Show-Jumping: What You Need to Know

Horse and rider show jumpingShow-jumping is one of the most exciting equestrian sports around. With levels that are designed to accommodate new comers all the way up to the professionals, all levels of riders can enjoy the sport of show-jumping.

What’s Show-Jumping All About?

The sport of show-jumping is designed to be a true test for horse and rider. The goal of horse and rider is to make it around a course of fences clear (without dropping any rails) and inside the optimum time.

While it may sound simple, show-jumping requires extreme amounts of athleticism and precision. A show jumping course will be made up of anywhere between, on average, 10-15 fences not including combinations. The type of fences and terrain in a show-jumping courses often varies depending on the level.

Horses and riders who jump their first round clear will be able to continue to the “jump off.” In the jump off, the course is shortened and the horse and rider that completes the course the fastest and with the least amount of penalties wins the competition.

There is a decent amount of prize money in show-jumping making it very competitive.

What Are The Fences and Levels?

Show-jumping courses are very challenging and have a variety of obstacles:

  • Verticals: An upright jump, verticals can be hard for the horse to judge.

    Horse vertical, K and Calliope over a vertical

    K and Calliope over a vertical—lostinfog (

  • Oxers: Sometimes also called “spreads,” oxers consist of two verticals placed a certain length apart to add both height and width to a fence.

    Horse oxer, E and Silver trotting a VERY low oxer

    E and Silver trotting a VERY low oxer—lostinfog (

  • Triple bars: Triple bars are comprised of three verticals placed together. The first vertical will have the lowest height while the next two verticals will gradually increase in height. Triple bars, although they appear wide and imposing, are fairly easy for horses to judge.

    Horse triple, Triple bar

    Horse triple, Triple bar—jacobian (

  • Liverpools: Liverpools look like a pool of water on the ground. Liverpools can be placed under a fence or on their own.
  • Combinations: A “Combination” is the term used to describe a group of fences that are placed in close sequence to one another, usually one to two strides apart. Combinations can be made up of both verticals and oxers.
  • Walls: Walls are upright and solid, but are made so that if a horse hits them a piece of the wall will fall.


Show jumping levels range from the lowest level, Level 1, with fence heights between 2’9″-3′ and widths of 3′-3’6″ to Level 9 with heights of 4’9″-5″ with widths of 5′-5’6″.

“Grand Prix” is the term to describe an even higher level; with fence heights up to 5’3″ and spreads of 6′, Grand Prix is the ultimate challenge.

In addition to Grand Prix, there’s also Puissance in which horses and riders jump a wall that is continuously raised until they hit it; Puissance heights can be up to 8′.

I Want To Start Show-Jumping; What’s My Next Step?

If you’re just starting to ride and want to get into show-jumping, your first step is to start with beginner riding lessons.

Beginner and intermediate riding lessons focus on skills on the flat that will give you a solid foundation for your show-jumping endeavors. Once you’ve learned the basics, you’ll then be able to begin riding over fences, which will lead you to your first show-jumping round!

Filed in: Different Riding Styles

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