Be a showjumping pro

Posted in Jumping

You’ll be flying round clear in no time at all!


There are lots of types of fences you’ll meet in a showjumping class, but they can be split into three main categories – cross-poles, uprights and spreads.

Once you’ve broken them down into these groups, it makes it much easier to think about how you should ride each fence on a course. It’s important not to let the appearance of spooky fences affect your riding either, so read on to find out how to tackle them. You’ll be flying round clear in no time at all!


A cross-pole is one of the most inviting types of fences you’ll find. Great for warming up, the cross helps mark out the middle of the fence, letting you know where to aim for.

You can jump a cross-pole from trot or canter, and they’re a great opportunity to work on your approach and make sure you’re riding accurately.   

Jumping a cross-pole

How to ride them…

As you approach a cross-pole, think about…

  • keeping a balanced rhythm
  • looking up and ahead
  • wrapping your legs around your pony’s sides and maintaining an even contact to keep him straight
  • pushing your heels down to help you stay secure in the saddle

TOP TIP – Remember to aim for the middle of the fence you’re jumping – you’ll ride more accurately to it and your pony will know exactly where he’s going.

Upright showjumps

An upright fence is built with one set of wings. There are a few different types you might come across…

  • simple upright Normally consisting of a single pole and a ground line, these fences might also have fillers underneath them.
  • planks Made up of brightly coloured planks, these fences use flat cups, which means they’re easier to knock down.
  • skinnies Similar in style to a simple upright, these use shorter poles to create a narrower fence. Accuracy is key!

Showjumping an upright fence with planks

DID YOU KNOW? A ground line is a pole placed on the ground just in front of a fence. It helps you and your pony work out where to take off.

How to ride them…

It’s important to have a bouncy canter with plenty of impulsion when it comes to uprights.

Think of it as squeezing a toothpaste tube while keeping the lid on – wrap your legs around your pony’s sides to keep him moving forwards while maintaining an even contact to contain his energy.

Spread fences

A spread fence is made up of two sets of wings, creating a wider fence for you to jump. While they might look bigger, they’re actually often more inviting and encourage a better jump.

Spreads may be ascending, where the back pole is slightly higher than the front, or parallel, where both poles are at the same height. Spread fences often have fillers underneath them, too.

Showjumping spread fence

How to ride them…

Although you need a strong canter with plenty of impulsion to allow your pony to push himself over the fence, don’t let him get too speedy. A canter that’s too fast will push your pony out of balance and he’ll struggle to jump the fence well, which isn’t fun for either of you!

Once you’ve got a good canter, remember to keep a straight approach and look ahead, focusing on a point on the other side of the fence.

Top tip – If you’re riding a course, look to the next fence as you land from the previous one. This’ll let your pony know where you plan to go, and give you plenty of time to get a balanced canter for a good approach and jump.

Spooky fences

Scary fences come in lots of different forms – from colourful fillers, walls, planks and water trays. While your pony might take a look, it’s often your own reaction that causes the problem!

As you anticipate a scary fence, your body tenses up and your eyes are drawn down, which moves your weight in the saddle. This causes your pony to think there’s a problem with the fence, making him more likely to refuse.

How to ride them…

Relax! There’s no reason he shouldn’t jump a spooky like any other if you ride confidently. Stay focused, ride a good approach, and keep your legs firmly on. Maintain an even contact to ride a dead-straight line to the fence and look up and over. If you believe you’ll make it to the other side, you’re much more likely to get there.

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