I’ve heard a lot of ammies say that one of their big concerns at a horse show is remembering the course. Naturally, no one wants to go off course and be eliminated. But it doesn’t have to be a source of angst! Here are a few tips to help you remember your next jumper course.
Tip 1: Don’t think of the jumps individually, but instead as part of certain configurations. And there are a limited number of configurations. Most of the time, your course will consist of a mix of the following elements:
When you group the jumps together like that, suddenly you aren’t thinking about every single jump, you’re thinking about many fewer elements.
Tip 2: The goal is to go from one end of the ring to another. You will not be endlessly circling around one end of the ring for 13 jumps. The overarching track will take you from one end of the ring to another multiple times.
Tip 3: Let your oxers be your guide. You will never be jumping an oxer backwards, so if you’re looking at your course, seeing which way the oxers are set can help show you which jump might be next.
Tip 4: Learn your jumpoff as part of your course. Don’t think of it as two separate courses. Even if you get to take a breather before the jumpoff, think of it as continuing your course rather than starting a whole new one.
Tip 5: Walk the course multiple times. The first time to get the striding in any lines and start cementing the course in your mind. The second time to think about strategy- where can I make an inside turn? Where will I need extra outside leg because we’re going by the ingate and NO WE’RE NOT DONE YET STAY IN THE RING PLS. Where are my “breathing spots” to reset while on course?
Tip 6: Learn one course at a time. Don’t worry about your third course of the day before you’ve ridden your first. Once you leave the ring, go ahead and start thinking about your next course. But one thing at a time.
Here’s your cliffnotes:
Group the jumps into elements
Get from one end of the ring to the other
Look at your oxers
Learn your jumpoff as part of your course
Walk the course multiple times
Learn one course at a time
What techniques do you use to remember your courses in the jumper ring?
What do you consider “jumping high” for yourself? At this point, probably around 3’6″ish. But that’s a pretty manageable height for us and we do it fairly regularly, so it’s not a scary height, just on the bigger end of what we’ve done so far. We’re also gonna get used to it reeeeal fast since that’s our division next year haha.
What are your short term goals for riding? Do you think you’ll reach them? In the short term, my goal is to move up and have a successful season in the 1.10m High Adult Jumpers. Ideally “successful” will mean qualifying for the regional finals, but I’ll be happy if I can give my horse a good experience at that height and have fun. I definitely think this is within reach! When spring rolls around, we’ll be ready to hit the ground running in our new division.
Long term goals for riding? Do you think you’ll reach them? Hmm this one is harder. Ideally I’d love to make it to the 1.20m level, but that’s not a deep burning desire in my heart. We’ll see how our 1.10m season goes and then make new goals from there based on how Frankie feels and what we think a good progression would be for us.
How many barns have you been at in your riding career? Oh goodness. A lot. As a junior I took lessons at four different barns before getting my own horse, and then kept my horse at three different barns. So seven total as a kid. Then one in college, and one as adult. Nine total!
How many different trainers have you been with in your riding career? Two that matter. I took lessons as a kid at a couple different barns, but I started riding with my first “real” trainer in 6th or 7th grade and stayed with him until we sold my horse. We weren’t loyal to a specific barn, we were loyal to T. We went where he went. And then of course as an adult I’ve been with my trainer for two years now and you can’t make me leave her because she is wonderful and I love her.
Ever worked at a barn? What did you do? All through high school! The deal with my parents was that they would fund the horse and shows, but I had to work for it. At one point I was at the barn 5 days a week to care for ~30 horses- turnout, bringing horses in, feeding, hay, mucking stalls, cleaning water buckets, sweeping, etc. I would try to get that all done after school in time for a lesson on my horse, and maybe the chance to hop on another horse or two. I was also my trainer’s shadow for a while at another barn and was basically his gopher- I’d groom and tack up other client’s horses, exercise horses, set jumps, muck stalls, clean tack, anything that needed doing. I also spent a couple summers as a camp counselor at the best place on this planet and that was basically being full time barn staff PLUS full time babysitter to 40 girls ages 7-12. It. Was. Heaven.
Scariest thing that has happened at your barn? Um. Addy got loose once and munched on grass until we could catch her? The warmblood yearling jumped out of his paddock and ran into his stall? Honestly I can’t really think of anything. We had a horse colic really badly that had to be put down, but I count that as more sad than scary.
