Ask any sport horse breeder with dreams of glory in their hearts and they’ll tell you: the demands of the sport have changed in recent decades, and so has the kind of horse that can consistently produce clear rounds.

Not so very long ago, success in showjumping was all about a big stride and the ability to clear tall fences in a single bound. Today, the sport is as much about footspeed and cat-like agility as it is the athleticism to jump 1.60m+.

And that’s not all.

Bravery is a must for open water jumps under the lights and towering, brightly-colored walls, which look less like fences and more like modern art sculptures. Combinations are increasingly technical, demanding both elasticity of stride and tremendous scope.

To be a top contender on an increasingly global scene, horses need the mental stamina and fortitude to ship and travel well, sometimes in trucks over land, often in airplanes over oceans. Once landed in what is often a brand-new environment, they need to be ready to perform in a matter of days, and in any combination of factors.

The “ring” might be an intimate stadium or a sprawling grass field. Classes might go at night or at midday, taking place in the pouring rain or the beating sun, and in front of a roaring crowd or a silent one.

All this, paired with the essential soundness and stamina to do it again, and again, and again.

And yet, despite this endlessly tall order, the most elite horses competing in show jumping right now aren’t just meeting the demands, they’re exceeding them. Today’s startlists feature some of the most exciting mounts the sport has ever produced, and the consistency of their results speaks for itself.

Here are our top-10 picks for the most exciting equine athletes in the show jumping world right now—and most haven’t even reached their peak!

Willem Greve and Highway TN N.O.P. in the 1.60m Rolex Grand Prix at the 2024 Rolex Dutch Masters. ©Atlas Media Canada/Mark Spowart

#10. Highway TN N.o.p

Even just a few months ago, the partnership between Willem Greve and Highway TN N.o.p. was still relatively unfamiliar to those outside of Dutch show jumping. Not anymore.

Their electric win this year on home-turf in the CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix at the Dutch Masters in ‘s-Hertogenbosch—managing to oust World no. 1 Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward’s seemingly impossible time—opened new doors for the partnership of five years.

As the former no. 2 horse on his string, Greve said he gave Highway extra time to develop. But now, the 12-year-old KWPN stallion has finally arrived at the top, and Greve is looking to keep him there. Together, the Dutch pair have earned more than 30 podium finishes, half of them wins. At the 1.60m level, Highway boasts a 69% top-10 finish rate (Jumpr App) in 20 rounds.

©Atalya Boytner/MLSJ

#9. Cepano Baloubet

At just 10 years of age, Cepano Baloubet is one of the youngest horses on our list; the gelding earned the distinction of being named the top-performing 9-year-old in the world just last year. The American-owned DSP prodigy was produced by Vogel in Germany and only moved up to the top-level last year, logging eight CSI4* and 5* podium finishes (including six victories) in just six months.

Then came the pair’s tour de force in Mexico, where they earned three wins in the span of one month at San Miguel de Allende and MLSJ Monterrey.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vogel and Cepano also post a fleet of high numbers in their 46, top-level rounds on Jumpr App. At 1.60m, they’re clear 47% of the time; at 1.55m and 1.50m, it’s 56% and 50%, respectively. What’s more, they finish in the top-10 50% of the time at 1.50m and 1.60m, and 75% of the time in their nine rounds at 1.55m.

#8. Leone Jei

Martin Fuchs (SUI) riding Leone Jei at the 2022 ECCO FEI World Championships. © FEI/Leanjo de Koster

Swiss rider Martin Fuchs has a thing for talented greys. While searching for a replacement for his former Olympic partner Clooney 51 five years ago, however, Fuchs said he wasn’t entirely convinced by the videos he saw of the then-7-year-old Leone Jei, with his long front legs and “funny style.” Fuchs decided to give the gelding a chance, though, and quickly felt something different than what he saw.

Five years later, they have become one of the winningest pairs in show jumping, earning team gold and individual silver at the 2021 European Championships, victories in the Rolex Grands Prix of Dinard and Geneva, a win in the CSIO5* CPKC International Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows, and most recently, the CSIO5* Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala.

