Know Your Cross Country Obstacles, Part 2

In our first installment of Know Your Cross Country Obstacles, Holly Covey walked us through tables and fences with height/width. In this second installment, let’s look at obstacles today that differ from the classic tables. All photos, unless noted otherwise, are by Holly Covey.

Logs and Their Variations

There is not a course designer alive that doesn’t drool with delight to find a large fallen tree down out in the field! They can’t wait to get their chainsaw out and make jumps. Horses get logs. They are the most logical thing in the world for them to jump. As a rider I kind of like a great big ol’ log too, because I know the horse knows what do when I gallop up to it.




This is a portable jump incorporating a log, and you can see other portables of varying height in the background also using logs. It simulates a natural “hanging” log in this fashion but the base gives a pushed out ground line so a horse doesn’t get a foot caught under the log.




An elevated log. If this were in a competition, the decorator would probably create a ground line with straw, pine needles, mulch and flowers, or a single, centered take off spot and matching decor on the braces on each side, which is a more modern way of dressing such a beautiful natural obstacle. You could make it very fancy with flower pots across the front or big heap of straw or a big mulch flower bed – or something very simple such as the discarded trim piece from the end of the log, a shorter chunk set on its flat side right in the middle.


This is an elevated log, but made more difficult by being narrow, and here set at the edge of a down slope. The designer allows the air under the log, and here has added a ground rail, so the horse sees that the landing is downhill. The decorator will give the horse a focal point but won’t completely fill the air under the log so there is a way to peek through. This is the kind of obstacle a designer would use in front of water or a ditch or anything that might be requiring tricky footwork upon landing – it gives the horse a way to see what is coming.


A solid log does the opposite – hides what is coming up, so it requires a horse that trusts the rider and is confident they can handle whatever they can’t see on landing. This is a nice log into water here at Preliminary. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of the narrow width here, either.

Even though logs technically appear to have a “false” ground line to us, the horses read them well generally, but it is still important to block them as is shown here for safety, and to prevent it from being dislodged if hit hard.

When you don’t have great big logs, you can use your smaller ones to make classic oxers. Today, our open oxers, like these shown here at Advanced, are all set with frangible technology. If a serious mistake is made, and the force triggers the right amount of pressure on the devices, the logs drop down allowing the horse to literally put its feet on the ground and scramble away without injury. I think the technology is just amazing today and am grateful these are being implemented now on all open oxers above Training level.


Feeders and Cabins

Here are two “pheasant feeder”  or “lamb’s creep” feeder type obstacles. They are so named this because they have a top and a bottom platform but are not solid in between. The rounded top feeder shown here at Training level was raised in the back to provide a more visible height line to the horse.





Here is another version of the pheasant feeder or creep feeder design, this one is more Novice level and has an A-shaped top, much like a coop, but is open in the middle with the base pushed out to make the horse take off correctly.

They are called “feeder” because livestock feed is placed under the “roof” to keep it from being exposed to the elements, and the platform keeps the feed off the ground so the animals can eat it easily. A “creep” was designed so the youngest animals could creep or crawl in and eat without the bigger mature animals being able to reach in and take the feed away. Farmers could feed the young ones without separating a herd in a field where they were all kept together. Creeps often stood out in field on their own and made great jumps if you were galloping about the countryside. It’s an old fashioned sort of obstacle that evolved from very old farming traditions.


This is a hay rack. It’s a table top, with rounded front, but spaces and sometimes even slats that go inward toward a framed platform. Here the decorator has piled hay into the hayrack, and allowed it to spill out in front of the top spread so the horse takes off properly away from the top edge. Hayracks without much at the bottom tend to present a false ground line to a horse so most designers ask the decorators to “do something” with the front. Note they have also painted the top in a contrasting color to further define the width and height. This is another jump that evolved from agricultural traditions. Learn more about cabins, houses, and barn jumps in the first installment here.