Have you ever given a lesson? What level was the rider? When I was a counselor, I helped out/led some of the beginner lessons of the up-down kids. I was also able to help out on occasion with the more advanced kids that were jumping full courses, and that was more fun. Less worry about them steering into each other.
What is your opinion on the accuracy of critiquing riders online? Mixed feelings. I do think that a lot of people have good intentions. And I don’t think that you have to be an Olympic level rider to recognize basic position faults. But at the same time, unless something is blatantly unsafe, I don’t think it’s appropriate to critique unless the rider has asked for that critique. If they’re asking for feedback, do it politely. If they’re not, then don’t do it at all. Also, people will usually post the screenshots that make them look the best, but that isn’t always accurate. If you look at my Instagram, you’d think I had decent eq all the time and Frankie was a male model. Only one of those is true. It’s really really hard to critique a still frame of such a dynamic sport because you’re missing SO MUCH of the picture.
What is the ideal height of a horse for you? 17hh or above. Preferably above. I can kiiiinda get away with a big-bodied 16.3, but that’s pushing it. Frankie is somewhere in the 17-17.1 range and medium-bodied, and he’s pretty much as small as I can go while still looking somewhat proportional. Of course, I rode a 16.1 mare down in Ocala in the jumpers and had a blast because no one cares about proportions in the jumpers, but I definitely prefer them big and bulky. The bigger the better.
Somehow this totally slipped between the cracks, but I have video to share with you guys!
These clips are all from our show back in August (HITS Winston National)- you can catch the show recap here. You can see for yourself what a patient, awesome, honest good boy Frankie is at all times, especially when his mother is flapping around up top like a tarp in a tornado. Literally the best boy.
I wish I had video from our show in September since I think both Frankie and I performed much better and more strongly there, but alas, this is all I have! He still cute tho. Even cuter when you remember that this was his second show ever, and first time at this venue. He is the chillest pony on the planet. UGH OBSESSED.
PS- My super sweet friend has started her own blog! Head on over to The Blonde Equestrian and give her a warm welcome to blogland!
You’ve heard me say over and over lately that I’m on show hiatus. Very regrettably so, but my bank account is heaving a sigh of relief for the multiple-month reprieve in show spending.
But being on show hiatus doesn’t mean we aren’t working hard. On the contrary- we’re working harder than ever both in the saddle and out of it. And it’s really REALLY fun.
I’ve been out at the barn pretty much every day, even the days I’m not riding. I’ll have a glass of wine with a fellow ammy as we deep clean our tack and talk about our horses, or I’ll organize my trunk while shooting the breeze with another boarder.
My trainer will give me a session on nutrition- why exactly Frankie eats what he eats, when he eats it. And a conformation seminar to identify Frankie’s strengths and weaknesses. I watched Assistant Trainer clip her horse while she gave pointers, and then she showed me the best way to break in a new bridle quickly.
At this point I know just about every rider and their parents (if they’re a junior) that are at the barn, since I’m there just about every day. I get to say hi and chat and catch up with like-minded people. And when someone new shows up for a lesson, I can sometimes help show them where and how things go around here.
Frankie gets a good grooming every day as his dark winter coat comes in, and his hooves, while always in good shape, are looking even better. Don’t even get me started on his tail- it’s long and luxurious and absolutely gorgeous.
We have days where I ask him to work really hard, and then we have days where his only job is energy and straightness as I work on myself. He’s continuing to build muscle and fitness even though he’s no longer in full training.
The pieces, while not together yet, are steadily coming together. We’re eliminating a lot of the old mistakes and we’re making new mistakes. We’re moving into the realm of skills that we can’t master in a single lesson- we can just keep persistently building strength and ability over time.
October has been an amazing month for all of the little things adding up, all the steps carrying us further. There have not been any single major breakthroughs, just the consistency and hard work adding and adding and adding together until suddenly I look back and realize that our knowledge and skills have progressed.
It’s a calm, contented sort of progress rather than the adrenaline-rush progress I felt all show season. And while I am eager to get back into the show ring as soon as warmer weather rolls around, I’m satisfied for now to buckle down and do hard work.
