Horse Racing: What’s The Difference Between Hurdles And Fences?

Before you go looking for free racing tips for a weekend of betting fun, there is a lot to learn about the world of horse racing. Whilst there are some terms and rules that are obvious and easy to pick up, there are others that take some time to get to know and understand. Then, there are things that you think everyone knows, and you don’t want to look like the uninformed one in the group by asking a question. So, here we take away any risk of embarrassment as we delve deeper into the world of horse racing as we ask: what’s the difference between hurdles and fences?

Hurdles and fences are obstacles put onto a course that a horse and its rider must clear. They have caused a great deal of shocks and injuries over the years and often get lumped together as being the same thing, but this is not the case.


Forty race courses in the UK have hurdles. They measure a minimum height of 3ft 6in and are made from natural branches that are small in size and offer a good level of flexibility. These bound branches are called ‘brush’. They tend to ‘give’ very easily when they are contacted and will be little harm to a horse if not fully cleared during a jump. Races with hurdles must conform to a common number of hurdles per mile, and in the UK this is set at eight hurdles per two miles. Hurdles feature in National Hunt racing and are there to add a level of complexity to the racing that not only makes it more exhilarating and exciting to watch, but also requires a more developed level of skill from both horse and rider. Many horses will start with fast flat racing progress to National Hunt racing, and jumping hurdles is one of the things that they need to learn to do well. One of the most popular races that features hurdles is the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. 


Fences are larger and more difficult to navigate than hurdles. They are set at a minimum height of 4ft and 7in and can pose a difficult threat to even the most agile and fit horses in a race. They are used in steeplechase races in the UK and provide bettors and spectators with a fabulous event to watch and bet on. They are often paired with obstacles, and these include ditches and water jumps. The fences are much more robust than the hurdles as they are made from spruce and birch wood. They are not as forgiving when a horse fails to clear the height. Watching a race with fences and obstacles is so entertaining due to the level of skill and athleticism required from both the rider and the horse. Only those horses who have mastered their jumping technique and can run courses with jumping confidence compete in races that involve fences as they are races that are much more likely to result in accidents and injury.

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