101 course design/jumps


The two types of competition you will see at the International are The Speed Class and The Grand Prix.The Speed Class on Friday night is where you will witness the biggest, fastest and most difficult speed derby competition when the best riders and horses go head to head over the hardest speed course of the day set at nearly 5′ in height. The fastest horse to jump the course without lowering any obstacles wins. The Grand Prix, on Saturday night, literally translated from French, means the Grand Prize. This is the classic of all the classics. It is open to any rider who can tackle the most difficult course of the competition. It is run under the same format as the lower classics, but will test horses and riders skill, determination and guts more than any other class at the International.

Designing a course is an art form with no two courses created being the same. A diagram of each course indicates the direction and sequence in which each obstacle must be taken. Each jump is numbered and flags are placed to indicate the direction. The horse and rider must jump the jump with the red flag on the right and the white flag on the left. The horse is not allowed to see the course until the competition, however the rider may walk the course before he/she competes.Types of jumps used include the following:

  • Vertical (or upright) – a jump that consists of poles or planks placed one directly above another with no spread, or width, to jump
  • Oxer(#1)– two verticals close together, to make the jump wider, also called a spread
    • Square oxer (#5 - sometimes known as Box Oxer): both top poles are of an equal height
    • Ascending oxer (usually called a Ramped Oxer): the furthest pole is higher than the first
    • Swedish Oxer – the poles slant in opposite directions, so that they appear to form an “X” shape when seen head on
    • Triple bar (#3) – is a spread fence using three elements of graduating heights
    • Cross rail – not commonly used in sanctioned horse shows, and sometimes called a “cross-pole,” two poles crossed with one end of each pole being on the ground and on jump standards so that the center is lower than the sides; used at small shows and for schooling purposes to help the horse jump in the center of the fence
    • Wall – this type of jump usually is made to resemble a brick wall, but the “bricks” are constructed of a lightweight material and fall easily when knocked
    • Filler – this is not a type of fence, but is a solid part below the poles, such as flower boxes or a rolltop; it also may be a gate
    • Combination – usually two or three jumps in a row, (12 a b c  marked on above course design) with no more than two strides between each; two jumps in a row are called double combinations, and three jumps in a row are called triple combinations (if a horse refuses the second or third element in one of these combinations, they must jump the whole combination again, not just any obstacle missed)
    • Fan: the rails on one side of the fence are spread out by standards, making the fence take the shape of a fan when viewed from above
    • Open water: a wide ditch of water
    • Liverpool: (#9) a ditch or large tray of water under a vertical or oxer
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design by Chip Thompson