Put aside idleness, grasp the nettle, and do some hard work. – St. Bernard of Clairvaux
T-10 days until Halloween!!!! Despite my abysmal costume-making skills, I get SUPER into Halloween every year and can’t wait for it to come around. And even better, this year I have my very own pony to play dress up with.
But I’m too full of good ideas right now. And I can’t do them all. Right? Or can I? ONLY TIME WILL TELL.
In the meantime, let me know which one of my pun-tastic costumes you think Frankie and I should pursue on this most glorious of holidays.
Toss some cardboard bike wheels on him, add some handlebars, put on a yellow jersey, and we have ourselves the Tour de Francis.
2. Attach airplane wings, put aviators on him, don my flightsuit (don’t ask why I have one), and we have Maverick in her F-14. I’m gonna beat you, Ice Man.
3. Give him a Yankees cap, attach a whip to my saddle, and have him be Short Round to my Indiana Jones. We can call him Tall Round. (Bonus points if he makes the face)
4. Give him some crazy hair and a lab coat, I rig a hump under a black cloak, and we have the dynamic duo of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein and Igor. (It’s pronounced IIIIII-gor).
5. Paint him green, give him a turret, toss on some fatigues: Frank the Tank and his tireless captain.
The struggle is real!! Which one should we pick???
How many of you guys watched Harrisburg this past weekend? Man, the course diagram looked fairly simple but it did NOT ride simply.
Not a ton of jumps, but those end oxers were TOUGH, and the bending combo too. Plus getting the same strides from 5/8 to the combo in both directions. This course seriously asked some hard questions and the kids who ended up on top had to work their butts off to get there.
Naturally, my trainer returned from Harrisburg inspired to inflict this same course on her students. Which brings me to our lesson this week. Which I am still sore from.
For a change, I’m actually going to talk about our flatwork for more than 10 seconds, since we worked on it a LOT this week. I mean, we always do, but this was some next level stuff.
Trot work: I have gotten better about offering a consistent, steady contact to Frankie, and now it’s his job to take that contact and meet me halfway. It was interesting- he’s always been stronger at connecting to the outside rein going to the left, but I felt more connected going to the right this week. My suspicion is that my monster right leg is the culprit here- it’s so much stronger than my left leg, it isn’t even funny.
Trainer had me drop my stirrups and work at the sitting trot for a GOOD long time to help me sit deeper and develop a better feel for Frankie’s movement. Lots of big circles, small circles, counter-bending to the correct bend, shoulder-in down the long side. I’m still working on keeping more still and connected when asking for that shoulder-in, but Frankie was very obliging about giving it to me when I asked properly. Now I just have to ask properly more! We focused a lot on straightness, power from behind up into the bridle, and getting him moving off my leg.
Canter work: homeboy doesn’t get to take a couple flail-y steps to move from the walk to the canter. After a couple sloppy departs, we were able to sharpen these up. We also worked heavily on our canter-walk transitions, with the intent of stepping under and moving into a nice flowing forward walk.
We still have a ways to go to get these truly sharp, but there’s definite progress there. We used to coast down half the long side and ooze into a shuffling walk and we’ve definitely cut down the time it takes. I need to remember to sit tall and engage my core when asking for the downwards so Frankie can’t lean on my hand and dive down.
Here’s a clip of some of our flatwork:
Some things I need to work on position-wise that will help Frankie out, but super proud of my boy for putting his thinking cap on and working so hard!
On to the jumping. And guys. It was a doozie. Here’s the diagram:
First course: 1, turn right over 2, hairpin turn left over 3. Overshooting the turn to 2 and slicing that left to right gave a little more room to the turn to 3. Barely. Woof.
Second course: 1, turn right over 2, hairpin turn left over 3, bending 4a to 4b in one stride, out over 5 in two strides.
This added a challenge over 3- I had to stay very straight so that there was room to turn to 4. Then it was a big one-stride, so we had to cowboy out of that turn to gallop out the 1 to the 2. Still woof.
Full course: 1, turn right over 2, hairpin turn left over 3, bending 4a to 4b in one, bending out over 5 in two, immediate right turn over 6, hairpin left over 7, up 5 the other way, bending in two to 4a, then two strides to 4b, turn right over 3 the other way, then loop back over 2 the other way.