A ramp jump is literally half of a coop that evolved from foxhunting traditions. Coops were made with slanted sides and usually “cooped” or covered over undesirable things at the edges of fields, like wire fence. Some feel they were the original free-range chicken and barnyard fowl enclosures, too, and also provided safe havens for other desirable critters a farmer wanted to shelter. Coops are often built over a section of fence that the hunt field can jump in either direction – in the field, or out of the field – in order to follow hounds across the country.  Because we don’t jump obstacles backwards, we don’t need to do full coops in eventing. It’s less expensive to build and use a ramp instead (only one side needs to be constructed). Unlike a coop, ramps are meant to be jumped only in one direction. They have one sloping front side, generally no top, and may be open in the back. Pictured is a Novice ramp with a nice wide face, simple classic design.


A palisade is basically a ramp or slanted face jump and can be made with a ditch in front of it. A Weldon’s Wall is technically a palisade – basically a ramp, too.

This wall has been made more substantial with the addition of brush on the top, and at the edge of the ditch in front. You can see the face slants back. This is an Advanced presentation here.




Beautiful ramps of natural slab wood. The designer and decorator coordinated on placing the greenery at the base and sides to contrast with the ground, so the horse can see a clear take off line. It doesn’t really matter what you use as long as it contrasts – here it is just simple brush stems and branches.



Other Interesting Jumps

This is a hammock jump. Hammocks are suspended tables usually framed with trees on the sides or with the large logs as shown here. They are very air-centric – note all the space under the jump. This hammock is very wide, that is why the decorator put lots of big stickup flowers and the boxes as the ground line, and giant pillows on the top, to give perspective to the width. Like a hayrack, they need a big obvious ground line, or the horse can misjudge the width. A hammock is primarily an upper level question.


Brushed obstacles often are wonderful things to jump, like logs, the horses get brush and usually jump them well.

Brush turns a vertical into a palisade, basically. The front of this jump, below the peeled log, is called the skirt, where it slants outward. It is further made safer with the pushed out ground line, the log, which you can see at the base. This was set at the top of a road crossing and had a steep drop on the landing side. The designer wanted to ask the horse to trust the rider here and land where he couldn’t see the drop, then cross the road.


Talented course builders make some incredibly beautiful pictures with the creative way they can trim brush. I included this brushed jump from Kentucky – you can clearly see from the trodden grass which side riders were walking and intending to jump!




More brush jumps.  These are placed at the entrance to a water jump. They are intermediate and advanced, with the second obstacles, the chevrons, you can see coming up as the next obstacles across the pond.


Narrow Obstacles

This is a side view of an Advanced wedge or chevron. It is narrow and small in the front, wider and higher in the back. The brush increases the height but is forgiving should the horse drag a leg.





This narrow log oxer is quite slim and for safety, frangible.







Photo by Laura Rayne

How’s this for skinny? This was at Blenheim in England. A log wedge.








Photo by Laura Rayne

Another Blenheim wedge. Pretty thick and tall with the brush but it is angled and the natural brush is trimmed and spaced so the horse reads the length and effort.







Chevrons or sometimes called Shark’s Teeth. Pictured here in the classic V shape, with the top wide and the bottom going down to a point. They are basically ramps, with cutouts. This is a double chevron, approximately training level here, as it is narrow and tall. These are found also from Starter on up, as they teach a horse to look for the top and bottom of a jump.




A triple – another chevron set at Novice level here. These type of jumps teach a horse to seek the ground line for information about how to jump the fence, and also help a rider practice holding a line to a jump.

Even as a schooling obstacle, it should have some filler of some kind in the open spaces to prevent a horse from thinking they can leave a foot in the opening. In competition, we would decorate this with some potted plants that had some height in the spaces, taking care they were not so high they covered the top rail, but bushy enough to fill the empty spaces and prevent a galloping horse from thinking it was not a jump.

This is a tiger trap. While it is similar to the chevron type jump it is often presented with a ditch underneath, or with a larger ground line. Again it mimics a ramp but cuts out the solid face, making a horse look carefully to see how big it is.

Tiger traps should be decorated so the horse sees a ground line and the back rail. Sometimes brush or trees are placed in the V- to prevent the horse from jumping into the open spaces. You want to jump the “A”, not the “V”, as I was told.

More jumps, next!