Two summers ago, EN readers followed the story of Andrea Glazer, an eventer among Grand Prix show jumpers at the 2017 Maccabiah Games. She catch rode an unfamiliar horse over 1.20-meter (3’9″) and above show jumping courses to help Team USA earn the silver medal, and is now preparing to represent the team once again at the 2019 European Maccabiah Games next week in Budapest, Hungary. Once again, Andrea has agreed take us along for the ride. In the second installation of her EN series, she shares a few cultural differences between the two sports. Read more at her blog, Dre the Zookeeper.
I have spent a total of nine weeks working for Neal and Licha Shapiro at Hay Fever Farm, and wow, let me tell you these show jumpers are relentless.
The training that I have undergone has nearly broken me, but I truly don’t know what I would have done had I not come and learned (still a work in progress) how to properly show jump over the past two months. Coming from a purely eventing background, I have a completely new understanding of what really goes on behind the scenes in the show jumping world.
Before I leave for Budapest to jump a strange horse over 1.20m+ courses in the hopes of winning a medal, I would like to enlighten you on how show jumpers prepare for the crucial 90 seconds in the show ring, and the primary differences between eventing and show jumping. If you’re looking to maybe dabble in the jumper world, you should definitely take notes, because I will save you from a ton of embarrassment that I was lucky enough to experience myself.
So welcome to a quick synopsis of Transitioning to Show Jumping for Dummies.
1. Dress regulations
If you’re trying to become a show jumper, you probably want to try and look the part. Don’t just waltz into the jumper ring thinking you won’t stick out in your eventing gear; trust me, you will stick out like a gaited horse in dressage warm-up.
Full seat jodhpurs – it’ll be OK, I promise.
Sorry Karen, you’re going to have to hang up your FITS; they are completely foreign to anyone in the jumper world. It may sound crazy, but it turns out, you actually will be able to stay on the horse without the grip of full seats. Also, an important difference to note, is that jumpers do not compete in white jods, unless they’re competing in a classic. Basically, if you’re doing a few jumper classes at HITS, don’t wear white jods. They are only worn on special occasions. Yes, I did wear white jods at HITS and someone did come up to my coach and asked if I was eventer.
Goodbye stock tie.
One of the biggest blessings of the jumper world – you don’t have to wear a stock tie! You heard it here first; no running around the stabling trying to find the one person in the aisle that is able to properly tie a stock tie because you still couldn’t figure out how to tie one on yourself.
Everyone here wears their white shirt that they button all the way up under their jacket. *VERY IMPORTANT: as soon as you jump the last jump, always unbutton your shirt and leave a popped collar. This is very, very important if you want to fit in. God forbid you walk around with your shirt buttoned all the way up after you’ve already competed – you’ll definitely look like a newbie.
The beloved monoflap saddle.
Yes, it’s one I will never understand or agree with, but I have yet to see one other rider in a monoflap saddle, except Boyd Martin who does compete at the jumper shows I’m at (ya know, just Boyd and me representing the eventing world over here). Everyone and their mothers ride in regular jumping saddles, but I still stay true to my eventing community (and can’t afford a new one) so I’m riding in a monoflap and even if people stare, at least I can laugh back at them because it’s less tack to clean, right?
Don’t even think about wearing a skullcap.
Walking into the jumper ring with a Charles Owen skullcap is like walking into the ring with EVENTER tattooed on your forehead. I am allowing you the chance to not be shunned by your coaches – you are welcome.
Here’s a fun story of my first time in the jumper ring – still bitter that no one warned me – @my jumper friends thanks for nothing!!!!
At my first show with Hay Fever Farm, about three days after I arrived, I was lucky enough to ride the most handsome, Mexicano, to the ring and warm him up for his rider before his class started. Known around the barn as Mexi, the handsome 16.3 chestnut gelding, former 1.40m and equitation godsend, is probably the nicest horse I have ever sat on. I felt like $1,000,000 walking past my “fellow” show jumpers, strutting my stuff as if I were Beezie Madden walking into the Grand Prix ring.
Feeling confident as ever, I began trotting around the ring, showing off the fancy horse until I hear someone yell, “YOU LOOK LIKE A DOOFUS,” I turned to see who these words were directed at before my Beezie Madden aura diminished as I realized Licha was staring straight at me.
I trotted straight to her absolutely terrified as she walked up to me, grabbed the brim on my Charles Owen skullcap, and tried everything she could to make the upward-facing brim to point downwards. The brim fought a good fight, reverting straight back to its normal habitat facing up, but Licha doesn’t give up easily, if ever. The fight continued until the brim finally surrendered.
I looked around and realized that I was definitely the only one in a skullcap, and to this day, I still have not seen one jumper rider wear one, so I guess they’re not the current trend in today’s jumper world.
Lesson learned: brims aren’t adjustable and save the skullcaps for cross-country.
