Phasing out up/down banks into water

Anyone else heard this? I was telling someone our plans for the water complex at our area venue and they said there was a push to eliminate banks into or out of water. Anyone?

A push by whom?

I hadn’t heard of an organized effort, but it does seem like banks are becoming a smaller percentage of water questions over the years.

No idea. It was the first I had heard of it. I could see maybe down banks but no reason to phase out up banks. This is what 1 person said but wanted to see of there was any validity.

I’ve heard that water jumps with up/down banks have gone out of fashion, but I didn’t know that there was a push to remove them entirely. Water complexes without banks are much more versatile. Course designers can ask different questions with the same water, where they are kind of trapped to an extent with up/down banks. They are also friendlier for lower level horses.

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Never heard of that.

Maybe the push was started by someone who’s horse got eliminated at a down bank into water? My local horse park recently built a new water complex a few years ago with tons of options, you don’t have to build the entire water with banks. There are several options for friendly entrances and exits as well as several sizes of banks, and a peninsula. I wish someone had told them it had gone out of fashion before they spent all the money on it.

LOL, they just put in a new water jump at my barn with banks on 3/4 sides. The barn owner attended a course design workshop several weeks after it was done and was surprised and peeved to learn that course designers were recommending the pond style water nowadays. Despite the fact that the resident trainer tried to convince her to make a pond style for months! :laughing:

For the record, I agree with you that banked waters can be versatile as well. It is nice to be able to have at least 2 sides non banked so you can just ride through the water. The way the aforementioned water was built, there is only 1 non banked side so you have to enter the water, turn 180 deg, and exit the way you came in. That’s fine for introducing a horse to water but it doesn’t flow very well in a course.

I have not heard of this. Personally, I have never had any lasting issues with down banks, but did have an issue with an up bank while schooling. Horse took a long spot or misjudged the footing and whacked her hind fetlocks hard on the edge. She was wary of banks out of water for the next several months. I’ve also seen horses trip up banks and fail to get their feet under them properly on the uphill side. All I’ve ever seen on down banks are straightforward refusals, nothing potentially dangerous.

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i’ve heard similar to what you describe — that course designers prefer waters with fewer permanent features, or at least enough options for approaches to do what they wish.

separately, however, i’ve heard that specifically up-banks out of water have lost popularity for being particularly more difficult to read, and especially when used in a combination can be riskier if the horse/rider misjudges takeoff. drops into water (whether from a bank or a jump) still seem fairly common-place in comparison.


I just checked both the USEA and FEI course design guidelines (2021 versions) and neither of them said anything abut avoiding up/down banks into water.

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Our Horse Park and Event Association has a very nice 4 way bank feature but I’ve been told by the course designer that it’s out of fashion. They haven’t used it for the past 2 yrs. A nice well built bank to add something to a flat terrain. What a shame, and why? (Someone’s a pansy and they complained?)


I think it’s more that these water complexes are easier to build and maintain so places are putting them in over traditional types.

I would be genuinely surprised. As far as fences on course go, banks are pretty safe and I don’t know of any reason they should be phased otu.

Is it possible that the discussion was about fences in water? That is something that has been stirring up conversation for quite a few years, but I doubt it is on its way out.

Either way, water complexes are expensive to make and designed. I was involved in building one of the better known ones in Area 1. We did the grading and site work ourselves (family contractor business) and saved the farm a lot of money, but it was still approaching the cost of an indoor by the time they were done – between all the landscaping material, timber materials, labor, and design. Revetting and/or banks are not too expensive in the theme of things since most complexes need to have a reinforced side anyway and you can make it a bank, but it’s not cheap either.

A water crossing with those types of features is really the DeLuxe; it’s much cheaper to make a puddle with fences around it versus make a five star water crossing with multiple fence and bank components.

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Could also be a case for the course designers too. Banks seem to not have many issues now since they were everywhere for so long. Now people use the jump on the edge of water or a few strides out more, because I think it catches out more riders. Soon enough we will all be able to do that though, and banks will be back hahaha

Down banks are far safer than up banks. The worst thing that happens is a horse stops. Up banks, on the other hand, require more of a “correct” distance. If the horse takes off too long, they may not have enough room for their hind feet to come up. I’ve seen more splats up a bank than I’d like!

Not saying at all they should be phased out. :slight_smile: Just pointing out that while riders may be intimidated by down banks, they are the safer of the two.

I think down banks are likely safer for the horse, but more dangerous for the rider. I’ve seen many riders fall off (and have been one of them on occasion) when the horse stopped abruptly at a down bank. I was jump judging when a horse stopped at an Intermediate down bank and the rider went right over his head down the drop. That was a bit scary, although luckily she was fine. Although since we’re talking about up/down banks into water, I guess falling off a down bank into the water would at least be a softer landing


The up banks out of water that I’ve seen recently have included a fat log or rail on the lip which I felt helped horses read the question better. At Maryland 5* Ian used a dry ditch in front of the up bank and it seemed to ride really well.

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