cross country equestrian jumping

What is cross country jumping?

Cross-country jumping is a test of endurance, skill and agility on prescribed routes through forests and fields. Horses and riders need to navigate natural obstacles such as logs, ditches, streams, river banks, hills and fences. The route may be over two miles (4000 meters), although at lower levels the distance and speed will be much less. Cross-country jumps are usually part of a three-day event or race trial, which may include stadium jumps and dressage.

What is the goal?

The goal of a cross-country jump is to jump a clear round without penalties for disobedience, falls, or rider error. The best time has been announced and entrants must complete within this time window. While some contenders may aim for a ribbon, many compete for the thrill of completion.

equipment you need

  • Front seats or generic (preferably close-contact) English saddles.
  • A humane drill and leather reins. Synthetic stickies may not be allowed (local rules vary).
  • Crash vest.
  • Medical armband.
  • Shirt with sleeves.
  • ASTM helmet (brimless skull hat preferred).
  • Leg protection for horses.
  • Crops and/or spurs.
  • Tall boots or full leather half leather boots and boots (local rules vary).
  • A watch with a large dial or readout. At lower levels this may not be allowed.

All equipment must be in good condition.

what to expect

Before you start, you’ll get a “go to command”. Your horse’s health may be checked before and/or after your ride. You will be signaled to start, usually in the start box, and you will choose your pace based on the best time. When you’re done, you’ll remove the horse’s tacks, cool it down with cold water, a sponge, and a sweat scraper, and check it out (local rules vary). The ideal score is “0”, which means no penalty or time error.

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prepare your horse

Cross-country jumping is also known by some as endurance riding. Fitness is a very important element to be both successful and safe. A tired horse or rider can mean poor passage of obstacles, leading to trips or falls. Tired muscles can become tense. If you’re riding most of the week, doing flats and vaulting might be fine for the lowest levels. You may want to add conditioning to the same distance and terrain you will be facing. Start slowly, building speed and distance. Your horse must be controllable in the open and a confident jumper.

prepare yourself

The physical fitness of the rider is as important as the physical fitness of the horse. Don’t rely on others to condition your horse. You’ll have to spend hours on the ground and on the fence for your horse to learn to make sure your horse is absolutely obedient. Taking a cross-country course with an instructor will help you learn the rhythm and how to negotiate the course safely.


Cross-country jumping can be a physical and mental challenge for horses and riders. Successful completion of a cross country course is a huge confidence builder.