Cross country fences

Cross country fences

When competing over cross country, you will need to become familiar with the different types of fences that are used. You will need to practise in advance over such fences, as well as show jumping grids to learn distances and the correct rhythm to use in combinations. Even novice competitions can be daunting so the more you know and train, the more enjoyable it will be. This is an overview of the fences you will find at your event.


An arrowhead fence will look like an arrowhead that has entered the soil at an angle. As a result the fence is narrower at the bottom than the top. Many horses will try to run out so it needs to be ridden straight with positivity.


Also known as steps, they can be designed to be jumped upwards or as a drop downwards. The steps will be flat, with a deep drop or rise between each bank. The number of steps will depend on the competition. When riding up them, you will need a lot of impulsion so the horse can get to the top easily. When riding downhill you will need to take them slowly, giving the horse control of his head so he can look at the drop as he moves. The rider will also need to adapt their seat so they can help the horse balance.

Brush Fence

This will look like a steeplechase fence, with brush trimmed to the same level protruding from a pallet base. Similar to steeplechasing, the jump should be brushed through as a horse jumps and not taken as a show jump.


A bullfinch is a brush fence, where the brush will be at a height the horse cannot see through. Like a brush, they should be jumped through. You will need your horse to trust you, as they will not know what is on the other side.


Similar to the table fence, this will be built to resemble a chair structure. You will jump over the seat with the chair back the last thing to be cleared. It should be treated like a ditch in front of a fence, so the horse clears the width as well as the height.

Chicken Coop

Cross country fences can be quite inventive, using what you would usually find out hacking around a farm. The Chicken Coup will be a prism shape, so you will need to jump the width as well as the height.


This is a combination fence which requires accuracy in tempo as well as the ability to jump in and out of ditches. On the approach to a coffin combination you will need to jump over a rail or log downhill into a ditch. Two or three strides later, you will then need to jump over another rail or log uphill. Some coffin combinations have different terrain in the such as dirt or sand, so your horse will need balance and the ability to adapt stride pattern quickly.


A combination of fences will be included at all levels in cross country competitions. Each element will be alphabetically lettered and must be jumped in that order. If a horse refuses one element, you will have to start the entire combination again. Many combinations may also have a hard and easy route. Carefully pace both versions out, as you may need to change your mind quickly as you approach. The easy route will take more time to complete. Combinations will be based on exact stride distances, so you will need to decide whether to lengthen or shorten when approaching the fences. You will need to keep impulsion and rhythm.


A fence that requires accuracy and an honest horse! The fence will be in a flat V shape, looking like a slice of cake. You will need to jump over the corner angle. This can case a lot of run outs, and should be practised often so the horse is aware of what you are asking. Training can be done with show jumps, which will fall easily at first. Your horse will need to get used to the solid fence however. The easiest way to jump them is to aim for as near to the point as possible – further away will mean the horse has to jump a larger spread.


Ditches can be used in a variety of fences, and require both rider and horse to be brave. Horses are naturally suspicious of open ditches so you will need to ride the horse on the forehand and keep their heads up. Large ditches will also need you to lengthen your stride as you approach so the horse can clear the jump and ditch spread.


Most of the fences on the course will be a fixed or fallen (laying on the ground) log. These will be solid, so the horse will need to jump them clearly without knocking them. Some log fences may not have a ground line, so you will need to make sure your horse is used to clearing solid fences and not show jumping poles which will fall if rubbed.


This jump will literally be the shape of a table. This will require your horse to jump over a spread, so requires a strong back and hindquarters. They are usually near the start on a novice course to give you both confidence.


A Trakehner is a rail over a large ditch. This can be very foreboding for a horse, so needs to be ridden strongly. The fence was created by Trakehner breeders at the German stud to test their youngsters ability. As a result it requires bravery and skill from both horse and rider.


Most cross country courses will have a water element. In novice courses this may be a stream crossing or involve jumps in or out of the complex. You will need to be careful when walking the course, and should pack wader’s. You will need to test the footing and depth to make sure you know where to enter and exit, identifying where the footing is safest. Many horses fear water, so you will need to spend time getting them used to walking in and out before attempting jumps.



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