HOLY BAJEESUS. The first part rode the same, then 6 and 7 came up decently. It was a bit gallopy from 7 back to 5, then had to really shape and press for the 2 strides to the combo. Then fitting two strides in there was HARD. We really had to shape that combo.
The first time through I accidentally put 3 strides between 5 and the combo, which made the two-stride much easier to fit in. Apparently that counts as cheating though, so we had to go back and make it a two to a two.
So yeah. A very challenging course modeled after the questions asked in the Harrisburg course.
Thoughts on the jumping: my auto release is getting there. It still isn’t muscle memory, but it felt like an improvement from last time. I also felt stronger in my leg- again, not completely where it needs to be yet, but progress. Frankie is jumping more cleanly when I support him better and get him to that tighter spot. Overall: we’re making steady progress together.
What needs work now is my mindset. If the distance isn’t coming up easily, I have a tendency to kinda give up and say “Frankie take the wheel.” I need to trust myself more and MAKE the striding happen. Frankie isn’t always right. He might not be thrilled about the tighter spot, but that’s what we need to jump powerfully and cleanly. He’s not going to get offended or fussy if I ride more actively, so I need to be a nosy pepper. Imma get jalapeno business.
And then best boy got a bath because apparently 82 degrees in October is a thing this year.
A few side notes as we wrap up here:
Send manfriend your questions! He’s really excited to share with all y’all. You can also feel free to send questions to me directly, on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.
Which brings me to some fun news:
We now have a Facebook page! That was pretty much the last thing on the social media to-do list for the blog, so go check it out and follow along for yet ANOTHER way to get your daily dose of Francis. Also please tell me what you usually share on Facebook and how you manage all your social media accounts and general tips on time-management and how to be an adult OK thanks.
What kind of lateral work do you like to incorporate to get your horse moving off your leg?
I’m sorry. I haven’t been a very good friend to you for a while now. I’ve either (a) been unable to make plans in the first place or (b) cancelled plans on you. I know this, and I know it’s not a nice way to be, it’s not the kind of person that I want to be.
But maybe you can take solace in the fact that it isn’t just you. It’s everyone. I swear it isn’t personal, there isn’t anything wrong with our friendship besides me. I’m just being a jerk.
I know I have no right to ask this of you, but please let me explain why. I know you have more than an inkling, but please indulge me for a few paragraphs.
It’s the horse. You already knew this. You knew this from the fact that I wear my breeches to the office and take vacation days off work to go compete and only post pictures of my horse on social media and turn every conversation to how CUTE he is. This has been obvious. And you’ve been fantastic about offering to make plans on the days I’m NOT at the barn.
But there are some days when I’m not at the barn and I STILL don’t make/cancel plans. It’s because to be frank (no pun intended), I’m entirely broke and exhausted from juggling real life and the barn. Right now, real life is riding shotgun but isn’t driving. The barn is driving.
It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with you, or that I don’t want to go to that awesome winery, or that I don’t want to check out that new restaurant, or that I don’t want to get together to grill and shoot the breeze. All of those are things I love doing, and things I’d love to do with you! That’s why we’re friends.
The reason I’m not there with you is because I want something else even more right now. I’m not a naturally gifted rider like some. I don’t have that innate sense of how to make my horse go better and I have to work extremely hard to build enough muscle mass to keep my position stable. Some people can hop on 3x a week and be good, and I simply can’t. But I want to be good so badly. So badly.
That’s why I’m pouring my heart and soul and bank account and time and effort and everything I have into this sport. I want it. I’ll eat Cup o’ Noodles for a month so I can put my horse into a training program. I’ll cut back my expenses to pure survival if it means I can fit another show on the schedule.
I know this won’t last forever. At some point real life will have to take the reins back (no pun intended…again) and riding will have to come second. That’s why it’s coming first for me right now. I want it too badly to wait for “someday.”
You’ve been wonderfully supportive of this. Some of you get it, some of you aren’t quite sure what the appeal is, some of you have horses of your own, some of you don’t, but every single one of you has been absolutely lovely as I’ve thrown myself into this hobby-turned-lifestyle.
Thank you for this. Thank you for still talking to me, even when I’m not holding up my end of the friendship deal. I don’t expect you to wait around for me to be a better friend, because I don’t know when that will be. I have no plans of slowing down or cutting back any time soon.
Please know that I still love you and appreciate our friendship, and I pinky promise to try and make it next time.
