What is a triple bar? A spread fence constructed of three sets of standards and poles (sometimes also including gates, panels, flower boxes, etc., in the front element), ascending from front to back. Because the takeoff side of the triple bar is so low relative to the rest of the spread, and forgiving, it can be much wider than oxers. In jumpers, oxers over three feet high can be up to 6 inches wider than they are high, whereas triple bars can be up to 12 inches wider.
Where do you see it? In all types of courses, except the hunters. What many people consider triple bars in the hunters are actually verticals or oxers with boxes, flowers, etc., incorporated into the ground lines to create a spread effect similar to that of a triple bar.
How do you ride it? I call triple bars "free jumps," because your horse will rarely knock one down if you come to it with enough pace. Try to ride to the base (aiming to take off just in front of the front rail), with more pace than you would use to a ramp or other type of oxer. If you have a triple bar in your course at a show, simulate one in the warm-up arena by lowering the front rail of a ramp oxer substantially and spreading the standards farther apart.
Common mistake: Cueing your horse to take off too early, making it harder for him to clear the back rail. This most often happens when you don't "see" the distance and override to the jump with too-strong aids.
For great information on how to ride other types of spread fences, see Emil Spadone's story "Ride Oxers With Ease" in the January 2008 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.
In the takeoff, Michelle keeps her eyes up, and her legs on Arby's sides--concentrating on encouraging him to cover the width of the fence. She still is maintaining her position, allowing Arby to focus on his job rather than being distracted by someone laying on his neck.
Oxer Strategy: Walking the Course
Where an oxer is placed on a course can greatly affect how it will ride. Oxers and triple bars heading toward the in-gate may be a blessing for a lazy horse, who will increase his pace heading "home." A hotter horse, on the other hand, may need a little more balancing in front of a square or Swedish oxer if he starts to rush home. Going away from the in-gate toward an oxer, a lazy or green horse may need a little extra leg.
In related distances--jumps set on a straight or bending line less than about 8 strides apart--course designers may test you by asking you to stretch your horse out over a triple bar, then balance him back to a vertical-to-vertical combination. A long vertical-to-vertical combination followed by a short distance to a square oxer asks you to go forward over the in-and-out, then bring your horse back quickly, so he is balanced and light enough in the contact to allow you to put leg on to support him over the oxer.
There's still room between Michelle's body and Arby's neck, but she's forward. This helps him to make the effort over the wide jump in style.
An oxer within a combination changes the distance because your horse has a little more "air time" and so will land a little closer to the jump and less far into the line. This lengthens the distance to the next element. An oxer-to-vertical or oxer-to-oxer combination, therefore, will feel longer than a vertical-to-vertical or vertical-to-oxer combination set at the same distance. So, if the oxer is the first element of an in-and-out or the second element of a triple, be prepared to ride your horse with enough pace to carry him over it and continue going forward to the "out."
Top hunter/jumper trainer Emil Spadone divides his time between his two Redfield Farm locations in Califon, N.J., and Ocala, Fla. A two-time grand green hunter champion at Pennsylvania National Horse Show, he has also ridden grand prix jumpers to top ribbons at the Vermont Summer Festival Horse Shows, the Monmouth County Horse Show, the Shore Memorial, the Sussex County Horse Show, HITS Culpeper and HITS Saugerties. For more information about Emil, go to www.redfieldfarms.com.