Having amassed more than 26 podium finishes and €2.6 million in prize money, Leone Jei has been one of the highest-earning horses in the sport for the last two years, according to Jumpr App. He’s also one of the most reliable: in 64 total rounds with Fuchs at the championship height of 1.60m, the gelding jumps clear at 50%, and finishes in the top-10 an incredible 65% of the time.

Philipp Weishaupt riding Zineday in the Rolex Grand Prix.

#7. Zineday

Germany has not yet won an Olympic gold medal in the 21st century, and many of their hopes may rest on the shoulders of Philipp Weishaupt’s temperamental, 10-year-old Westphalian gelding, Zineday.

Produced with the help of Richard Vogel and Christian Kukuk, from a five-star stallion (Zinedine) campaigned by Ludger Beerbaum, this very-German wunderkind has been under the lens since his podium finish in the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen last summer. In the fall, Weishaupt and Zineday rode to an Individual silver medal at the European Championships, then helped to secure the Global Champions League Super Cup for their team, Riesenbeck International.

Given his young age, Weishaupt has used Zineday carefully so far, jumping just 14 rounds at 1.60m with the gelding in 2023.

But the German rider has also made it clear that the Paris Games are foremost in his mind, and with good reason. In their eight, prestigious podium finishes, the pair has amassed more than €1.2 million in prize money, posting clear rounds at 1.55m and 1.60m a 75% clip, and finishing in the top-10 at 50% and 73% respectively (Jumpr App). 

Julien Epaillard (FRA) riding Dubai du Cedre at the FEI Jumping European Championship Milano 2023.
©FEI/Leanjo de Koster

#6. Dubai Du Cedre

A French rider, aboard a French horse, competing for glory in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games? It’s the stuff of fairytales, and also the not-so-secret hope of France’s Julien Epaillard.

Fortunately, the French rider has not one but two, potential hopefuls—both on this list—among them the 11-year-old Selle Français mare, Dubai Du Cedre. With Epaillard in the irons, Dubai has earned 14 podium finishes, 11 of them wins. Last year, the European Individual bronze medalists took fifth in the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva, and won the CSI5*-W 1.60m Grand Prix of Amsterdam and the €1.26 million LGCT Super Grand Prix of Prague.  

And if their Jumpr App profile is any indication, Dubai Du Cedre’s numbers are trending in the right direction, posting an overall clear round percentage of 50.9% for 2023. At the championship height of 1.60m, she’s even more impressive: jumping clear rounds at 50%, but finishing in the top-10 61% of the time.

Julien Epaillard and Donatello D’Auge at the 2024 Dutch Masters. @Atlas Media Canada/Mark Spowart

#5. Donatello D’auge

Epaillard is equally well-mounted on his speedy, 11-year-old homebred Selle Français gelding, Donatello D’auge. In their stellar 2023 season, that pair took in €1,074,482 in earnings, finishing on the podium 11 times with eight victories, including 1.60m LGCT Grands Prix wins in St. Tropez/Ramatuelle and Monte Carlo.

But they weren’t done yet.

Epaillard & Donatello D’auge also took home such prestigious classes as the City of Barcelona Trophy at CSIO5*-NC Finals and the Grand Prix Audi at CSI5*-W Bordeaux, with top-10 FEI World Cup qualifier finishes in Verona, Madrid, and London.

According to Jumpr App, the pair posted a minimum overall clear round percentage of 55.6% over the last four years (2021); in 2023, that number jumped to 59.3%. As one of fastest duos in the sport, Epaillard and Donatello average 47% clear rounds at 1.60m, but finish in the top-10 52% of the time.

And when they do make that top-10, it’s usually game over: they’ve won 20 out of their 26 total podium finishes together.

Daniel Coyle and Legacy in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup. ©FEI/Leanjo de Koster

#4. Legacy

If ever there was a posterchild for Daniel Coyle’s (IRL) program, it would be the 14-year-old Zangersheide, Legacy. Partnered together since the mare’s 8-year-old season, the rider for Lothlorien Farm took a slow-and-steady approach to her training, barely jumping above 1.50m until Legacy’s 10-year-old year.

