Yesterday I went to Shepherd Ranch Horse Trials in Santa Ynez to watch the stadium jumping rounds and some cross-country schooling following the show. Its the closest HT to my home, and it has a spectacular view. The weather was just perfect.
|Love this view!|
|Walking the stadium course|
|Brought my pup.|
I spent most of the day watching stadium jumping. For the most part, each division was run in reverse placing order (last-placed rider going first, first-placed rider going last) so that it created more pressure and excitement for the top placed riders. Generally speaking, this resulted in seeing some of the worst stadium rounds first (less skilled riders, greener horses, etc) and then watching it progressively look safer and smoother. Here were my main takeaways as a spectator:
- You have 45 seconds from the buzzer to get between the start flags. 45 seconds is longer than you think it is. If you are nervous or your horse is looky-loo, use those 45 seconds to (a) have a gander at the jumps, and (b) develop a quality canter. Almost no one took advantage of the 45 seconds (even with a giant count-down screen nearby).
- There is simply no substitute for good riding basics. Heels down, chin up, shoulders back. They lead to confidence. Or confidence leads to good riding. Either way, no matter how the horse looked (hot or no, green or no), good riding always outperformed bad riding.
- Even when you’re nervous, you have got to let go of your horse’s face at and over the jump. Ride with a jump strap people! If you get nervous and need to hang on, hang on to that and let your poor horse have his head over jumps! One awkward jump led to an entire round of face-snatching on more than one occasion.
- Rhythm and straightness. Always.
After stadium jumping wrapped up, they opened the cross-country course for schooling. I watched several groups of riders do XC.
My friend J.H. brought her handsome 4-year-old horse Danny – it was his first XC schooling and only 3rd time ever jumping! He was a very willing boy.
- Ride all the way to the base of the fence. A lot of riders stopped adding leg 3 or 4 strides away.
- Don’t hope it will happen – ride with a purpose to *make* it happen.
- Safety first! Pay attention to your body and stop jumping if you’re feeling weak or tired. XC is dangerous enough as it is.
- Don’t drill one bad/awkward fence over and over; do another fence or two then come back to it.
- You cant have quality jumps without a quality canter (or trot). Period.