What Are The Different Types Of Oxers?

For experienced and new riders, riding horses over a fence is an experience. Even for the spectators, it can be exciting. There are various obstacles in competitive horse jumping. Show jumping, cross-country phase, and hunting involve a jump over an obstacle.

The obstacle type and size vary according to the course and level of the rider. A competing horse must negotiate the obstacles involved. That is when it’s being said that the horse completes the competition. This article focuses on oxer. To put it in perspective, the discussion will not take it in isolation. It is going to be in the context of other obstacles.

What Is Oxer?

It is interesting to note the word “oxer” is not a term found in most of the contemporary dictionaries. Still, it is not a strange term to the horse world. Oxer is a type of horse jump involving two rails. The rails are usually even, but may also be uneven. It is also known as spreads with the width between the poles equal or varying. Some shows feature oxers only in higher show jumping divisions.

Different Types Of Oxers

There are different types of oxers as itemized below:

1. Parallel oxer

This is a spread fence with an even top front and back rail. Its unique peculiarity is in the fact that front elements and back elements set are of the same height. But the jump is higher while it is not that wide. Parallel spreads usually pose a higher degree of difficulty when compared to ascending oxer.

2. Box oxer

If the top poles of an oxer are of equal heights, it’s known as a box oxer. It is also known as a square oxer. The height and width of the jump are the same. It is the toughest type of oxer in most competitions. It is not part of hunter competitions and is prohibited in several other divisions and spreads. It is usually seen only with jumpers and it is a type of parallel oxer.

3. Ascending oxer

Oxers that have the last pole higher than the first are ascending oxers. It has two elements. As they are set, the front elements are a bit lower than the back elements. It is as if the horse is on a staircase when jumping the elements. It is about the easiest fence for horses to jump. It fits well into the horses’ bascule. It gives horses more time to bring their front end up and over the rails . It also encourages horses to have round and powerful jumps. The height difference between the front and back element is usually given as 6 inches while the minimum is 3 inches.

4. Descending oxer

There are also descending oxers in which the first pole is higher than the second. It is not commonly used. The FEI prohibits descending oxers as well. This is because it can create a visual illusion for horses, hence dangerous for them.

5. Swedish oxer

Swedish oxers are the ones with slanted poles in the opposite direction. These create an “X” shape from the highest front and back rails of the oxer as they’re viewed head-on. One of the sections of the jump is lower than the rest of them.

6. Jumping oxer

In jumping oxers, the riders and horses must judge the width and height to compete. It is not a common type.

7. Triple bar oxer

Though triple bar can be mistaken for an ascending oxer, there are some differences. Rather than having two rails, the spread fence has three rails. The rails are in graduating heights. The recommended height difference is the same as the ascending oxer. The minimum difference between the three elements is 3 inches. This is more difficult than the ascending oxer due to the third rail and the additional width. This type of oxer is also prohibited in some competitions.

8. Hogsback oxer

In this type of oxer, there are also three rails. But the tallest pole is in the center. This is the kind of oxer that is sometimes filled in to resemble a barn or house. Such are the ones usually featuring on cross country courses.

Other Horse Jumping Obstacles

Arrowhead: These are triangle-shaped narrow fences. Also known as chevrons, the point is facing the ground. An arrowhead rider must keep their horse between hands and legs because run-out often occur in this event. So, arrowhead is a test of a rider’s ability to regain control of the horse after each obstacle.

Combinations: These feature 2 or 3 fences with about two strides or less between each fence. The fences may be of the same type or different types. In combination, horses can’t complete the competition if they refuse the second or third element. They must start again and do all in the combination, not just the missed element.

Cross rails: These are used less often in equestrian events. They have only two poles crossed while one end of the poles is lower than the other. So, the sides of the fence will be higher than their centers.

Jokers: Jokers are not allowed in some competitions because of their nature. They’re made up of rustic poles or rails that are difficult for horses to determine height and distance. They’re reserved for higher-level competitions.

Triple bars: These are bars spread with three elements. Their heights are in graduation. The bars are inviting though wider and higher. They are usually tackled at the pace. But the horse has to take off close to the fence to be able to traverse the additional width.

Verticals: These jumps consist of poles or planks usually placed above another one. There is no specific spread or width required in this jump. When horses see a fence of planks, they may think they are more solid and may want to back off. Horses need extra power to clear the obstacles. This is because vertical fences don’t have groundline.

Water Jumps: These are usually low, long and wide jump for horses. They’re expected to clear a tray of water.

Walls: Fence in the wall jumps look like the real brick walls, though they are lightweight materials. So your horse can knock them down without any injury. But they can be intimidating to horses and may induce their refusal.

There are still others in addition to the above. They are:

  • Bank
  • Bounce
  • Brush fence
  • Bullfinch
  • Coffin
  • Corner
  • Ditch
  • Drop fence
  • Log fence
  • Normandy bank
  • Rolltop
  • Shark’s tooth
  • Skinny stone wall
  • Sunken road
  • Table
  • Trakehner

Horse Jumping Obstacles Tips

As you could have observed from the foregoing, riding over fences requires much skill. But beyond that, you also need to learn the rules that will make you succeed at it. Below are 7 of such rules.

  1. Do not focus on the fence

This is by no means a new instruction to you. You must have heard it before. But please remember that the longer you gaze at something dreadful, the more anxious you’ll be about it. So do not look at that fence. Rather, determine where the jump is on the course. Know the number of strides required of your horse for you to make a smooth approach. After that, briefly look and then take the jump over the fence. Do not look at it again. If you have to look anywhere to douse the anxiety, look at the sky.

