FAQ Riding Tips

12 Pointers for Jumping Crossrails with Confidence

horse jumping crossrail
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Written by Susie W.

Watching professional show jumpers and eventers is exciting. It’s easy to assume these horses and riders were “naturals” and magically knew how to clear fences (and look good doing it) from day one. In reality, every rider—and horse—started with ground poles and crossrails.

In this article, we’ll discuss 12 pointers for jumping crossrails: 

  1. Watch and Learn
  2. Protect Your Melon
  3. Build a Solid Foundation
  4. Get Eyes on the Ground
  5. Nail the Approach
  6. Ride with Confidence
  7. Stay Straight
  8. Time Your Two Point
  9. Look Up
  10. Grab Mane
  11. Fold and Release
  12. Ride Away

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

What is a crossrail?

Before we dig into the details, we should begin by defining what a crossrail actually is.

A crossrail is jump with two poles that form an “X” shape. While these types of fences are usually not seen in competitions (unless in beginner classes), they are great tools for learning how to jump—and polishing the basics once you’ve advanced to larger fences.

Crossrails are designed to draw the horse to the middle of the jump; it’s the easiest part of the jump to clear, as it is the lowest.

horse with a crossrail

Aim for the middle of the crossrail (Source: Pixabay)

Crossrails tend to be lower in height than a standard jump, such as a vertical. They should generally be at least 12” tall in the center (i.e. the lowest point). If it’s lower than that, horses often step over the poles instead of jumping.

Want to jump your best? Check out the best stirrups for jumping from horse trainer and vlogger Shelby Dennis.

Create Good Habits

When you are learning to jump, developing a good foundation matters. It’s important to work on building a strong lower leg, balance, and timing over the smaller jumps. As the rider’s position becomes more consistent and confident, the horse/rider team can start attempting larger fences and more difficult courses.

Despite being lower and easier than a standard jump, crossrails should still be taken seriously.

Mistakes may be easily forgiven over a smaller jump, like a crossrail. But as fences get bigger, bad habits and errors have greater repercussions.

New to the sport? Check out our horse jumping glossary and jump types video guide to learn the lingo.

Jumping Pointers for Beginners

Watch and Learn

Before you ever try jumping, make time to watch more advanced riders in lessons, clinics, shows, and on equestrian vlogs. Watching others helps train your eye about proper rider position, striding and distances, and how to recover from mistakes.

Protect Your Melon

Always wear a horseback riding helmet and proper boots with heels whether you’re riding on the flat or going over fences. Jumping adds additional risk, so protect your noggin—every ride, every time.

online horse courses

Build a Solid Foundation

Before you do any jumping, make sure you’re secure in a proper two-point position on the flat and over ground poles at walk, trot, and canter.

Get Eyes on the Ground

Not your eyes, of course! This phrase means having a trainer or more advanced rider present while you jump to provide guidance, support, and pick up any jumps you knock down. Plus, you should never jump alone. If something were to happen, someone needs to be nearby to take action.

Nail the Approach

As you approach the crossrail, maintain a steady, forward trot. You want the horse to have enough impulsion to make it over the fence. If the pace is too slow, the horse may stop or break into a walk. Later on, once you’re confident at the trot, you can progress to a canter approach.

Ride with Confidence

This is challenging for many beginners, especially if they’re nervous. You need to mentally and physically commit to going over the jump—if you hesitate, your horse may hesitate as well. Confidence is key!

Stay Straight

Keep your horse moving in a straight line before and after the fence. Approaching a fence at an angle increases the likelihood that your horse might “run out” (i.e. dodge to the side of the jump and go around it) or stop.

online horse courses

Time Your Two Point

Once you are three to five strides away from the crossrail, get up into the two point position.

Look Up

Keep your head and eyes up by focusing on something in a straight line past the fence. Looking down throws off your balance and encourages your horse to hesitate.

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

Grab Mane

There’s nothing wrong with grabbing your horse’s mane when jumping. It helps stabilize you and ensure you move with your horse’s movement vs. getting left behind. Even professional riders grab mane! If you prefer, you can use a neck strap instead.

Fold and Release

As the horse jumps, fold forward a little and allow your hands to move forward in “release.” Moving the reins forward ensures you don’t accidentally yank on your horse’s mouth over the fence or upon landing.

Ride Away

After the jump, be prepared to trot or canter away from the jump in a straight line. Stopping your horse or slowing to a walk is a bad habit that will come back to bite you once fences get bigger. 

Learn more about neck straps and why you may want to use one!

online horse courses

Onward and Upward

Once you and your horse are confident jumping crossrails, your trainer will help you advance by increasing the height, variety, and number of jumps in a sequence. As with all riding disciplines, there’s always more to learn!

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:

References:

  • https://contemporaryhorsemanship.com/two-point-and-cross-rails/
  • https://www.thesprucepets.com/learn-to-jump-1886042
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About the author

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Susie W.

Horses are my first love, but travel is a close second! I grew up riding in 4-H and went on to ride on my college equestrian team. As an adult, I've ridden and shown Quarter Horses for 20+ years, including several wins at Quarter Horse Congress. I also worked for 7 years at a leading horse feed company, and I'm passionate about equine health and nutrition. Lastly, I have a big soft spot in my heart for senior horses!