As the American winter circuits begin, there are several opportunities to watch many of the greatest talents in the world compete, whether it is in person or via live stream. I think something that is far underestimated in this sport is the power of watching. While watching a Grand Prix is exciting and inspiring for many of us, it can also be used as a fantastic learning tool.
Beginning with the course walk, continuing to the warm up ring, then into the show ring and the jump off. To watch these incredibly talented and skilled riders perform their craft is one of the best ways to see how the many things our trainers tell us to work on can be executed perfectly at the highest level. Analyze, take note, recreate.
When watching the course walk, watch how the riders walk their strides. Watch how they plan their turns and feel out the ring. When watching the warm up ring, take notes. Watch how each rider flats their horses to prepare them, how they begin their jump warm up and how they progress to the desired height. Moving into the show ring, watch how precisely they execute the plan that they prepared in the course walk and if they vary from that plan, analyze why they needed to make that adjustment. Watch their positions and how they use their aids. In the jump off, watch where they shave seconds off, where they gallop and where they set the horse back.
As a viewer, you don’t know every move and decision that the rider makes on course but the more you study, the more you can learn to apply the skills you’ve seen to your own riding as the basics can be applied properly at every level. As a young show jumper, I read, listen and watch almost anything I can in order to expand my knowledge base and improve my own riding. I have found that watching professionals ride has proven extremely valuable as I can view what I’ve read and what I’ve been taught in what these riders perform.
Knowledge is power in this sport. Watch and learn!