If you are staring at the fence, you will become anxious and your horse will know. The anxiety will become contagious and your horse will hesitate.

  1. Keep your heels in position

You might become excited when you achieved something great or when you’re terrified. It is a natural feeling. The pitfall there for your competition is that you might become inclined to shift in motion. The euphoria, awe, or any other emotion of the moment may move you in a forward position. That violates the very first rule of riding.

The rule is that you must keep your heels down. This will prevent the momentum from affecting you in a negative way. You will be able to maintain your balance and remain calm in the saddle. It is then that you can jump over fences without any hitch. Some riders pop their toes over jumps. This is risky as you’re likely to fall forward over your horse. Should that happen, you will lose your balance. You are not likely to recover from the imbalance, not while over the fence. The more havoc there is, the faster you will become exhausted or ride in frustration.

  1. Hold on for your jump

This is important for you and your horse as you are approaching the jump. Listen to your horse. Understand the strides and make necessary adjustments. The communication between you and your horse will let you know if you have to slow down or speed up. Remain low in your saddle and wait. Both you and your horse can see it when the jump is coming. So do not rush to the jump. If you anticipate the jump too soon, you will realize that you are flying up and, in turn, over the front of the horse. You will lose your balance if your horse is not ready for the stride you are prodding it to take.

  1. Releasing rein while remaining in control

You need to keep your contact with your horse as you near the fence. The horse must know that you are there and have the assurance of your guidance. So, at the top of the jump, give a bit of allowance by releasing the tension. This enables the horse to stretch and crest the neck, making take off and landing more natural. If the tension on the horse’s mouth is too much, you will be interfering with their motion. That can be a costly mistake for time and trust. The vexed horse may struggle to stay on course. 

  1. Remain balanced on the seat

Your horse has the right to make adjustments and shift to gain balance. If it is well trained, the horse will do this in accordance with your own balance. So you have no excuse to have an unbalanced seat. Both of you will continue to adjust to each other until you are both comfortable. But the horse is not immobile. It is rather involved in very rigorous jumps and landings. So you must continue to maintain quiet hands throughout the ride. You must continue to regain balance from side to side and front to back. Of course, this is not going to be easy at first. Your weight and movement must shift considerably as you continue to ride. But with time, you will learn how to keep a balanced seat. If you’re thrown off-balance, return to your seat and sit deep in the saddle.

  1. Have self-confidence

You must trust yourself as a rider. If you hesitate, you have already set yourself up for failure. Riders who brave the jump are aware of the risk of jumping over fences. But they have estimated the danger and are taking calculated risks. Through years of practice, riders have learned to reduce the risk of injury. If you keep on hesitating, how will you estimate your ability to overcome an obstacle? You must have self-confidence. A hesitant rider may risk injury and some psychological setbacks.

  1. Trust your horse

This is the height of it. You have all you need, like saddle and tack, training and courage. But all that is nothing without your horse. Your horse is also nothing if it lacks the will to work and mentally maintain. That is why it is important to understand the horse you are riding well. You should know what it can do under different circumstances.

So if you are riding a new horse, you must be realistic in your expectations and control. This will enable you to learn the horse. The understanding of the horse’s behaviors helps you a lot when jumping. You have a lot of decisions to make based on the horse you are riding. Trust and acceptance of the horse’s unique personality are important here.

Some Oxer Terms Explained

  1. Pole or Rail

This refers to a wood pole of 3 to 4 inches in diameter. It is usually octagonal or round. The length is between 10 to 12 feet. Shorter rails results in a narrow fence that is more difficult to jump. While PVC may be okay, it is not okay as a jumping element or as groundline for fences. This is because it is light and can roll out of the cup with ease. It can also splinter if a rider or horse steps on it. It can constitute a safety hazard for them. All jumping elements are to be free of any sharp edges or points that can injure horses or riders.

  1. Fence

This refers to the main obstacle that will be jumped. There are two main types these days. They are vertical fences and spread fences. There are many forms of them. They can be natural post and rail or brush. There are also coops, gates, hedge, panels, or planks.

  1. Groundline

This is a pole that is placed on the ground, close to the jump to hint horses of the height of the fence. It also helps horses determine the right take-off point. Groundlines can be under the fence or in front of the fence. It will be wrong to jump the fence from the wrong side. It can even be a safety hazard for the horse that lands on the groundline or misjudges approaches. That is why a groundline should usually be fixed where they will roll under a horse that sits during jumping.

  1. Stride

This is the entire sequence of steps in a gait. Measurement of the length of a stride is usually taken from where one of the hooves left the ground to where the same hoof reestablishes contact with the ground. The number of strides is often used to refer to the distance between fences.

  1. Line

It refers to a path between two fences associated with one another on courses which are a specific distance apart. Fences can be in a straight line. They can also be set in a bending line. It all depends on how they relate to one another.

  1. Single Fence

This is a fence situated in isolation without any other fence in direct line with it.

  1. Distance

Measured in feet, it is the gap between two fences. They are usually set at 12 feet increments between the bases of one fence to that of the next jumping effort.

Table Of Contents

clickable navigation

Chapter 1 – What Are The Different Types Of Oxers?

Chapter 2 – What Is Oxer?

Chapter 3 – Different Types Of Oxers

Chapter 4 – Other Horse Jumping Obstacles

Chapter 5 – Horse Jumping Obstacles Tips

Chapter 6 – Some Oxer Terms Explained



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