What is an open ditch?

The term ‘open ditch’ is used to describe a type of obstacle jumped during a steeplechase race. As the name suggests, an open ditch consists of a shallow ditch, several feet wide, in front of what is, effectively, a ‘plain’ fence. Like other plain fences, the fence consists of compacted birch cuttings, bound and placed in a rigid wooden or steel frame, and must be at least 4’6” in height. However, a plain fence typically has width, or spread, of about 8’, but the addition of the ditch increases the spread to about 11’, requiring horses to jump further than at a plain fence. Under the Rules of Racing, one in six of the obstacles in a steeplechase race must be an open ditch.