The saying goes prior preparation prevents poor performance and this is certainly the case when it comes to competing horses.

Here we give you some friendly advice on how to make the most of your showjumping coursewalk experience to help maximize the chances of producing the best round possible.

  1. Look at the course map

Before the course is open for riders to walk there is almost always a course map pinned up by the entrance to the arena for the forthcoming class. Have a look at it to help familiarize yourself with the pattern the course will take. Also take into account where the start and finish are located and work out on which rein you need to approach the first fence.

  1. Keep your horse in mind

Once walking the course bear in mind how your horse goes once in the ring. Is your horse forward going? Easy to turn? Spooky at fillers? A little green when it comes to the advertising banners around the outside of the arena? All of these little things should help you to prepare for what will happen once you’re in the ring.

  1. Study your turns

Don’t cut corners when it comes to walking your turns and approach to fences. A good or bad turn can make or break your chance of success. Whether there are large sweeping bends where you intend to restore balance and rhythm in your canter if it has been lost or a tight line where you plan to save time you need to really study exactly where you are planning to go.

  1. Count strides

Knowing how many strides are in between fences on a related distance, combination or dog-leg will help you to ride your horse accordingly and put them into the perfect place for take-off. An average horse stride is four human strides (approximately four yards) in length and the distance a horse usually lands from a fence is two yards and the same in front of a fence to give a horse enough room to take off.

So for example if there is a two stride combination on the course the distance between the two fences should be 12 human strides (12 yards); eight yards for the two horse strides and a total of four yards for take off and landing. While knowing if the distances are a little short, long or perfect is handy to help you ride your horse accordingly, it is advisable not to get hung up on the number once in the ring and to instead ride with feel and how your horse is going.

  1. Visualise 

Once you’ve walked the course stand in the arena and look back at where you are going and repeat it a couple of times before you exit. If possible watch the first handful of horses go round the course to help you see how the fences and turns are riding. Finally, before you get on your horse go somewhere quiet to visualize the course you are about to ride. Go over it again and again until you are completely happy in confident in your plan.

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