Jumper Competition Terms

Horse show people seem to speak a language all their own. So we’ve gathered together the most common terms and explained just what they mean so that you, too, can talk the talk!


When a horse completes the prescribed course within the time allowed, without incurring jumping faults. When more than one horse as a ‘clean round’, a jump-off occurs.



A combination is comprised of two, three, or more obstacles with a maximum distance between them of 39’5″, which must be taken in two, three, or more successive jumps. If a horse has a refusal at any fence in a combination, he must re-jump the entire sequence.



Show Jumping is scored by faults or penalties accrued by horse and rider while they negotiate the course. See the Scoring section of this website for details about how penalties and faults are calculated.



Horses tied for first place after the first round [a ‘clean round’], must ‘jump-off’ in a timed jump-off round. The winner is the horse with the fewest number of faults and the fastest time.



The jumping order is determined in a drawing before the event so each rider has an equal chance of attaining a favorable position. Riders near the end of the order have the advantage of seeing how prior riders negotiate the course.



An obstacle is considered a knockdown when a horse or rider lowers any element, which alters the specified height of an obstacle.



A liverpool consists of a plastic element meant to represent a small water obstacle. If used at an oxer; the front of the liverpool may not be more than 3’3″ in front of the jump. If used at a vertical; the back of the liverpool may not exceed the front plane of the jump.



A horse is considered off course if it deviates from the course as outlined on the posted diagram.



The wooden poles used on obstacles are called rails and must be a minimum of six feet in length and four inches in diameter. Rails usually measure about 12′ long on the average fence.



A refusal is when a horse stops before the fence or runs out to the side to avoid negotiating the obstacle.



Practicing or training in preparation of the event.


SPREAD FENCE [oxer, triple bar]

A spread fence consists of more than one vertical element not on the same vertical plane and is taken as one effort.



The amount of ground the horse covers in one ‘step’ is called the horse’s stride, which averages 12′. The distances used in Grand Prix Show Jumping are set accordingly.



A specified period of time to complete the course. If the time allowed is exceeded, time faults are added to the horse’s score.



The national governing body of equestrian sports.



A fence consisting of a single vertical element with no spread.



A rider makes the decision not to continue on and to leave the ring usually with a nod of the head or a tip of the hat to the judge. A rider may decide to withdraw because of problems with the horse, trouble negotiating the course, or because he knows he has too many faults to place in the ribbons.



Because riders and horses may not practice the course before the competition, the riders are permitted to walk the course and check the fences and distances by ‘pacing off’ the strides. Walking the course allows the rider to determine the proper number of strides between fences and optional turns to assure a smooth and fast ride with the fewest faults.



A water obstacle is a ditch filled with water with at least an 8′ spread. A rail of no higher than 3’6″ over the center may be placed and judged accordingly.