The competition involves a maximum of five rounds - opening round followed by four jump-offs not against the clock. The first round consists of four to six large single obstacles including the puissance wall, the starting height of which can vary from 1.70 m (5 feet, 6 inches) to 1.80 m (5 feet nine inches) in height. For the jump-offs, in which the fences are raised for each round, there are only two obstacles — a spread fence and the wall — although an optional practice fence is included. In the event of equality after the fifth round, riders share first prize.
The puissance wall has often become taller than 7 feet. The record for the puissance is held by German rider Franke Sloothaak, who in 1991 jumped 7ft 10 inches on Leonardo.
The puissance is similar to, but not the same as, the equestrian High Jump competition, which consists of a single, slightly sloping fence made from a hedge topped with timber rails.
The record for the High Jump stands at 8 ft. 1¼ in. (2.47 m), and was achieved by Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales riding Huaso ex-Faithfull, at the Official International Event at Viña del Mar, Chile on 5th February 1949.
Puissance, (from Anglo-French pussance), is also a word meaning "powerful", or having the power to do something.