Do you panic about learning your jumper course or medal round, or even your hunter rounds? When your heart is racing and points are on the line, it can be tough even to remember a good ol’ side-diagonal-side, not to mention trickier elements like jump offs, trot fences, and work offs.
Here are a few tips, straight from Jasmin Stair of Jasmin Stair Stables in Rancho Santa Fe, Ca., to help you remember your courses easier so you can focus on the details of your going-to-be-awesome ride!
Remember – you practice this stuff at home week after week, year after year so don’t stress! Shows might feel completely different, but in reality, you already have the skills you need.
Give yourself extra time
Give yourself extra time to learn your course. If you’re walking the course at 7:30 am with your trainer, arrive early, grab a coffee and head to the ring at 7:15. Nothing wrong with being prepared. Take the extra time you need to feel relaxed and ready.
Yes – it may be scary, but you can learn the course without a buddy or your trainer (it will put a smile on any trainer’s face to show up to you already knowing your course). Learning your course at the back gate before your trainer arrives gives you more time to talk about the details and exact track, instead of fumbling around trying to find the numbers and rushing because the tractor is coming in to drag the ring.
And remember that your trainer may have to go walk another course at a different ring so use your time wisely and maximize that prep.
Walk your exact track
After you walk your course with your trainer, take 5-10 mins alone and walk jump to jump and make sure to walk the track you horse will be taking. Yep – all the way into the corners and through the whole course. Not only will this prepare you mentally – visualization is actually proven to improve athletic performance – but it also gives you an extra calorie burn so you can definitely get that ham and cheese croissant post-class.
Visualize your course
Back to that awesome thing we just mentioned: visualization. After walking a jumper, eq, or medal course, or after thoroughly learning a hunter course, turning away you should be able to visualize your exact course and track in your mind. Spend a few minutes seeing the course in your mind, how you’re going to execute it (beautifully and smoothly), and even envision yourself coming out of the ring with a big ridiculous smile on your face.
Take a walk
Walk once around your show ring on your way back to the barn. Walking around your ring helps to get a different view of your course. Sometime riders after a few jumps turn and look and see a group of jumps that look different than they remember, start to panic, and go blank! It’s the worst feeling, but trust us, it happens to everybody. Walking around the ring might feel like overkill, but it just takes a few moments and familiarizes you with what the different angles look like.
Don’t forget the strides please! Strides also need to be memorized and not guessed at in the ring ( your horse agrees with you on this one).
Remember if it’s a easy 6 or a bending 6 and if you’re shaping the 7 stride or riding it direct. Not all lines ride the same, so you should know exactly how many strides each one is and how it will ride well before you enter through the back gate.
Don’t fake it
Learn to properly walk a course
Learn to properly walk a line
Practice at home ask your trainer to practice walking a course. It’s better to learn at home then the day of the show.
Take a picture
Take a picture of your course, and right before you get on glance over it once more. If you have any more question or forgot striding don’t forget to ask your trainer – there is no shame in asking questions!
Hunter riders: you should try to learn your courses before you walk up to the back gate. Even though the courses are simple, this will definitely help you stay cool and calm and not worrying that you might forget the last single oxer.
Knowing your course inside and out will help you think about pace, track and corners more if you know your course ahead of time along with the strides. Once the hard stuff is out of the way, like learning the course, just enjoy the ride and have fun! Enjoy your horse. Horse shows are not just about ribbons – they’re about building a partnership with your horse or horses, learning new skills, improving your rides, and enjoying the experience.
Erin Luth is the co-founder and owner of The Equestrian Confidential, an online space and lifestyle brand dedicated to the amateur hunter/jumper rider. You can read more posts on The Equestrian Confidential by clicking here: http://bit.ly/2snMVb6