Course exercise number 1
The importance of walking the course.
Full speed ahead! Time to try out how far the exercises have got you. We are now going to put the exercises together and jump a whole course of fences. This time it is not about jump offs and tight turns, the goal is rather to get the flow and to keep a set canter rhythm, getting that beautiful clear round.
Please see schedule above (Picture 1). Keep it simple. At this stage it is all about finding the correct lines. Uprights all round is fine. We will in following exercises go through different types of fences and how you can use them. The number of strides between the fences much depend on how big your arena is. I would like to suggest 4 strides between 1 and 2, 3 -4 strides between 2 and 3 and 5 strides between 4 and 5..
Riding the course.
Set the canter before you start, you should keep a showjumping tempo for your level. This is usually something that eventers are a lot better at than show jumpers. Please check below how to practise speed and feeling of different speeds.
Try to get a flow and avoid a stop start scenario. Sit up between the fences, this will help your horse to keep its hind leg underneath the body and thereby maintaining a powerful canter (not necessarily fast but with energy and power in each step). This is important especially if you are aiming at larger fences. Your horse will need all the power in its hind legs to jump clear.
When a fence comes quickly after a corner, as number 3 does. You will need to remember to ride the whole corner. Keep a good contact with your outside rein (here the right rein), don’t let the horse slump inwards. Try to stick to the green dotted line (see picture 2), letting your horse slump inwards (as the red dotted line may land you in trouble).
These are the type of corners you often see horses completely bend outwards. Whilst this in some cases might be totally okay, especially if the horse is excited and very keen to jump, it is not what you should be aiming for. Perfect is to keep your horse straight for about 1 stride after the fence then flex slightly to the left and become straight again before the fence.
The red dotted line is definitely an option but only as a means to get that fabulous time in a jump off. The aim of this exercise is for you to get a clear round and actually get to the jump off!
Next part of the course
A diagonal is another one of those course details that are almost always present, in one way or another. The important thing to remember is to know the way. This is why it is so important to walk the course! Where do you get an even number of canter strides?
If you follow the green line (Picture 3) you will not go far wrong. This will also set you up better to jump the last fence. Again the red dotted line will almost certainly gain you a canter stride and thereby save you some time. This is for the more experienced horse and rider. More exercises on this to follow.
To make sure you get it right, find easily seen markers. When doing this exercise you may well use cones to make sure you stick to the green dotted lines. In a competitive situation, find markers to keep you on course. And yes not the lady with the green umbrella! She might decide to go for coffee..
Get to recognise your canter speed
A simple exercise to get to know your tempo is to put 2 cones on a field 500m apart (or if you have access to a racecourse with metre markers). Canter between them, using a simple stopwatch to time yourself. You then divide 500 (metres) with the amount of seconds it takes you to ride the the distance. you then multiply your result with 60 to get the metre per minute (which is how speed is spoken about in showjumping).
The speed you are supposed to ride at when competing varies with the level at which you are jumping. Showjumping speed varies between 300 mps to 400 mps (mps = metres per second), it is worth remembering to check speed and time allowed when viewing the course schedule. The speed may be different in the jump off so check this too.
After completing this exercise you should feel more confident in tackling a whole course of fences. You should also be more clear in what it means to ride for a clear round and what it means to chase the time. Did you do the canter speed exercise? If you did, you should now be a lot better equipped in knowing what is needed to avoid those pesky time faults.
Take to your notebook
Write down things that did go well and things that need more finishing. Look at this exercise as a test to see where you and your horse are at. Go back to the drawing board and practise what needs to get better. Knowing your weaknesses is your strongest asset.
Written by @stinaharvidsson with the inspiration of Eddy Andersson.