and didn’t get anything.”

Guilherme Jorge’s earlier courses have been widely praised by the riders all week. George Morris awarded the opening round an A+ at But even the designer felt that first round of the Individual Final was too soft.

“I clearly could have done more with the course in the first round. The second round was beautiful, really to the limits. It showed the horses are jumping amazing,” said the Brazilian designer, noting that he was limited by the number of fences he could use.

“We can only use 12 jumps with a double and a triple in the first round and 10 jumps in the second round, which is very difficult with this level of competition.”

At least one rider in the jump off was not put out by a six-way fight for the medals, despite finishing off the podium himself. Guerdat pointed out that most Grand Prix classes are decided by a jump off. In the real world, six horses would be considered an ideal number.

“I think we win every week in the jump off, so I think jump off is part of our sport,” he said. “When you ask a 100m runner, in the Olympics he also run a 100m for the medal. So why in the Olympics should it always be bigger and wider ad more difficult than everywhere else? It’s the same sport, so I have nothing against the jump off.”

Importantly, no horses were injured on the course.

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