2. You get a groom, she gets a groom, and yes, even the child that can’t even walk gets a groom!!!
Everyone thinks that a lot of the hunter/jumpers just walk up to the ring in their riding attire with their horse groomed immaculately, with their tack on, ready for them to mount. I can confirm that this myth is a proven fact for the majority of riders, including myself. It is the craziest thing to wrap your head around – this creates a completely different culture in this discipline. I even show up to the barn to ride with the horses tacked up ready for me – what is my life?? The grooms are at the barn from sunrise to sundown, ensuring the horses are taken care of to the highest level. You really realize how different it is when you go to a show and see all of the other stables operating in the same fashion.
Let me give you an example of a normal day at a competition:
Night before the competition: the grooms and myself pack the tack that is cleaned so well, it could pass any formal Pony Club exam, fill hay nets and ensure the trailer is prepared so that not one shaving is out of place, and ready to go for an early departure the next day.
5:15 a.m.: The grooms and myself arrive at the barn to feed and groom the horses
6 a.m.: The groomed horses are loaded onto the trailer. Neal drives the truck with the grooms, horses and myself to the show.
6:15 a.m.: Vital pitstop to Dunkin’ Donuts
7 a.m.: Arrive to the show, get all the horses tacked up and ready whenever we are told to, walk the horses to the ring for their riders, wait for them to compete, take the horses from the riders, untack and bathe the horses, load them back onto the trailer and get the next horse ready.
2 – 7 p.m.: Leave the show grounds whenever we are finished and go back to the barn where we ice, wrap, bathe again, and take care of the horses, and I go ahead and ride whatever horses didn’t compete that day.
It’s a very different show experience when someone takes care of your horses for you. I definitely love the atmosphere at the three-day events where we have tack cleaning parties and all help each other tack up and braid, but you do feel like a celebrity when you come out of your course-walk and your horse is there waiting for you.
Another difference is that show jumpers compete way more frequently than eventers. Since each horse is only doing one or maybe two rounds per day, they can compete more. For instance, we have three weeks straight of showing from Wednesday until Sunday. Yes, we are in the second week right now, and yes, I have reached a new level of sleep deprivation.
3. Hurry up and wait.
Yes, one of the things I miss most about eventing is that we knew exactly what time we did each phase (sometimes stadium was a toss-up, but still). At these shows, you can get on at the start of your division, and the stewards wait until everyone has gotten their turn until they close the division. This can take hours because of all the trainer/rider conflicts. Let me tell you, it is not fun.
4. Flatwork, and more flatwork.
If you think show jumpers don’t do dressage, think again. Most of my rides at Hay Fever Farm consist of leg yields, shoulder in, haunches in, counter-canter and lots of transitions. The foundation of dressage and the flatwork done in the jumper world are very similar, and both disciplines have the same goal. As Neal always says, you want the horse to be straight, forward and supple – I swear as soon as Neal looks at a horse, they automatically know they better maintain those three things.
I do feel the slightest boost of confidence when one of the jumper riders has a harder time with some of the technical movements we have in our dressage test. I’m able to get on most horses and do a nice 20-meter counter canter circle, leg yields and shoulder-ins for days, and throw in a half pass every now and again for fun. I still may be working on my McLain Ward turns, but at least I can do a nice counter canter serpentine in case I was ever tested on that.
5. Unauthorized assistance is encouraged
Sometimes when we are in any of the three phases, it could have been really helpful if our coaches were allowed to yell at us for pulling, tell us where the next jump was, or give us an extra cluck off the ground. In show jumping, anyone on the sidelines can communicate with you, it’s wild.
Licha and Neal have this down to a science. If we are going too slow, they whistle and we know to go more forward. After almost every jump, Licha yells turn, because we probably aren’t turning tight enough even if we think we are barrel racing – turns are hard OK? I was just getting used to the 10-meter circles in the dressage ring, and now you want me to jump a 1.10 square oxer and turn in the air to cut inside a jump to cut a few seconds going into a double? Yeah, that’s still a work in progress as well. I am very thankful for the sideline coaching and if you see someone whistling or yelling “TURN” at the next three-day event, it wasn’t me.
Another wild thing that’s allowed during competitions in the jumper world is that you can school in the show ring before you compete. You can literally take your horse up to every single jump and let them look at all the spooky stuff, on some of the days, you’re even allowed to jump the jumps.
HOW WILD IS THAT?
Imagine taking your horse out on cross country to school the ditch and wall just to make sure you don’t have any problems on course … so different. So crazy to me.
I could go on for hours and hours about the other little differences I’ve encountered between eventing and show jumping, but I had a show the past two days where I had to be at the barn at 5:15 a.m., and am competing everyday until I leave for Budapest – oh, don’t worry, I’m also competing the Sunday I actually leave for the Games! I’ll sleep well on the flight at least.
So there you have it. The show jumpers do some very foreign things – whether it’s the fact that they rarely use studs (because the rings are normally in sand, obviously), to every horse wearing a martingale, to not cutting their tails (my pet-peeve, but I’m learning to cope with it); I don’t think I’ll ever learn all of the different antics in this discipline. I may never completely fit that typical ‘show jumper look,’ but it’s honestly been very entertaining to try!
I am living proof that once you’re an eventer, you’re always an eventer.