The class “Equitation over Fences” is judged primarily on these criteria:

  • how riders are positioned on the horse
  • how effective they are in using their aids while communicating with their mount when completing a course.

All of the following information is provided by the AQHA Official Handbook 2014. Be sure to familiarize yourself with each organization’s rules and regulations before judging this class.

Course Requirements

The course may prove to be more challenging than a typical working hunter course by the addition of sharp turns or even by asking the rider to break to a trot in between fences.

Some organizations or associations will even test the riders by calling out a course after they have completed the known course and by including an on-the-rail proportion to further evaluate the rider’s abilities and skills.

Course Specifications

  • Posted one hour prior to the class
  • At least one change of direction is required.
  • Minimum height of fences must be 2’6” with maximum height of 3′ except for Level 1 (Novice)


  • 90-100: Excellent equitation, position, and presentation; meets all fences squarely and at proper distance; uses all options to their advantage.
  • 80-89: Minor equitation faults, i.e., long, weak distance, deep distance, one step landing at counter-canter. Rider still maintains a quality ride.
  • 70-79: More problems occur; equitation suffers, i.e., rounded shoulders, heels are not down, hands incorrect, lacks style and presence. One major fence problem, i.e., chip with a ride up the neck, or discrete swap-out; jumping off one side of the jump. No dangerous fences; not a flowing course.
  • 60-69: Major equitation faults, poor body position, loose legs and seat, failure to obtain or maintain trot to a trot fence approach; two or three misses at the fence.
  • 40-59: Breaking to a trot while on course; counter-canter or cross-canter at the ends of the arena; missed lead changes; loss of a stirrup; dropping a rein; extra stride in combination.
  • 10-39: Rider avoids elimination; one or two refusals; knockdowns; dangerous fences.


  • Three cumulative refusals
  • Off course

Major Faults

  • A refusal
  • Loss of stirrup
  • Trotting while on course when not part of a test
  • Loss of reins
  • Incorrect diagonal

Watch this video to see an example of equitation over fences.