If you’re not sure how to tell a crossrail from a cavaletti, you’re in the right place! There are many different types of horse jumps and designs. Some equestrians have a favorite kind of jump to jump while others prefer a variety of jumps in their course. Keep reading to learn about some of the most common jumps found in a riding arena.
Whether you’re a show jumping star-in-the-making or a casual rider looking to diversify your arena activities, we’ve got the scoop on different types of horse jumps you’ll commonly find in the riding ring. These jumps are typically fairly straightforward and not as wild looking as those you’d find on a cross-country course.
Parts of a Horse Jump
Before we explore the different types of jumps in the arena, it is helpful to understand the actual parts of a jump.
What it is: The vertical side supports on either side of the jump.
Think of standards as the pillars of a jump. They hold everything up and come with pre-drilled holes for adjustability. They can be a simple wooden design or as elaborate as wing standards which provide a grander look (and let’s admit it—a tad more drama)!
What it is: Little metal or plastic brackets attached to the standards.
These little brackets hold your jump poles or planks in place. Jump cups can be flat for holding poles or deeper for planks or gates. They can be adjusted to move higher or lower based on the height you want for your jump.
What it is: The horizontal bars that make up the actual “jump.”
Usually made of wood or PVC, jump poles rest on the jump cups and create the obstacle you’re aiming to clear. They can be all sorts of fun colors.
What it is: Flat, horizontal pieces of wood or other material that can replace or augment poles.
Planks offer a bit more visual oomph to a jump, making it look more solid. They’re often used in oxers or themed jumps, like the jaw-dropping brick wall jump we’ll talk about below.
What it is: Framed or solid barriers used instead of poles or planks.
Gates are like the VIP guests of the horse jumping world—dramatic, attention-grabbing, and offering a different kind of challenge due to their solid appearance.
What it is: Decorative pieces that fit under the poles or planks.
Fillers like flower boxes, shrubs, or even little faux walls make the jump look fuller and more intimidating.
What it is: Poles placed on the ground in front of, under, or behind the jump.
These poles help guide the horse and rider to the correct takeoff or landing spot.
What it is: The width of the jump, usually the most visible in oxers.
The spread challenges the horse to not just jump high, but wide as well. So you’re really testing your horse’s athleticism, not just its ability to impersonate a kangaroo.
Common Arena Horse Jumps
Now that we have made it through Horse Jump Parts 101, it’s time to explore the actual jump designs that you might encounter in a riding arena.
What it is: Low, adjustable “X” shaped supports holding a pole. Another form of cavalettis is to simply place a pole on the ground.
Where You’ll See It: Dressage practice, basic jumping/hunter lessons, trail classes
Used for: Ideal for trotting exercises and learning basic jumping skills.
What it is: Two poles crossed in an “X” shape.
Where You’ll See It: Great for beginners; these are a staple in introductory jumping lessons.
Used for: Crossrails are like the ABCs of horse jumping. They guide the horse to the center of the jump and are less intimidating for young or inexperienced jumpers.
What it is: A single pole set horizontally in a straight line.
Where You’ll See It: Everywhere – from basic training to high-level competitions.
Used for: Verticals are your straightforward, no-frills jump. They teach the horse to tuck their knees compactly in order to clear the jump.
What it is: Two vertical jumps close together, making a wider spread for the horse to clear.
Where You’ll See It: Common in intermediate to advanced show jumping courses and hunter courses.
Used for: Oxers require a more powerful jump, teaching the horse to both lift and extend.
What it is: Think oxers but with poles angled to form an “X” on each side.
Where You’ll See It: Mainly in advanced courses; not for the faint-hearted.
Used for: Swedish Oxers add a fun twist (literally!) to regular oxers, requiring even more precision.
Water Jump (Liverpool)
What it is: A broad, flat pool of water, sometimes with a small vertical at the front.
Where You’ll See It: Advanced show jumping and specialty competitions.
Used for: These require boldness from both rider and horse—nobody wants a splashdown! They can also be a challenging jump if your horse is afraid of puddles and pooled water (many are!).
What it is: Poles or planks stacked to resemble a brick or stone wall.
Where You’ll See It: Advanced competitions; usually themed courses. (The most famous of which was the annual Puissance at the Washington International Horse Show.)
Used for: The illusion of a solid wall tests the horse’s and rider’s nerves.
So, riders, which jumps are you excited to tackle in your next riding lesson or horse show? Whatever you choose, here’s to flying high and safe landings!