Carolina International Clinic Recap: Course Walk

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.

Group selfie after the knowledge drop

Group selfie after the knowledge drop

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!

J teaches Foster about selfies

J teaches Foster about selfies

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.

The Training course

The Training course

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.

L to R: Lizzie, Marc, and Bobby at fence 6

L to R: Lizzie, Marc, and Bobby at fence 6

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
Bobby Costello shows us how to use both hands and outside aids to make a turn to 9

Bobby Costello shows us how to use both hands and outside aids to make a turn to 9

  • 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!

Show Recap: Carolina Horse Park Horse Trials – Dressage + Course Walk

It would be sufficient to say that this week did not go as planned. Not that I’m terribly upset; all is well and the world isn’t going to end, but if I’m honest it is not the way I wanted to end the season. But before we get to all that, let’s start at the beginning!

Thanks to J for taking the beautiful photos!

Thanks to J for taking the beautiful photos!

Saturday Dressage Schooling
Our schooling Saturday was utter crap. Foster started out nicely but progressively got heavier and heavier in my hands. He bounced between my aids like no one’s business- if he leaned on his right shoulder, I would block it, and he would lean on my left hand, and so on and so forth. Not wanting to get myself or him into a tizzy, I said a few bad words, found a decent note to end on, and called it a day.

IMG_1322

The Course walk
We got out on course with just a little daylight to spare. Just like at the last course, which made it clear that it was a recognized course from a maximum height first fence, this course was evident that we were once again at a schooling show. Fence 1 was shared with beginner novice, and the following 3 fences were quite straightforward. Fence 5 was on a downhill slope, then 6A-B was the sunken road where the B element was on the tougher uphill side. Then breeze over 7, attack the scary brush fence (not so scary since we jumped it last time!), and the rest of the course was somewhat nondescript fences from there, with the addition of a bank and a water element. We definitely ran out of daylight about halfway around, and as you can see, it was really tough to spot the last several fences!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dressage
Warming up Sunday for the real deal, he felt not quite as heavy, but I bit stiff in my hands. His jaw was not nearly as supple as it has been, and there was not a hint of foam from my normally-rabid-appearing horse. Sitting him back on his butt and lightening up front was just not happening, so I made the decision to post the test, even though my normal preference is to sit.

Pissy pony with a pretty purple tail

Pissy pony with a pretty purple tail

The test itself felt mediocre at best. I felt like I had him forward, but not at all supple. Because of his wandering haunches, I sat both centerlines, as well as before both canter transitions to try and keep him round through the transition itself. Here is the video of the test itself:

The test definitely looks better than it felt, which was really surprising to me. The judge’s comments are kind of a mixed bag. We got our first 6 on our free walk, two 5’s (wtf?), but a 7 on a canter transition (yay) and an 8 on a canter circle (double yay). Here’s the test in its entirety:

photo (10)

Our score of 35.7 tied us for 2nd out of 18, which made pretty much every competitor I talked to think that scores were a bit harsher than normal. I definitely wonder how this test may have scored under another judge, but of course, we’ll never know.

IMG_1226

Following dressage was a short reprieve, and then it was onto jumping, where the going gets a little more interesting!

IMG_1357