Early Days

Watch and Learn

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.

The fabulous George was there with his new owner, L. They had a fabulous first schooling together, even giving other horses a lead over some giant jumps!

It was a bit crowded with lots of horses schooling as well as spectators. I mostly watched 2 groups of trainers and riders, and it is interesting to compare different approaches.
The main takeaways from watching XC:
  • 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.
Overall it was a lovely day and I’m so glad I came to watch. I walked the BN cross-country course and can’t wait to compete again. 

9 comments on “Watch and Learn

  1. Yay! My mom lives in Santa Ynez – never been to one of the HTs there, though (H/J rider). I should coordinate a visit with one of the shows sometime. :)


  2. sounds like a great Sunday :)


  3. Sounds like fun! I've been to Santa Ynez but didn't know there were eventing trials there.


  4. Wise words! Thanks for sharing your observations!


  5. That would be great! They have 2 shows a year – the next one is August 22-24. Let me know if you'd be around and we can do a meet up on Saturday or Sunday!


  6. =) Almost as good as riding.


  7. Its right off the 154 and 246, near Los Olivos!


  8. Thank you! I try to learn from every show I watch.


  9. Omg. Santa Ynez. That's my favorite spot in Cali, ever. I'm drooling with jealousy right now …


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: