Having a plan in place for what you’re going to do with your horse and when will help you feel confident, in control and give yourself the best chance of enjoying a competition day that goes smoothly. This involves factoring in enough time to walk your showjumping course and warming up properly.

There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than arriving with very little time to spare, which means you’re in a rush and have to cut corners, potentially leaving you feeling unprepared. Piggy March reveals how she prepares to jump a clear round at a show.

1. Walk the course

Whether you’re taking part in a pure jumping competition or out eventing, one of the best ways to succeed and jump a clear round is to walk your course well. You need to know the exact line you’re going to ride each fence and walk your distances, especially in the combinations.

“In eventing, the optimum time is getting tighter,” says Piggy. “It’s annoying and frustrating to jump a nice clear round only to hear the commentator announce that you’ve clocked up a few time penalties.”

To avoid this, when you’re walking your course be economical with the lines you’re going to ride, but make sure your approach to each fence is straight.

2. Utilise the collecting ring

As you get into the collecting ring, check with the steward whether the class is running to time and ask them to put your number down on the board. Count how many riders are in before you.

You’ll need a little time to warm your horse up on the flat in trot and canter before you start jumping. Just like your dressage warm up, you’re checking your horse is on your aids and focused. Use transitions and changes of rein to ensure your horse is really listening to you.

“Stay focused in the warm up and ride your horse — try not to freeze and leave him to his own devices,” says Piggy. “Keep working on the quality of your canter and the straightness to your fences and on landing too.

“Focus your mind on your horse’s way of going and trying to make that the best you possibly can, rather than thinking too much about the course you’re going to jump and the inevitable fences that may be playing on your mind.”

3. Don’t start jumping in the warm up too soon

“I usually start jumping my horse when there’s six to go before me,” explains Piggy. “This gives me enough time to jump the fences, plus a little extra in case I have any problems.”

The key thing to remember is don’t jump too big, too quickly, and try to stick to your jumping warm up plan so you remain focused.

Once you’ve jumped all the fences you want, give your horse a bit of a breather for a few minutes. As the competitor before you is in the ring, jump one more fence to make sure your horse is on the ball and listening to you.

4. Ride into the ring with confidence

Trot confidently into the ring and let your horse have a bit of a look around before asking for canter. You should know what rein you’re going to approach the first fence on, so make sure you stick to your plan, and once the bell rings start your approach to the fence.

Ride positively from your leg and maintain a balanced, rhythmical canter. Keep your chin up and look ahead to your next fence.

Use the corners to re-balance your horse — this will help you ride good lines and give him the best chance to jump clear.

Lead image credit: Sally Newcomb/Kelsey Media Ltd

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