Obviously the course walk doesn’t leave me with cool action shots or video, but I’m telling you, that doesn’t make it any less interesting. The discussion we had really made me recognize how much detail goes into planning stadium courses, and left both J and I with a newfound appreciation for showjumping in general.
Speaking of J, I really must give credit where credit is due and thank her for getting up at the butt crack of dawn to come with me to the clinic! Not only do all these photos/videos exist because of her, but she is probably the main reason why I didn’t pee in my jods before our showjumping time. Big big thanks from me!
Anyways, back to the clinic. We started at the course map itself, and Marc Donovan (course designer) talked us through all the details that go into this small piece of paper. According to Marc, most designers now make the course sheet to scale for the arena, and he takes care to measure every arena he works with. Decorative signs or bushes placed about the arena are also included, as well as a dotted line path that shows exactly how the course was wheeled off.
We learned about the parameters designers typically give themselves, such as changes in direction (a good course has 3) and ideally having an equal number of jumps off of each lead. Marc discussed his particular tendencies in his designs, which are often twisty-turny and on the ‘long’ side, requiring a definite forward ride. As you can see above, the day’s course was no exception.
We then proceeded to walk the course, with Lizzie Snow and Bobby Costello coming along to ask questions or add their thoughts about how to jump a particular fence. Without going into every detail discussed, here’s the bulleted version (also thanks to J! These notes are a testament to her clever multitasking skills during the walk):
- ‘Hold’ your shoulders to verticals
- Anything more than 7 strides is no longer ‘related’ and you shouldn’t worry about counting strides
- You can go backwards through the start flags, and through the finish flags whenever, without penalization
- It generally takes a horse 2-3 strides to turn, so when you walk a bending line, walk 2 strides straight and then begin turning in the third stride
- Mental Technique: Split the course into sections so that you can focus on a smaller section and reevaluate as you go along
- Ride each fence individually, even in the combinations. Focus on the first fence first.
- Continue riding through all the turns, focus on turn and then the combination
- The more you square off a turn, the slower and more ‘snug’ you will get to the fence
- Oxer/vertical combination typically rides longer than a vertical/oxer combination
- In an oxer, the first rail is the responsibility of the rider, the back rail is the responsibility of the horse
- Ride the front rail of the oxer, not the back rail (your eye gets too long)
- When adjusting distances between fences for time/positioning, canter should stay the same throughout but the track you take should change (so swing out wider in a bending line to go slower instead of slowing down the canter)
- Take shorter lines for more impulsion and momentum (make tighter turns is where this really applies)
- In combinations, land and in the following stride, make the adjustment, not 3 or 4 strides after landing
As you can see, we were imparted with an absolute wealth of knowledge. I’m not overstating when I say that this will completely change how I walk courses in the future. I also realized (even though I may have suspected before) that in showjumping, it’s not just about the fences, and every step must be considered just as in dressage. You can be sure I will be studying these notes and trying to replicate these thoughts in our future stadium rounds.
I hope you all have a great weekend, and I will be putting together a jumping video for next week! Stay warm!