If you haven’t heard yet, Aryelle over at Horse Hack is having a fun blogging contest, and yours truly is up for contention today! Head on over and vote (preferably for me, but follow your heart), and stay tuned for the rest of the contest over the next few weeks.
Also, thank you times a million for all your awesome suggestions on my wishlist last week! I was out of town for the weekend so I didn’t get to respond to everyone, but I SO appreciate the time and thought you guys gave and am taking all your suggestions into consideration for sure.
Manfriend has informed me that he’s cooking up a new post for y’all, which should be at least as hilarious as his last chime-in. My super awesome amazing Daddoo is also coming down for a visit in November, and I’ve already planted the idea of him guest posting as well! Please help me pressure him into writing for me. C’mon Daddy, don’t you WANT me to be happy?!
Despite my show hiatus, this fall is ramping up to have all sorts of fun adventures that I can’t wait to share with you! And as always, let me know if there’s any type of post you’re really feelin’ or want to see. Ask and ye shall receive.
Now that I’ve been to a couple rated shows with my trainer, I figured I’d share how things tend to go over the course of the week. With a few caveats:
Things may be slightly different for the hunter riders since they have a whole division every day. I don’t know, I don’t pay a ton of attention to those rings haha
I won’t claim that this is the “best” way, there’s plenty of ways to have a safe and successful show! This is just how we do it, and it runs pretty smoothly!
Discuss which classes to enter- pretty easy for me since I just do my division over the course of the weekend. Jumpers at our barn tend to do 1-2 classes each day so we plan around that (since each class requires a separate warmup and the courses are so long, each class involves almost as much jumping efforts as a full hunter division. Hence the limited classes.).
Trainer checks on grooming and lets us know what’s necessary- do we need to pull manes? Trim fetlocks? Other assorted grooming tasks? I tend to outsource this to a working student/Assistant Trainer since they are waaaaay better at this than I am. I can practice when it isn’t show season. We also give a bath the night before leaving to create a base clean.
Pack our trunks. For me this means completely unpacking my trunk, then repacking with ONLY what I need for the show: standing wraps/pillow wraps and tack (including open-fronts). When the weather cools down, we’ll include a cooler. Basically we don’t want to cart anything there that isn’t totally necessary.
Make sure all show clothes are clean and packed. Polish boots. Pack ring bag.
Haul to the show. I don’t have a trailer, so Frankie rides with Trainer in one of hers. They often haul the day before I get there, so I miss out on all the loading and unloading and setup (oh no, woe is me…).
Set up EVERYTHING.
Horse stalls: Each horse gets two water buckets, a tonnnn of shavings, and hay. Grain buckets come in and out at meal times. Rider trunks go in front of their horse’s stall (locked). Wrap “bags” in barn colors get zip-tied to stall fronts to hold standing wraps when they’re not in use.
Feed stall: hay, grain, shavings, extra buckets go here. Sometimes our mini-fridge goes here too, and rider trunks if they don’t fit in the aisle. I also tend to leave my backpack/bootbag here during the days. We’ll set up some hooks to hold helmets, half-chaps, jackets, etc.
Grooming stall: rubber mats, shelving units with brushes, saddle pads, towels, fly spray, show sheen, and everything else we could possibly need. Wall-box with safety pins, emergency numbers, rider numbers, strings, pens, random useful stuffs. Crossties. TONS of hooks/saddle racks to hang tack on.
Miscellaneous: tack-cleaning station with a variety of soaps and conditioners and small bucket of water. White-board to track who needs to be in what ring to do which class when, and which horses need to be braided on any given day (and by default, who needs to leave a check for the braider. Hooray for jumpers not needing braids!). If we’re at a show with temporary stalls (i.e. pretty much anything under a tent), we’ll move panels around to create a dressing room to change in.
The pretty stuff: we have draperies with Trainer and Barn name on it. We also have a pew to sit on, a couple chairs, flowers, table, etc. Depending on location, we’ll put mulch down and hang flowers from the tent.
Pick up numbers from show office. Trainer usually grabs mine for me and makes sure I’m entered in all the right classes. She’ll add/scratch anything for the next day.
Horses get a training ride. Since we usually get there the day before we actually show, the horses all go for a hack. Riders are encouraged to ride their own, but ammies like me who are stuck at work like chumps tend to have Trainer or Assistant Trainer hop on.