Then, he took the training wheels off, and the pair more than rose to the occasion. In 2022, they earned bronze for Ireland at the CSIO5*-Nations Cup in Rotterdam (NED), and gold in the CSIO5*-Nations Cup at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, B.C. In 2023, they added the Naitons Cup in Calgary Spruce Meadows

But it’s in FEI World Cup qualifier competition that the pair truly shines, with multiple wins in the past three years in Toronto and Fort Worth, and in the past three months in Leipizig, Amsterdam, and Ocala.

Coyle and Legacy have garnered more than €1.1 million in prize money together and finished on more than 37 podiums; 20 of them wins. And consistency is key: at 52 rounds at 1.60, they jump clear at 42%, but finish in the top-10 52% of the time.

Shane Sweetnam and James Kann Cruz in the CSIO5* LONGINES FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Canada. ©FEI/Mackenzie Clarke

#3. James Kann Cruz

For much of his quiet, Irish upbringing, there have been whispers about the future potential of the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, James Kann Cruz. During his breakout, 2022 season under Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam, that secret was officially out.

The pair won the CSI 5* 1.60m Grand Prix at Traverse City, and finished sixth and third in the Rolex Grands Prix of Dinard and Geneva, respectively. Last fall, they also took home the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup qualifier in Lexington, Kentucky.

By the stats, alone, “Gizmo” (as he’s known in the barn) has an impressive resume, with an overall clear round percentage of 56% in 2023, and a 70% top-10 finish record in 38 rounds at 1.60m. At that height, he averages just 1.74 faults a class.

What’s more: of his 24 total podium finishes, two-thirds have been at 1.60m height—further proof, if you needed it, that James Kann Cruz is a championship-level contender.

Winner of the Rolex Grand Prix, Richard Vogel, riding United Touch S. ©Rolex/Ashley Neuhof

#2. United Touch S

Germany’s Richard Vogel is one of two riders with distinction of riding not one by two horses on our list. Aboard the 12-year-old Westphalian stallion United Touch S, he’s accomplished more in two years than most partnerships do in a career.

After bursting onto the scene in 2023 with a pair of wins at FEI Jumping World Cup Stuttgart and the second round of the FEI World Cup Final in Omaha, the powerful stallion with stride and scope for days set tongues wagging.

Then came 5* victories at Spruce Meadows, FEI Nations Cup Final Barcelona, and that standout win in the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva—considered to be one of the most difficult classes in the world.

Their victory in the CSI5* 1.60m Grand Prix in Wellington, FL this winter brought that total to seven, but it’s clear from the numbers that United Touch S has barely scratched the surface of his talent. In 25 rounds at 1.60m with Vogel, the stallion jumps clear at 36% but is into the top-10 64% of the time. In 2024, those stats jump to 50% and a 100%, respectively, over four rounds at the height.

Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward in the 2023 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Bordeaux, FR. ©FEI/Eric Knoll

#1. King Edward

No showjumping shortlist would be complete without the reigning “king” of the sport, Henrik von Eckermann’s (SWE) partner of four years, King Edward.

The 14-year-old Belgian warmblood gelding continues to redefine what’s possible, with nearly €3.3 million in career earnings and 20 wins—not to mention a closet full of the sport’s most coveted titles: 2021 Olympic Team gold at Tokyo, 2022 Individual gold at the World Championships, 2023 Longines FEI World Cup Finals Champion. (Still missing: 2024 Individual Olympic Champion.)

Their partnership has also helped von Eckermann maintain the World no. 1 position in the Longines Rankings for more than 20 consecutive months.

But it’s King Edward’s consistency over really big fences that truly sets him apart, averaging 53.5% clear rounds for the whole of his career at the top of the sport. At 1.60-1.65m, the gelding averages just 1.88 faults or less, finishing in the top-10 73% of the time at 1.60m (65 rounds), and an astounding 100% of the time at 1.65m (14 rounds). All hail the King!

Did we miss any of your favorites? Comment on social!