How many of you struggle to bring what you learn at home out with you to shows? Yes, me too!
Sometimes the nerves take over and get the better of you, but don’t be too hard on yourself, I have compiled my Top 5 tips for riding that perfect round, well hopefully!!
Like I do on show days prior to getting up on Dante, I take my few minutes to compose myself & try get my shit together, Keep scrolling to find out my 5 Top Tips That help me along my way!…
1. Walking & Learning Your Course
Course Walking has nearly become one of the most important things for me to do prior to jumping, this is something I have only recently learned. I used to have the mentality of Fuck It i’ll just go in and jump, and see what happens, what the worst that can happen? Well, this is not the case anymore. There have been many courses I have come across where the arena has been tight and without walking the lines, you really are setting yourself up for trouble when you go to ride them.
Walking the course creates a plan in your head, a plan that is personalised to suit you & your horse. When walking the course you should always pay attention to the distances between combinations, off your corners, & the type of approaches you are going to take to certain fences. Always keep in the back of your mind the type of canter that is needed, this is the glue to keeping everything together at the end of the day!
You will soon learn that the course of fences in the arena have a certain flow to them, you’re going to be travelling around the arena & unless the course designer is the devil, you will find that most courses have an even flow about them. A top tip for learning your course, look at your oxers! They can only be jumped in one direction so these key fences will be the backbones to the layout of your course!
A lot of venues are posting the course layout the day before on their social media channels prior to their event, to these venues, I commend you! It is so helpful and takes that bit of pressure of the rider trying to learn the course on the day.
I personally find it very helpful to learn the course from watching other riders jump it, but ultimately walking the course will give you that extra bonus. I also find that referring to the jump as the “butterfly jump” or “the rustic” is easier for me to memorize rather than learning fences 1-12. If you are jumping more than one round of jumps in different jumping classes, memorize one course at a time. Trying to learn more than one course will only mess with your head & more than likely end up with you jumping the wrong fences!
It is very rare these days that you get a course with no fillers, crazy coloured poles or big fancy wings. My best piece of advice, make sure in training that you take the opportunity to show your horse as much as possible to ensure that when you get to competition and go in the ring they are not taken aback by what is in front of them.
When introducing something spooky such as a filler, speed is most definately not the answer. It may get you over it the first time but it will sit in your horses head that he jumped more from fear rather than with confidence. Get as much schooling as you can in at home, when it comes to adding in fillers, water trays etc. Try bringing your horse out for schooling days if these facilities are not available at home. This will help grow your horses confidence, and yours. There are a lot of riders out there that have a fear of jumping courses because of the fillers, remember your horse can feel your fear too!
3. The Warm up
A correct warm up should be done with every horse no matter if you are jumping or doing flatwork session. When I mention a correct warm up, I am referencing a warm up at a show.
Extending my warm up over 20 minutes before I went in to jump was something that I honestly threw shade at when people suggested it. My god, I am such an asshole towards how stubborn I was. Of course, there are times when a long warm up just can’t be done under certain circumstances, but I now try my best to get at least a good 30-40 minute warm up done prior to going in to the ring.
A lot of work is focused on getting an active & engaged canter, pushing & then holding back between paces, using my seat to control his speed. I find this gets rid of a lot of spice, in turn helps your horse to relax when it comes time to go in to jump.
When it comes to jumping in the warm up, I always start over a small vertical, I don’t bother with cross poles at a show, they won’t be in the ring so why jump it in the warm up? That’s my opinion, a few may be split! There are times when I will have to jump Dante more than usual, this is more so that he stops charging & starts listening to me.
Always jump an oxer in the warm up! 100% of the time, they seem to always be the opening fence in your course. Remember, If your horse is jumping well in the warm up, finish and get into the ring as soon as you can. Over jumping will only leave your horse flat & tired when they go in to perform in the ring.
4. Having The Right Canter
I recently only learned how important the “right canter” really is when it comes to showjumping. It is a key element in maintaining no only a balanced well established round, but also in keeping your horses rhythm in tip top shape.
You should pay serious attention to this in the warm up, getting an active engaged forward going canter is what you are looking for. If you find your horse is not willing, start doing some transitions, so that your horses is responsive to your leg aids. I posted about my troubles with Dante knocking fences during his rounds, & almost everyone had noticed that his canter, it was flat, had no power to it so in turn he was knocking poles all over the place.
A great way to imagine how your canter should feel like, imagine sitting & bouncing on a yoga ball, that is the feeling you are looking to achieve in the canter when you are aiming towards your first fence. Let me tell you something, that comment has stuck in my head & has only helped me move forward in getting my Canter to where it should be so Thank you Eve O’Shaughnessy!
There is also no harm is wearing spurs if needs be, a bigger horse means you have to do a lot more to get them moving & engaged, especially if you have short legs like myself, it can be hard, so a back up aid is always an option.
5. In The Ring
This is a fear I struggle with big time. Once I enter the ring, I begin to focus & think more of who is watching me, where is the first fence, or is this over yet? I often find that I forget to breath half way around the course, or I often find myself starting before I hear the bell ring. If you suffer from the same issues dont panic. Every equestrian is in the same boat, in some shape or form!
The good news is that all these fears can all be overcome. The easiest one being the bell, when you enter the ring, take your time, trot a lap or canter a lap, show your horse the Spooky corner if you need too. The timer does not start until you canter past the laser which is normally 3/4 strides out from the first fence.
Breath! Whilst riding a course of 12 – 14 fences it can be tiring, It is scientifically proven that breathing can often be very helpful from time to time… LOL! Take Deep breaths before you start, relax your mind, this will also keep your body more relaxed. If you forget to breath or forget to exhale out your breaths your body becomes rigid & stiff, this will give your horse a not so relaxing feel. So remember, always Breath!
Keep yourself focused. Instead of looking at the crowds, I always, always look to the next fence. This is not only what I should be doing but it keeps my mind focused, it also makes me work towards what I should be doing. This will also keep your mind off anyone or any big crowds gathered by the ring. Let’s be realistic here, they are all probably just crowded around chatting amongst themselves not paying attention to you, so you don’t pay attention to them!
So there you have it, 5 of my Top Tips for riding the perfect Showjumping round. The hardest part is always approaching the first fence once you get over fence number one you are closer to the finishing line than you think! So enjoy yourself, take time to acknowledge that getting to the show is an achievement in itself!
It will all flow & fall into place and before you realise you will become that ring master perfectionist! Having someone with you is always a massive bonus, that extra bot of confidence, between myself & Orla it is great to have one another at shows, the tips & advice we give each other is always top notch!
Do you have any pre show tips? Or any tips to help get you around a course of fences smoothly & efficiently? Let me know in the comments below!
Until Next Time,