9 course walking top tips from Ben Maher

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Jumping a clear round is the final element that slots into place after months of preparation. To make sure you get it right when it counts, follow Olympic showjumper Ben Maher’s winning course walk formula to help you and your horse triumph in the ring.

Setting up for success

1.    Study the course plan and get an idea of the jump off as well. Take a few moments to examine this before you venture into the arena and start walking.

2.    Make sure you get to the competition venue early enough so you can walk the course. Be there at the ringside, so that the moment the course is ready for walking, you can start. This gives you the maximum amount of time to prepare.

3.    When you first walk into the arena, get a feel for where the entry/exit gate is and take a general look at the whole course. Spot where the potential spooky things are – both in and out of the ring – and look where you might want to take your horse when you first come in and are waiting for the bell to ring.

4.    As you walk to the first fence, consider carefully how you’re going to approach it and off which rein.

5.    Walk the line you intend to ride – don’t cut corners. Remember the aim is to ride a straight line to each fence with smooth turns – this will help your horse stay in balance and rhythm. You need to have a clear idea of how you’re going to ride each fence.

6.    Put together a complete and detailed plan – a bit like a dressage test. It’s not just about the physical obstacles, it’s about the lines you’re going to ride too.

7.    As you approach each fence, assess the type of jump it is, but also consider the visual impact too. Is there something in the background that might distract your horse?

8.    Once you’ve walked the course, then the trick is to remember the route! When you get to the last fence, go through the whole course again. Start from the beginning with a very detailed plan.

9.    If your position in the running order means you can watch the first few horses go, do so and try to gain an understanding of how the course is riding.

Read the full article in issue 450, available here.

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