Different Types of Horse Jumps

If you’re getting into horse jumping, one of the first assumptions you must abandon is that every jump is the same! There are many different types of jumps, and they differ by a lot more than just their height. 

What are the different types of horse jumps? The most common types of horse jumps include:

  • Cavalettis
  • Crossrails
  • Verticals
  • Oxers

Even within these types of jumps, you’ll see much variety that offers a new challenge to every horse and rider. Keep reading for just about every horse jump that can be found in the jumping arena and the eventing and hunter jumper courses. 

Horse Jump #1: Cavaletti

Cavalettis is the next step up from the ground poles in the journey of learning how to jump. These obstacles are generally a pole or 4×4 laid atop two wooden “x’s.” This creates an obstacle that is only a few inches off of the ground so that beginning jumpers can practice the feel of the “jump,” the pacing, and the two-point.

Horse Jump #2: Cross Rails

Another jump found in most lesson barns is the cross rails. These are two poles that are placed on supports to form an “x”. The design of the “x” gives the rider and the horse a “guide” in the middle of the jump, where the obstacle is lowest. 

Horse Jump #3: Vertical

A vertical is a jump that incorporates height, but no width. It is created by using one or more poles stacked vertically to create a jump of varying height. While verticals can be less intimidating to a rider, the higher a vertical gets, the more challenging it is for a horse’s depth perception.

Horse Jump #4: Oxers

An oxer is a jump that incorporates two separate fences (jumps), set at a specific distance from one another to create width in the jump. There are several types of oxers:

  • Ascending – in this oxer, the front rail is lower than the back rail. There is also a “descending” oxer in which the back rail is lower than the front rail, but the FEI has banned this particular jump as it creates an optical illusion and, therefore, a danger to the horse.
  • Parallel – both rails are of the same height. These jumps are typically taller than they are wide.
  • Square – in this oxer, the height will be equal to the width. This is considered one of the most challenging oxers.
  • Swedish – the back and front rails will be set askew to form a hovering “x” when viewed head-on.
  • Triple Bar – in this oxer there are three sets of rails instead of two, with an ascending height. 
  • Hogsback – this jump will have three sets of rails like the triple bar, but the tallest rail will be in the middle set.

Horse Jump #5: Water Jumps

Many hunter-jumper and eventing jump courses will incorporate water, particularly when it comes to drop fences and banks (more on these below). Water can make a less confident horse hesitant and is a true test of courage. There are two ways water can be incorporated into the show jumping arena:

  • Open water – horses will jump over a shallow pool of water – these jumps are generally the widest obstacles an elite jumper will face, with widths up to sixteen feet.
  • Liverpool – in this jump, a horse will clear a vertical or oxer that is set over a shallow and narrow “pool” of water.

Additional Horse Jump Styles

There are seemingly endless variations in the different types of horse jumps. Though they will all be styled and decorated differently depending on the show, most will fall into the subsequent categories. 

Bank Jump – banks are basically “steps,” and an uphill bank will require a horse to jump up a large step, while a downhill bank will require a horse to jump down a large step. 

Drop Fence – drop fences are similar to downhill banks, but in a drop fence, the horse will not only jump down a step but will jump over a fence and land on lower ground. In these jumps, the horse will not be able to see the landing and will place his trust in his rider. The landing will generally slope downward to limit the force on the horse’s front legs. 

Wall Jump – this will be a solid fence, usually designed to look like stone or brick, but generally made with lightweight material that will give if hit. 

Table jump – this is a wide jump in which the top that is meant to be cleared will be one large slab, similar to a tabletop. 

Brush Fence – a brush fence is an apt name – it is a fence that is topped with brush. Typically, the brush is low enough that the horse can see over the foliage. In a brush jump, the horse is meant to jump through the brush, and not over it. 

Bullfinch Jump – a bullfinch is a type of brush jump, with the difference being that the brush is designed to be tall enough that the horse cannot see the other side. This is a test of the horse’s courage and trust in his rider. As with a shorter brush fence, the brush is designed to be jumped through and not over. 

Ditch Jump – in this type of jump, a horse is asked to clear a dropped area, or a “ditch.” Ditch jumps are not usually wide, and usually have right angles from the bottom of the ditch and up the sides. 

Coffin Jump – a coffin jump is essentially a jump over a ditch that is in the shape of a coffin. This jump can incorporate rails on either side of the jump or can be a simple coffin-shaped hole in the ground.

Trakehner Jump – another jump incorporating a hole in the ground that needs to be cleared; the Trakehner jump consists of a rail that is set into the middle of the ditch. The jump was used as a “test” for early Trakehner breeding in the 1700s. 

Arrowhead Jump – this jump will use a fence that is shaped as a solid upside-down triangle. The bottom of the triangle will angle forward, giving it a sloped or “ramped” design. These jumps are generally very narrow, requiring a high level of rider control and steering.

Corner Jump – a corner jump is shaped as a “v”, with each point either level to the ground or at slightly differing heights. This is a challenging jump and requires a high level of skill. The fan jump is similar in that it creates a “v” by “fanning out”, creating an optical illusion. 

Coop Jump – this jump is in the shape of a roof or an a-frame and is often seen in hunter over fences.

Rolltop Jump – the rolltop can resemble the coop jump, except that it is rounded at the peak. Rolltops can add significant width to jumps. 

Log Jump – in this jump, a horse will be asked to clear a large log. These are popular in hunter-jumper and eventing courses.

Shark’s Tooth Jump – the shark’s tooth jump is shaped in an a-frame like the coop jump, but has a series of triangles cut into the fence, giving it the appearance of a shark’s mouth. 

What are “Combinations” in Horse Jumping?

A combination in the horse jumping world is a quick succession of two or three fences the horse must clear accurately. Combinations are most often either “doubles” or “triples”, named for the number of fences. When there are only one or two strides between fences, the combination is often called an “in and out”.

What is a “Bounce” in Horse Jumping?

A bounce is a combination where there is no stride between fences. This means that the horse will land from one jump, and immediately launch into the next, giving him the appearance of “bouncing” between fences. The distance between fences is important to get a bouncing effect, as they must be close enough together to prohibit strides between them but far enough apart so the horse does not jump over them at once as if they were forming an oxer.

What is a “Skinny” in Horse Jumping?

The term “skinny” refers to any unusually narrow fence, such as the arrowhead jump mentioned earlier. Skinny jumps are challenging to navigate because they leave little room for error. Horses need not only to clear the rail but must do so without touching the side supports of the jump. 

Horse Jumping is Exciting and Challenging

There is an argument to be made that jumping is one of, if not the, most exciting of equestrian disciplines. There are endless patterns and combinations that can be used in the courses, and only the most athletic, powerful, and courageous of horses can complete the shows at the highest levels. Even watching a jumping show is exciting, and is one of my favorite disciplines to engage in.

Every type of horse jump can be used to teach your horse something new. To get a complete breakdown of how to teach your horse to jump, check out my article Training a Horse to Jump: Easy Step-by-Step Guide.

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Carmella Abel, Pro Horse Trainer

Hi! I’m Carmella

My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

Thank you for reading, and happy trails!

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