How Do You Judge Fence Height?

We all know how to measure fence height, right? A measuring stick, like a yard stick or some other such thing. But let’s get down into how we really measure fence height. I’ll break it up.

A Measuring Stick
The barn has a few sticks of PVC that have been measured, cut, and marked with fence heights. My barn uses these to measure fences at shows the barn hosts. So imagine a white PVC dowel with heights from 2′ to 3’9″ marked in permanent marker. Can’t mess that up.

My Body
I’m not kidding. I roughly know where certain fence heights hit me on my body, like low hip, above the hip, high waist … I had a higher confidence in the heights when I more frequently set jumps for people, but I am still a pretty good judge of it. Low hip/below the hip is 3′, just above the hip is 3’6″ … I need to figure out where the metric heights hit me. This makes me wonder if anyone uses their horse’s body? Like if you are your own ground person and you’re setting jumps with your horse hanging out next to you–I do this with Eli all the time but I haven’t thought about scaling to his anatomy.


This missing pin hole is 2’9″ and it’s hard to see, but these standards are marked, which makes life easy.

Marked Jump Standards
I love these things! I first encountered them at a place in San Antonio. The trainer had all her standards marked at the 3’6″ hole with a green dot. That actually went a long way to help me judge fence heights.

Taking Your Trainer’s Word For It
Because why wouldn’t you believe your trainer when he or she tells you the fences are 3′? (Although I think at one point I specifically instructed my trainer to tell me any fences between 2’9″ and 3’6″ were 3′ so I would stop caring … that was a while ago though with a different horse.

Eyeballing It
Maybe you are that good at judging fence height from years of experience! Maybe you’re confident you can approximate the height by counting the jump cup pin holes (I’m not). I can take an educated guess on fence height, but it’s no substitute for a measuring stick. If something comes up to your ground person’s waist, it’s obviously not 4’6″, unless of course your ground person is over 8′ tall. You can look at that and say, hey, yeah, that’s about 3’3″. Right?

28 thoughts on “How Do You Judge Fence Height?

  1. My hip bone is 3’3″ on the dot, which is really helpful when you pretty much always set everything between 3′ and 3’6″. Otherwise we’ve had marked standards (and I’ve marked all my new ones). I’ve been meaning to make a stick to use for width, which I usually eyeball, so this is a good reminder!

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  2. I’m absolutely terrible at judging fence height, especially since not all of our standards are the same height (some are 4′, some are 5′). During lessons, I just let my trainer set the fences for me, and ask about height later. This is both a blessing and a curse: the ‘out’ of a recent grid we did was 2’9″ when I thought it was 2’6″, and a Swedish oxer I jumped a few months ago, I could have sworn it was a big 2’6″ but was actually 2’3″. So yeah, judging fence height is not one of my strengths haha. Luckily Roger doesn’t care about height AT ALL, he’s just happy to be jumping!

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  3. We have short standards and tall standards so I feel the pain. Most of our standards are 5′ though.

    I’ve been meaning to make myself a stick to measure. For the most part I have a decent gauge on our standards but I need to start varying the height a bit more often as I find myself setting everything at 2’6-2’9 even when I plan to school 3′. Whoops. One thing social media has taught me is that either people have NO worldly idea how to measure a jump or that have huge standards and ground people… 😂

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  4. I usually go with my trainer/eyeball. BUT more of “trainer thinks I can do this, so it’s not too big, and my eye doesn’t notice it as big, so It’s probably 3′.” Or if it looks a little big, then it’s probably 3’3″ but I haven’t actually measured anything, so I could be off by 3 inches either way.
    At the shows they use 6′ standards and 10ft (maybe 12ft) poles, so ALL the jumps look smaller, which is handy.

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  5. I also have a variety of standards in the ring, and my trainer will lie to me half the time, so I honestly don’t have a good idea at all about what we’re jumping. I know when the jumps look “bigger” to me, but those end up being anywhere from 3′-3’6″ depending on the day. Like Carey, all the jumps look way smaller at shows since they’re wider and the standards are taller, so it works out in my favor!

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  6. i love the marked standards (my barn in college had a nail driven in at the 3′ mark on every standard) but sometimes that works against (or for?) us. like when camp kids marked all the standards at isabel’s barn… but they measured to the hole, rather than what the height would be of a pole sitting in the cup at that hole. so you might be looking at the markers and thinking you’re setting for one height, but actually are setting for an extra 3″ on top of that.

    generally tho i just eyeball, or measure against my hip. and lately obvi it hasn’t mattered at all bc it’s basically all cross rails anyway (and everything looks tiny from way up on the new guy ha)

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  7. OMG this is so funny, because I rode Moiya last week and wanted to know how high we ended up jumping. In the end, it was determined that the most reliable way to measure jump height without a measuring stick is my HUSBAND… who knows how high fences are on his body. ROFL

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    • I try not to care either, but at the same time I want to make sure that if I am competing I am preparing at the appropriate level. Not jumping anything neck height, though! Lol


  8. I count holes on the standards I know are reliable, but I use my hip bone when in doubt. It’s a nice easy 3′ so going up or down is usually pretty easy math. I grew up at a barn in SA with stickers at 3’6 (possibly the same barn?) and after that always put a marker of some sort at 3′ or 3’6 whenever I’ve helped to build jumps.

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