Jump racing, also known as National Hunt racing, is the discipline of horse racing in which, at least in the majority of cases, participants are required to negotiate a series of obstacles, in the form of hurdles or fences. However, in a so-called ‘National Hunt Flat Race’, colloquially known as a ‘bumper’, which is confined to younger horses with little or no racing experience, no obstacles are involved.
National Hunt races are staged over distances between two miles and four-and-a-quarter miles. Hurdles consist of a series of lightweight, brushwood panels driven into the ground at an angle, to create an obstacle at least 3’1″ high and 30′ wide. Fences are more substantial obstacles, consisting of a rigid frame filled with birch switches, natural or artificial, to a height of at least 4’6″. National Hunt horses often begin their careers over hurdles before graduating to fences, but can alternate between disciplines without restriction, subject to individual race conditions.
Traditionally, the National Hunt racing season ran from the Charlie Hall Meeting at Wetherby in late October or early November to the Jump Finale at Sandown Park in late April, but the introduction of so-called ‘Summer Jumping’ at certain racecourses means that, nowadays, National Hunt racing takes place pretty much all year ’round. Highlights of the National Hunt season include the Cheltenham Festival, staged annually in March and, of course, the Grand National Festival at Aintree, staged annually in April.