Trainer reports on Pony’s behavior and lets us all know what time to show up the next day.
Actual show days:
Show up about an hour before the first class is supposed to walk (if the website says my class is walking around 10:15AM, that means showing up at 9:15AM. Even though we all know that in reality my class probably won’t walk until noon.). Put gear down and give Pony smooshes and snuggles.
Go learn my course. If I can sneak into an earlier course walk, fantastic. Put my name in the order of go if Trainer hasn’t already (spoiler alert, she probably has).
Chill for a bit. Watch some rounds going in whatever class is running. Hang out with fellow riders. Say hi to people I recognize from last show. Try not to make eye contact with the intimidating woman running the in-gate. Have a protein bar. Drink my weight in water.
Call Trainer/Assistant Trainer when it’s time for my class to walk. Walk it together and discuss strategy about how best to ride the course.
Stay and watch 2-3 rounds go while Trainer finishes up in another ring. OR if early in the order, forego the watching.
Go back to the barn and finish getting dressed. Assistant Trainer and assorted working students/barn rats/awesome people have already tacked up Pony using one of our barn’s logo saddle pads and polished his hooves and he’s napping on the crossties.
Hop on and head to the warmup ring. Flat around to get muscles moving. Trainer shows up and claims a jump. Do whatever she says while trying desperately not to cause a major collision. Easier said than done.
Head to the in-gate. Tell Trainer the course one last time and take a deep breath. She says, “Go have fun.” Enter the ring.
WHEEEEEEEEEE JUMPSSSSSS WHEEEEEEE
Exit the ring. De-brief with Trainer. What worked? What didn’t work? What do we need to do differently next time? Go for a short walk to cool out Pony. Call Mom and Dad to gush over how cool Pony is.
Get back to the barn and hop off. Working students/barn rats/awesome people take Pony to untack and hose him off if he’s done/has a long break before his next class, or untack and put him in his stall if it’s a shorter break.
If I’m not done for the day: go learn the next course, walk it, repeat the whole process.
If I am done for the day: change into more comfortable shoes and a less sweaty shirt. Throw on a baseball cap, you bum, your hair is disgusting.
Go cheer on our other riders- hold their horses, film their rounds, wipe their boots, whatever. Visit the vendors and bleed out more money. Go to the show cafe and get something greasy and covered in cheese.
At any point before leaving for the day:
Confirm classes for the next day. Add/scratch if needed.
Clean and condition all tack. This includes hosing down and sun-drying boots, scrubbing bits, etc. Put all tack away in trunk and lock it.
Re-wrap pillow/standing wraps so Assistant Trainer can wrap the horses that need it. She does really aesthetically pleasing wraps.
Trainer sets up the whiteboard for the next day. This is basically our bible. Ask her what time to be there the next morning. If she says anything earlier than 8am, try to convince her she’s wrong. Begrudgingly admit she knows what she’s talking about and agree to be there early.
Last day of show:
Once done with my last class, get Pony and tack cleaned up and squared away.
Go to the show office and close out. Subtly check bank account on phone when they hand me the bill. Pray. Cry quietly as I sign the check.
Break down the setup: all trunks go on the trailer, hoses, buckets, draperies, chairs, mini-fridge, ALL OF IT. Make sure hay nets are full and trailer is ready to receive the steeds.
Put Pony on the trailer with his buddies.
Follow the trailer home.
Unload Pony and toss him in his stall to chill for a bit while I help clean out the trailer- depending on the length of the journey, this ranges from picking the poop to stripping the shavings. Get new shavings and re-load hay nets so trailer is already set to go for the next use.
Unload all gear- laundry to the laundry room, other stuff to….other places. I dunno, I just follow instructions at this point.
Take care of Pony- hose off if needed, bath if needed, grooming if needed. In general this is pretty light since he was taken care of at the showgrounds. Usually toss outside to play since he’s been cooped up for a couple days. He can prolly just hang outside for like the next 3 days before asking him to work again.
Unload trunk- hang tack back up in the tack room and throw all my garbage back in my trunk. Put trunk back where it lives.
Head home, have a glass of wine and go to bed at 8pm because yes, tomorrow is Monday and the real world is waiting.