Horse Jumping: A Guide To Show Jumping Fences

Horse Jumping: A Guide To Show Jumping Fences

Show jumping courses feature different types of jumps in order to offer diverse challenges to competing horses and riders. Often colourful, the fences combine to create an interesting spectacle and deliver a course which tests the skill of both horse and rider and includes technical turns, combinations of fences and different degrees of difficulty. Here's our guide to the types of fences that you will encounter on a show jumping course.


These are jumps that consist of poles or planks placed one directly above another. There is no spread or width to this type of jump. Planks make a fence appear more solid to your horse and so they may tend to back off slightly. There is no ground line with vertical fences and so your horse will be drawn closer to them, necessitating extra power to clear the obstacles.


These fences feature two verticals close together in order to make the jump wider. Also known as spreads, oxers may have two top poles of equal heights or of differing heights. Oxers with top poles of equal heights are known as box oxers or square oxers whereas oxers with the furthest pole higher than the first pole are known as ascending oxers. With a descending oxer, the second pole is lower than the first pole. A Swedish oxer features poles which slant in opposite directions. In jumping oxers, you and your horse must judge width as well as height.

Triple Bars

These are spread fences with three elements of graduating heights. Triple bars are inviting but are wider than oxers in relation to their height. They should be tackled at pace but it is important to take off close to the fence, otherwise your horse may not be able to traverse the additional width.

Cross rails

Cross rails are rarely used in competitive events. They feature two poles crossed with one end of each pole being lower than the other. This means that the centre of the fence is lower than the sides. Cross rails are useful for schooling as they help horses to jump in the centre of the fence.


These fences are constructed to look like brick walls but are made of lightweight materials so the bricks fall easily when knocked by your horse. They look intimidating and so may induce a refusal. Walls are used in.


Combination elements feature 2 or 3 fences in a row with no more than 2 strides between each fence. Combinations may include fences of the same type or different types. If your horse refuses the second or third element of a combination, they must jump the whole combination again, not just the obstacle that they missed.

Water Jumps

Water jumps tend to be comparatively low but wide and include a tray of water which must be cleared by your horse. A Liverpool is a jump which features a ditch or tray of water beneath an oxer.


These are tricky fences which are made up of rustic or unpainted poles or rails. Their appearance makes it harder for your horse to judge height and distance. They are not permitted in some competitions and tend only to be found at the higher levels of the sport.

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