Thursday, December 18, 2014

Downtime 1: 5 Lessons from Grand Prix Jumpers

Let's pretend I took some
Due to moving to a dressage barn and trying to actually DO some of that dressage, Courage and I haven't jumped since like... October. Instead, I've been watching Grand Prix jump offs in my spare time to get a feel for what's going on at the top and make lists of goals for the winter. If you're interested, here are some of my favourite videos:

British Showjumping - British Masters 2014
The commentators are bloody hilarious. Must watch.

British Showjumping - Bolsworth 3*
I hate to be so blatantly anglo-centric, but the USEF network commentators just sit there and count strides. The Brits make it a full-on TV broadcast with interviews and behind the scenes and course breakdowns and interesting (!!!) commentary.

Global Champions Tour - London
Because watching champions is awesome.

There is so much to learn from watching horses and riders at this level. I mean, I have zero interest in ever jumping that high (HOLY HELL JUST SAY NO), but it's showing the exact same flaws and strengths you'll see at any level only with all the boring-ness and terrifying-ness of smaller jumpers taken out. Also I'm not worried any of the pairs will die on camera (eventing, I'm looking at you).

exhibiting a variety of flaws
So based on that, here are some goals I've set for Courage to works TOWARDS this winter. Obviously, we won't nail them all and they're all things to work on for a lifetime:

  • Seamless transitions from counter bend to correct bend in all three gaits
    • Particularly, I want Courage to be very soft and flexible. True bend is all well and good for dressage, but straight/counterbent is the way of life in the jumpers. It gives the horse maximum power and engagement. That straightness comes from evenness, which comes from strength and flexibility.

I need grand prix pics in my life
  • Instant transitions within the trot and canter
    • Adjustability and responsiveness are paramount. How do I think I'm going to be able to get my horse to land and move up to a distance (or hold for a close spot) in the jumper ring if he can't do it on the flat? Again, it's not harder--it just requires me to be very disciplined.
  • Get comfortable going forward on the flat and over fences
    • Here's the thing: the good riders DON'T pull back. I mean, here and there is a pulley rein or something, but in generally, the best rounds come from a smooth horse going forward. Not pulling. Not fighting. If the horse picks up speed and doesn't change his balance, the rider just needs to be able to think in that rhythm and still NOT PULL. Some horses go faster. That's ok.

not exactly enormous
  • Ride forward through disobediences
    • Again, pulling on the horse or slowing down or getting upset all just distract the horse and screw up a nice round. As one of the commentators pointed out, correcting an overreacting horse just makes things worse. Ignore the silly buck or goofy one off spook and just continue the job at hand.
  • And finally:
    • Experience matters. You just get better with age in this sport.
    • Confidence matters. Absolutely 100% for horse and rider.
    • Conformation doesn't. Such a diverse crowd out there. 
I do love tack and turnout posts
Because I am SUCH a nerd, I'm excited to do some more write ups about tack and turnout and lessons and maybe even how I am incorporating these concepts into our daily (and very basic) rides.

In the mean time, I'm really glad to have found some purpose to going around and around in the indoor. It's not just dressage practice--it's instilling the same basics that Laura Kraut put on Cedric (and omg Courage is the same size as Cedric!). I'm finally able to see how this is all going to apply next year and it's making me excited.


  1. It's true that pulling is never the answer. It's always my favorite answer, but it's never the RIGHT answer.

  2. You and Courage are on a great path! You are piecing together one super horse - one transition at a time :)

  3. I have the same GO FORWARD goal for next year. I struggle with that so much.

  4. great goals!! no pulling is definitely on my list too... such a difficult habit to kick!!

  5. George Morris always makes a point of talking about how little Anne Kursinski actually jumps her horses, and how much emphasis she puts on rideability on the flat.

    So, hey, if it works for Anne...!!!

  6. forward & adjustability - yep, always working on that.

  7. Dressagze is the basis for all the things ;) That, and don't pull lol!

  8. SO GUILTY OF THE PULLING! And watching the 'great's is always so educational! Great post :)

  9. "If the horse picks up speed and doesn't change his balance, the rider just needs to be able to think in that rhythm and still NOT PULL."

    There's one more facet to that - a good rider knows how to give a subtle and invisible half halt to rebalance that critter instead of just accepting the unbalanced zoom! It looks like they're never pulling because they're never pulling, but they are giving 95837294845729304 half halts throughout their entire rounds!

  10. These are great points...just want to add that counter bend and straightness are super useful and important in dressage training too! Working turn on the forehand and haunches is a great way to start. I work on a lot of these things since my coach is an UL showjump coach. I just love the way they can get the most out of their horses.

  11. Nope, no pulling. You want to balance. Balance through the turns or corners and ride up to the jump.

  12. Yep! Tori is totally right! Counter bend is a huge tool in dressage, but usually you don't start to see it until 1st level work. It's used to straighten the horse, just like you would in jumpers. In fact, you have to understand counter bend to be able to do super bendy things like haunches in and shoulder in, because you have to be able to understand how the shoulder moves and supports in bend each way and how to adjust the shoulder to get the right balance. Counter bend is all about controlling the shoulder.

  13. Yikes those videos are long but I'm definitely going to watch them as soon as my internet cooperates. :) I love all of your pictures! I wish I could get such cool pictures of me riding.


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