Cross-country jump decorating doesn’t just end with getting a perfect groundline set under the jump.
It’s important to note here that many of the very top events do have pretty big decorating budgets and it’s always a struggle at the other end of the scale to find and source material to enhance your courses. Simple things like straw, cut greens, home-grown potted flowers, or synthetic flowers can get the look you want without going to huge expense.
Not every cross-country jump needs decoration, either. Some beautiful old logs and timbers are elegant all on their own, as are some of the absolutely stunning portable jumps with the beautiful natural finishes — you don’t want to cover up a brand new jump with bushes! Such jumps are often fine just as they are.
So to save on a decorating budget, it’s not always necessary to go whole-hog on every jump out on the course. Sometimes decor is needed to help fix certain jumps — to guide the horse and rider to the correct jumping path over the obstacle, or to cover a part or section that should not be jumped. If you have a limited budget, these problem areas might get that attention first. It’s always proper to speak with your course designer for help when it comes to a problem area — often they’ll have a good answer for you that will make sense and addresses any safety or specification issues.
If you have the ability to do more than groundlines, the backs and sides of the jump are what will tie your event together and make things attractive to everyone, not just riders. The sides and back of the jump are important, too; most people photograph the front of the horse going over the jump so the back of the jump is often framed in their photos. Many times the backs and sides are left alone when a few simple placements can really make your course look fabulous!
When you want to bring your decor around the jump, you don’t need a lot on the sides – sometimes just three potted plants in a triangle shape on each side will get the look you want. If you have a sponsor sign it might be placed to the side of the jump, and that’s another spot to add flowers that draw attention. Anything placed off to the side should be sturdy and be able to stand in wind or rain, and also be smooth so that in case a horse runs out and wiggles off to the side of the jump, he won’t scrape his leg or get hurt on it. That’s why the pros often put a pot of flowers near a metal sign, so that the horse can see it and step away from it.
Here are a few examples of some great decorating on sides and backs of cross country obstacles. (Several of these obstacles were decorated by professional Course Designer USEF “r” Janine McClain or by volunteers under her direction.)