FAQ Riding

Horse Jumping Glossary for Beginners (With Videos)

horse jumping glossary
Written by Shelby Dennis

Learning to jump starts with learning the lingo.

Entering the horse world can feel like a major undertaking as you scramble to learn all of the unique skillsets and vocabulary that are specific to equestrianism. To many newbies, it may even seem like horse people are speaking a different language.

Show jumping, in particular, has its own terminology to describe important aspects of the sport. This glossary will help you speak the language of jumpers.

Want to learn even more? Check out our video guide to different types of horse jumps.

A-Z Horse Jumping Terminology

Adult Amateur

An adult amateur is a rider who has aged out of being a junior rider (under 18 as of January 1st of the calendar year) but has not declared as a professional rider.

They are eligible for amateur classes if they are 18+ as of January 1st of the calendar year and do not qualify as a professional. Some show organizations require amateurs to purchase an amateur card each year to display upon registering for shows and confirm their status.

Base of the Jump

If you picture a small rectangle just before the fence, this would be the base. Riding up to the base of the jump is a commonly used phrase from trainers to encourage students to maintain rhythm all of the way up to the fence and avoid longer distance take offs.

Chip / Chip In

Chipping in is when the horse and rider pair do not get a good distance to a fence and, as a result, the horse adds an awkward half stride just before take off.

It is referred to as chipping in because it is a rather abrupt and last minute adjustment from the horse, generally due to not being set up correctly and needing to take the extra half stride in lieu of taking a faraway distance or having to jump from virtually underneath the fence.

Clear Round

A clear round in show jumping is when the horse and rider pair make it through the round without taking a rail and without adding any time faults.

Course Walk

The course walk is done prior to show jumping classes. This is where riders and their trainers will walk the course on foot to measure strides between fences and make a plan for their route when they ride it later.

Course walks also allow riders to get a close up view of fences and plan for the type of ride their specific horses will need.

Crop (“Jumping Bat”)

A crop is a synonym for a whip. They are shorter whips with a leather piece at the end and are commonly used in jumping.

Jumping disciplines have a shorter whip length requirement than that for dressage, so jumper whips have the leather end on the whip rather than a feathered loop like dressage. You may hear them called jumping bats.

New to the sport? Check out our 26-Page Horse Rookie’s Guide to Jumping.

Dog Leg Line

A dog leg line is a line where the rider and horse will land from one jump and curve on a bending line to the next jump.

These types of lines require more preparation from the rider on landing as the horse will not be mentally locked onto the next jump and ready for it in the same way as straight lines where the next jump is immediately in view.

Deep Stride

Getting a deep stride is a similar idea to chipping in that you are jumping from close to the base of the jump. The difference is, when done intentionally, a horse can take a deep stride without adding that awkward half stride.

Show jumpers should be adjustable enough to take long or deep distances depending on the situation and the type of stride the rider is asking for.


Equitation describes the art of correctly riding the horse. This refers to the rider’s position on the horse, maintaining what correct posture is determined to be for their particular discipline.

It also refers to the accuracy of rider aids, like softness of hands, overall ability to maintain a strong, consistent position, and ability to communicate with the horse.

Equitation differs across disciplines and in the case of jumping, while equitation can also refer to a class that specifically judges riders on their equitation, it is also an important component of all jumping disciplines.


A fault is a 4-point penalty given when a horse knocks a rail down or has a refusal.

Flying Change

A flying change is when a horse changes from one lead to the other at the canter (e.g. right lead to left). The horse will swap the leading leg on hind end and front to the other lead.

These are important in show jumping for maintaining balance throughout the course as the horse changes direction.

The video below shows flying lead changes in action:


A hunter horse is still one that is competing in jumping disciplines, but hunters are judged much differently from show jumpers.

Hunter classes are judged on the horse’s rhythm, accuracy, cadence, and overall elegance both on the flat and over fences. Hunter horses are rewarded for square knees, careful jumps, beautiful gaits, and consistent rhythm between fences.

The video below shows an example of this type of class: 


The jumper ring is just another word for show jumping. Show jumpers still need to take the importance of rhythm to heart, but the horse and rider pairs are not judged on their style. Therefore, jump styles in show jumping horses differ greatly from horse to horse.

While show jumping has a few different class formats, the most common is where the horse and rider go in for one round with a time limit that they must be at or under. If they go without time faults, and without pulling rails, they go into a jump-off round which is judged based on speed and accuracy (i.e. not pulling any rails).

The video below shows an example of this type of class: 

Jump Cup

A jump cup refers to higher sanctioned show jumping classes with larger amounts of prize money and more prestige. These generally require riders to qualify for them by amassing enough points from riding in other classes. The FEI Nations Cup is a jump cup that brings together all different countries to compete together.

Note: The term jump cup can also refer to the adjustable curved holders that attach to standards to hold rails.

