Glossary of Equestrian Terms & Words

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I was doing a bit of research and thought I would share this as for many the Equestrian world can be a bit much to introduce oneself to, so from one reference to another reference reader here is a bit of enjoyment for you!



The general types of jumps in competition are a straight or vertical fence and a spread (wide) fence or oxer. The degree of difficulty of a jump is determined by its height, width, construction, and its placement in relation to other jumps on the course. In competition a variety of fences can be used including walls, panels, gates, oxers, water jumps, combinations, banks, and ditches. An oxer is a single fence composed of two or three elements to produce a spread. A "square" oxer is one in which the front and back rails are of equal height, making it more difficult to jump. Types of oxers include parallel, ascending, descending and Swedish oxers. A "triple bar" is composed of three fences which a horse must clear in one leap. This tests the horse's ability to jump both height and width. A water jump is another type of spread fence that can stretch 12 to 14 feet. The lathe or tape marker on the landing side designates the end of the fence and if the horse touches the marker upon landing it is counted as a penalty. Combinations are a series of jumps, usually two or three in a row, set to challenge the horse's ability to jump successively after one or two strides. Another name for a combination is an in-and-out. A ditch is a shallow depression dug into the show ring. Obstacles are brightly colored both for aesthetics and to add difficulty to the course. Some course designers believe the colors and patterns painted on the obstacles affect the way the horses take the jump. The type of construction of a particular fence also determines its difficulty. A fence that is composed of just a few rails, for example, appears more airy and is more difficult for a horse to negotiate than a solid looking fence.

In each class over fences, competitors must negotiate the jumps in a prescribed order. Courses for each class are posted in advance near the In-Gates so that riders and trainers may memorize them. It is the role of the course designer to establish the degree of difficulty in the course. A mark of a good course designer is that he or she will gradually increase the course difficulty as the week proceeds so that both horse and rider learn as they jump in classes at the show. The grand prix is the highest level of show jumping competition so the fences are larger and the course is longer and more challenging. Grand prix courses are planned by accredited course designers. No two courses are ever the same. There are usually 12 to 18 fences on the grand prix course. Spectators who hear a course described as a "perfect course" (P.C.) have seen an event in which the number of riders who qualify for the jump-off is the same as the number of ribbons offered in that class.

A two-jump combination, with elements separated by one or two strides.

Two or three jumps set up so they must be taken in quick succession, separated by only one or two strides. A combination is considered to be a single obstacle. If a horse stops or runs-out at any element of the combination (elements are lettered A, B, C), the entire obstacle must be re-jumped.

Round or "trip"; terms used to describe a rider's turn in each class.

When a horse completes the prescribed jumper course within the time allowed without incurring jumping faults. When more than one horse has a "clean round," a jump-off is held to determine the winner.

All horses with "clean" first rounds jump a shortened course against the clock to determine the winner.

The different paces at which the horse travels are the walk, trot, canter, gallop, and varying speeds of each.

Penalty assessed in jumper classes for mistakes such as knockdowns, refusals, and exceeding the time allowed. In "Time first jump-off" classes touches don't count; knockdowns and refusals are penalized. There is also a time limit or "Time Allowed" to complete the course. "Time-faults" are assigned for each second over the time allowed. All with clean rounds return for a jump-off.  Sometimes a speed class will be run as "faults converted" in which any faults accrued on the course are converted to seconds and added to the total time taken to complete the course.  In a "faults converted" class it is possible for a horse who knocked a jump down to beat a horse that went clean, if the horse with the knockdown was much faster.  In all jumper classes, falls and going "off course" (jumping the jumps out of order) result in elimination. Faults are scored as follows: Knockdowns-4 faults; 1st Refusal or run-out-4 faults, 2nd Refusal or run-out-Elimination; Fall of horse or rider-Elimination; Failure to cross starting line within one minute after sound of horn-Elimination; Exceeding the time allowed 1 fault for every second exceeding the time allowed.

The warm-up session prior to each rider's round in which they jump practice fences in the schooling area.

Some of the jumpers in the grand prix ring have their manes and tails braided to enhance their appearance. A tail that is braided and then turned up so the hairs do not hang loose is called a "mud tail" and is frequently used in damp weather conditions.

The jumping order or starting order is determined in a drawing before the event so that each competitor has an equal chance of attaining a favorable starting position. Riders near the end of the starting order have the advantage of seeing how the first riders complete the course.

Breeches and boots, hunt coat, choker (for ladies) or tie (for gentlemen) and hunt cap are all worn by the riders. Breeches are the tight fitting pants worn under leather boots. It is common to see grand prix riders attire in a scarlet coat. A blue collar signifies that the rider has competed for the USET. Other hunt coat colors are blue, dark green or black. The hunt cap is a type of hard helmet worn by the rider. A rider may also elect to wear spurs or carry a crop, or stick, to encourage the horse over the fences.

The amount of ground covered by a horse in one "step" at the canter. The average horse's stride is 12 feet. Distances between fences are set accordingly by the course designer.

The equipment worn by the horse depends on the needs of the animal. The saddle and bridle are the staples. Other equipment may be added such as a martingale, which attaches to the saddle and bridle to keep the horse's head from raising too high. Horses may also wear boots or bandages on their legs for support or protection.

A rider makes the decision not to continue on the course and to leave the ring usually with a nod of the head or tip of the hat to the judge. A rider may decide to withdraw because of a problem with the horse or trouble negotiating the course, or because the rider knows he or she has too many faults to place in the ribbons and thus would rather spare his horse or save him for another class.

Riders and horses may not practice on a course prior to actual competition, but they are permitted to walk out the route, pacing off the number of strides between jumps and examining the obstacles closely. It is a course designer's job to set up problems that will challenge the ability of exhibitors. Riders and trainers must determine what and where these are in a course and develop strategies accordingly.

A rider under 18 years of age.

Divisions which are restricted to non-professional adult riders who ride horses owned by themselves or members of their immediate family.

An inexperienced or young horse. A Green Hunter is in its first or second year of showing over obstacles 3' 6" or higher.

Comments (2)

Janie Coffey
First Coast Sotheby’s International Realty - Ponte Vedra, FL
Uniting Extraordinary Homes w/ Extraordinary Lives
great list Nicole! also 'cross fence' is often asked about.  we have trouble with calling our community a "green horse community" ;-)
Mar 24, 2008 02:09 PM

thisis bull


Mar 29, 2010 11:43 AM