By Castle Leslie’s Jenny Richardson BHSAI
We spend lots of time helping our riding clients hone their showjumping. But as an instructor, I often hear that people find it hard to recall the set course! Fortunately, the more you compete, the more natural it will become to remember your course of showjumps. It is common to be anxious at the beginning, or on returning after a break. Most courses are built on natural lines to be flowing and inviting; the course builder does not aim for you to have worries about direction, but to encourage a rhythmical, correct round of jumping.
Walking the course
At any affiliated competition a course plan will be displayed at the collecting ring, and it is common sense to study this prior to walking the course, so that you already have prior knowledge of what is to come. It will also have useful information such as the time allowed and the jump off course, if applicable. It is important to know exactly how many fences there are and not to miss the last jump! Do check where the finish line is, it has been known for riders to miss riding through it and therefore get eliminated. When walking the course, devote your full attention to the business in hand, either on your own, or with a knowledgeable friend or trainer. Too many people walk the course as a social stroll with friends. You need to walk your distances, lines and corners exactly as you intend to ride them. If it makes it easier, break the course down into sections, a beginning, a middle and an end part.
Letting it sink in
Where possible, try to go towards the end of the class, giving yourself time to watch some of the early riders. You will be able to see how the lines and distances are riding, and if there are any particular problems. Again, watch on your own or with a trusted mentor, but not as part of a social gathering. Another good tip is to visualise your round, ideally in exactly the way you wish to ride it, fence by fence, thinking positively and imagining a perfect clear round.
After warming up, allow yourself enough time to watch the competitor before you. You can both catch your breath and have a last minute recap.
Remember to wait for the bell and that you have 45 seconds from the time it sounds until you pass through the start timer; which is normally plenty of time!
Your brain is a muscle, and with enough practise will soon become used to the mindset needed for the job in hand. Once you are confidant at remembering the first round, when you look at the course plan, if there is a jump off or second round, train yourself to also learn this, and when you are walking the course, walk this second round too. This will give you invaluable knowledge on different lines, distances and potential time saving turns. If you don’t do a first round clear, nothing has been lost, whereas if you do qualify for the jump off, think how much more insight you have gained!