Jump Off

The jump off is a secondary round after the initial jumper round in which the focus is getting the horse around without taking rails and with the fastest time possible.

Good turns and adjustability of pace are highly important — horses who can turn on a dime and are easily adjustable typically fare better than the ones that are only able to go fast.

New to the sport? Check out our 26-Page Horse Rookie’s Guide to Jumping.

Jump Chute

A jump chute is a laneway built in arenas to send horses over jumps at liberty.

The chute serves the purpose of sending the horse towards the fence without them having full run of the arena, thereby making it easier to have them find a fence and disallowing the chance of having runouts.


Landing in jumping refers to the downward motion of the horse as they first touch the ground with their front legs on the landing side of the fence.

Long Stride

Long stride references when the horse and rider take off further away from the base of the jump. This can be done accidentally or on purpose depending on the situation.

Long strides require more effort from the horse and, depending on how far out the take off is, make it more likely to knock a rail.

Off Course

Each jumper course has a course map with the order in which the jumps are supposed to be approached. Off course refers to when the rider jumps fences out of order, thereby resulting in disqualification.


Open classes at shows are open to any category of rider — professional, junior, or amateur.


Pace refers to horses’ rhythm in their gaits and the rate at which they are moving throughout a course. Maintaining pace is an important factor of the rider’s job.


The path refers to the individual rider’s plan throughout a jump course. While all riders jump the jumps in the same order, some may take different paths and plan according to their horse’s stride length and their ability to make turns.

Pole (“Rail”)

A pole is the cylindrical piece of wood that goes across to make a jump. It’s also referred to as a rail.


Position is essentially a layman’s term for equitation. Rider position is important in maintaining accuracy and helping the horse to jump clear.


A refusal is when a horse decides not to go over a fence. Refusals can mean coming to a full stop before the fence or trying to run around it.


A round refers to each “trip” around a full jumping course.


A rub is when a horse taps a rail with their leg as they go over a fence. This may result in the rail coming down, giving the horse and rider pair a fault, or the rail may stay up in which case the pair would not be penalized.


A runout is a type of refusal where instead of coming to a stop in line with the fence, the horse ducks out and goes around the fence.

Running Martingale

A running martingale is a piece of tack that goes around the horse’s neck and has a loop that runs through the front legs and attaches to the girth of the saddle. The neck loop portion has two leather pieces that fork out to attach via rings on the left and right reins.

The purpose of a running martingale is to prevent a horse from raising their head too high by applying downward pressure on the reins to encourage them to drop their head.


Click to see running martingales at State Line Tack


Two-point refers to a rider position where the rider has two points of their body touching the saddle (each leg), also referred to as forward seat. It is a forward position that brings the rider mostly out of the saddle to allow the horse to jump more safely.

Safety Stirrup

A safety stirrup is a type of stirrup (the pedals that attach to the stirrup leathers and rider puts their feet into) that has a portion that will give away and allow the rider’s foot to come loose should they ever fall off with their foot still in the stirrup.

Types of safety stirrups vary, but they all serve the purpose of trying to keep riders safer by ensuring they cannot get feet caught in the stirrups should they fall off.


Standards are the vertical stands with jump cups that the poles lay across. Types of standards may vary but the traditional ones are a heavy squared off wooden post with 4 wooden feet to allow for stability.

New to the sport? Check out our 26-Page Horse Rookie’s Guide to Jumping.

Standing Martingale

A standing martingale is a leather piece of tack that goes around the neck and has a long piece with a loop on the end that runs through the noseband and then all the way through the front legs and attaches to the girth.

The purpose of this is similar to the running martingale, to prevent the head coming up too high, however the standing martingale is a more rigid and doesn’t apply any action to the bit.

standing martigale

Click to see standing martingales at State Line Tack


Stride refers to the motion of a horse’s individual gaits. Each gait has a different number of beats per stride with 4 beats at the walk, 2 beats at the trot, 3 beats at the canter and 4 at the gallop.


Studs are essentially metal cleats that screw into metal horse shoes. Their purpose is the same reason why soccer players wear cleats, to apply more traction on grass and slippery surfaces.

Stud Guard

A stud guard is a special type of girth intended to protect the horse’s belly from studs.

It has a larger leather piece along the sternum/belly of the horse that extends further back to protect the skin from potentially being rubbed by the studs on the horse’s shoes.


Takeoff refers to the point at which the horse starts to lift its front feet off the ground and push from behind to jump a fence.

Time Fault

If you take more than the set time allowed to complete your jumping round, you incur a time fault for each extra second.

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About the author

Shelby Dennis is a well known YouTube equestrian vlogger and horse trainer. Shelby has over 17 years of experience with horses. From the Arabian circuit to hunter/jumper and exercising race horses, Shelby’s experience with different kinds of horses makes her a well-rounded horsewoman. Shelby attributes her history with horses to shaping the hardworking, patient and driven individual she is today.