JUMPING NARROW FENCES - Exercises and tips

Narrow fences are a common sight on cross-country courses at all levels so it is important that you and your horse can cope with these. The exercises below assume that your horse is a novice at jumping narrow fences.

numbers 1   Accuracy is key - so you must be able to place your horse on the precise line you want, at the speed you require.

Test your ability to do this by riding straight lines eg from B to E, across the long diagonals and down the centre line of an arena.

If you find you are wandering a little, use guide poles to help you.  Being aware of your straightness will also help your riding in dressage tests.
  jnf 01

numbers 2   Test your riding accuracy by placing two poles over the centre line eg at the D and G markers.

Halfway between the poles place two markers eg cones or plastic jump blocks, initially set about five feet apart. Turn down the centre line, over the first pole and then through the middle of the cones, before going over the second pole.

Aim to stay straight over the poles and go through the cones with an equal amount of space each side. Gradually increase the pace and reduce the distance between the cones to make this exercise more demanding.
  jnf 02

numbers 3   Now have two jump wings with a pole between but initially on the ground.

If you use a pole with blocks of colour and white this will help you.

Aim to ride over the left half of the pole only, aiming for a block of colour on the left side of the pole.
  jnf 03

numbers 4   Repeat step three, making sure you can ride just to the right half of the pole.

Approach from both directions until you can confidently ride to the left or right side only of the jump pole.

If you find yourself drifting a little, place something soft like a weight measuring tape at right angles to the middle of the jump pole.

numbers 5   Now make a small fence - keep the height low so you are comfortable.

The point of the exercise is to ride precisely where you want to go - it's not about jumping a big fence.

Ride to the left half, jumping over a particular spot, then repeat, riding to the right half of the fence.
  jnf 04

jnf 05

numbers 6   Test your skills further by now building a narrow fence - again keep the height comfortable for you and your horse.

If you've practiced riding the steps above, maintaining control of the line and pace, you should find it an easy step to tackle a narrow fence.

If you have problems go back a step or two to refine your skills.
  jnf 06


  1. If you have trouble riding a straight line place an object at the end of your straight line so that you have something to focus on and aim at.
  2. Make life easier for yourself by keeping your horse's pace consistent before, over and after he has tackled the pole on the ground and then the jump itself.
  3. Is your balance steady? Can you correct it if necessary? Practice keeping your balance riding through turns and over trotting poles before tackling this exercise.
  4. Are you anticipating the jump and getting ahead of your horse's movement? Remember that if the fence is small there is no need to get anxious or go into an over-enthusiastic jumping position.


  1. Once you can tackle a narrow fence happily, test your skills by building narrow fences in different parts of the school or as the second part of a double.
  2. Once you are proficient at riding narrow fences in the school you can tackle them on cross-country courses. Start small and don't overface yourself or your horse. You might also want to tackle jumping a corner - you'll find help on this later in this riding section.
For more jumping and polework exercises read more