In the sport of eventing even the smallest time penalty can make a difference in your final landing spot on the leaderboard. What’s the secret to keeping your show jumping round inside the time?
Jenny Richardson is a British Horse Society rated instructor (BHSAI), head trainer at Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate, and former head instructor at Dubai’s Jebel Ali Equestrian Club. We asked her to share her advice on beating the clock.
“Whether in the jumping phase of eventing or in pure show jumping classes, time plays an important part in our success,” Jenny says. “The time allowed in any class should be viewed as a reminder not to go too slowly, not as the ultimate goal! The jumps themselves are the test in hand.
“It is easy to make mistakes if you feel under the pressure of a tight time limit. And it is a common error to ride the first half of the course a little too casually, realise you might be running out of time and then take unnecessary risks to catch up.”
Jenny’s top five tips for a faster show jumping round:
1. Choose your ‘shortcut’ obstacles at course walk stage.
On show jumping day, find the course plan and study it well, noting the speed at which it is set and the time allowed. When walking the course, there may be a few options of route, e.g. going around wings or obstacles, or cutting inside. You may need to pick one or two obstacles favourable to you and your horse to shorten your route, and the course walk is the place to choose them.
Generally, with this method of planning your ‘shortcuts,’ you need not worry about increasing your pace and can maintain a consistent rhythm throughout.
2. Plan your pace.
It is important to plan your route and pace from the moment you go through the start line until the finish, if you want to be competitive! Look at the course as a whole, piecing it together as a perfect jigsaw. If you do need to make up more time, note the most achievable places to do so, and after landing, slightly open your canter, regaining collection a few strides before your next fence.
3. Note the ‘route’ of measurement.
My top tip? It is good to note the ‘route’ of measurement, e.g. the line the course builder used to measure the distances, either by watching the course builder place his wheel or by checking to see if the course plan shows the measurement route in lines drawn between the jumps. Or you can just ask the course builder! They are often very approachable.
4. Practise your strengths.
In your preparation and training at home, work out your ‘shortcut’ strengths, based on your horse’s expertise, size, etc. — e.g. going outside or inside fences. If you have opted to go around a certain obstacle, rather than inside it, practise keeping this line tight, so that you are not adding any unnecessary strides, therefore allowing you the option of adding in a longer distance should you wish to do so and without the worry of time.
5. Time your lap.
Another good exercise at home is to canter large around your arena and time each lap — this will let you know at what speed you are riding. A friend with a stopwatch can help here, or there are phone apps available. The goal is to be able to ride each lap at the same speed, and for you then to be able to replicate this speed in the ring.
A more advanced exercise is to include two 20-metre circles into your laps, one at each end of the arena, ensuring that the pace is identical on the small circles as it is when going large. It is very common to slow down, or collect too much, on tighter turns.
“With enough homework, you will soon find you can measure your perfect pace and route, and will be able to achieve a ‘spot on’ canter around the show jumping ring with perfect confidence!” concludes BHSAI, Jenny.