Inaugural Outdoor Course

If your trainer ever says, “I have something really fun for you!” just run in the other direction. Save yourself. Learn from my mistakes.

The other day trainer said that she had a fun favor to ask of me and Devyn (my favorite not-so-little-anymore 12yo barn rat): did we want to design and set this season’s inaugural course in the outdoor ring? You all know that I’m an aficionado of course design, so of course I immediately said yes! Of course! That’s gonna be a blast!

And then the 12yo got evil and decided to make a bunch of oxers and also is tiny so her mom and I were stuck moving all the SUPER HEAVY standards. Cue soreness.

We had a few constraints to work with- Trainer wanted a triple bounce of crossrails on one of the quarter lines, and it had to be something that could be set for a variety of riders. Devyn showed up with 3 options to choose from, all with measurements for the lines asking a variety of technical questions (including a slightly short vertical-vertical 2 stride to a slightly long four stride out…I told you the kid is evil. Knowledgeable, creative, and ambitious, but evil. It’s a potent combination). That plan survived first contact, but we ended up having to make tweaks to work with the types of jumps we had, the shape of the ring, and the versatility we wanted to have.

Trainer showed up as we were setting, and was able to give some helpful pointers:

  • Diagonal lines need less room on the side away from the ingate, since you naturally don’t have quite as much pace heading away and therefore don’t need as much room to turn. Better to give a little extra room for when you’re heading home so you don’t have to veer through the turn.
  • Don’t think of the ring as a rectangle. Think of the exercises you want to include, and then build those- that way you’re not locked into measurements and can adjust the exercise to any type of space you have available.
  • Don’t bunch the jumps in the middle of the ring. If you spread them out them you give yourself options to do long OR short approaches because you’ve given yourself room to move.

After much trial and error and cursing from dropping heavy jumps on my toes, here’s what we came up with:

outside course

So we have the triple bounce on the quarterline, a blue plank on the far outside, a yellow plank in the corner, a stone wall oxer on the near outside, a plain vertical single, a diagonal line (set to 4 strides) with a gate oxer and rolltop, a yellow vertical end jump, and a small crossrail jumping out of (or into) the ring. The big green shapes are little hillocks in the grass outside the ring.

I think we’ve got some fun options here! One of the exercises that I think would be fun would be jumping out of the ring, coming back to a walk over the hillocks, then trotting back in the ingate to do the end jump away from home. Then you could either do the rollback turn left to continue up the diagonal line and bending line towards home, or continue right up the single outside to the bending line towards home. We were hoping to include a skinny trot jump in there, but we just ran out of room. Maybe that yellow end jump could be the skinny? Only if someone else wants to move it though, I don’t plan on moving any rails any time soon!

I’ll get to observe the course in action this week and I’ll get to play with it myself on Friday, so I’ll have to report back with how people like it. Until then, let me know what you think! Any ideas for fun exercises we can include next time Trainer asks us to help design?

Because let’s be honest- I’ll keep saying yes every time.

6 Tips for Remembering Your Jumper Courses

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:

  • Line
  • Bending line
  • Rollback
  • S-turn
  • End jump

When you group the jumps together like that, suddenly you aren’t thinking about every single jump, you’re thinking about many fewer elements.

This could be 13 individual jumps. OR you can think about it this way: diagonal line, center line to combo, rollback over 5, bend out over the outside line, bending 8 to 9, end combo, single oxer. That’s seven elements- you just cut down on what you have to remember by 50%.

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.

In this case you start on the left side, go to the right side, back to the left, back to the right, and end back at the left. There are nuances, sure, but overall you’re just going back and forth across the ring.

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.

If you know your first jump (oxer on the end), the logical next jumps are 2 or 6b. But there’s an oxer in the combo going the other way, so 2 is pretty clearly your next jump.

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.

After coming off jump 10, there’s a breather before the jumpoff. But as you’re walking, you want to position yourself to have an easy approach to 1 for your jumpoff when the buzzer sounds, and continue on as if you had never stopped.

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:

  1. Group the jumps into elements
  2. Get from one end of the ring to the other
  3. Look at your oxers
  4. Learn your jumpoff as part of your course
  5. Walk the course multiple times
  6. Learn one course at a time

What techniques do you use to remember your courses in the jumper ring?