5 Top Tips For Riding The Best Showjumping Round

How many of you struggle to bring what you learn at home out with you to shows? Yes, me too!

Sometimes the nerves take over and get the better of you, but don’t be too hard on yourself, I have compiled my Top 5 tips for riding that perfect round, well hopefully!!

Like I do on show days prior to getting up on Dante, I take my few minutes to compose myself & try get my shit together, Keep scrolling to find out my 5 Top Tips That help me along my way!…


1. Walking & Learning Your Course

Course Walking has nearly become one of the most important things for me to do prior to jumping, this is something I have only recently learned. I used to have the mentality of Fuck It i’ll just go in and jump, and see what happens, what the worst that can happen? Well, this is not the case anymore. There have been many courses I have come across where the arena has been tight and without walking the lines, you really are setting yourself up for trouble when you go to ride them. 

Walking the course creates a plan in your head, a plan that is personalised to suit you & your horse. When walking the course you should always pay attention to the distances between combinations, off your corners, & the type of approaches you are going to take to certain fences. Always keep in the back of your mind the type of canter that is needed, this is the glue to keeping everything together at the end of the day!

You will soon learn that the course of fences in the arena have a certain flow to them, you’re going to be travelling around the arena & unless the course designer is the devil, you will find that most courses have an even flow about them. A top tip for learning your course, look at your oxers! They can only be jumped in one direction so these key fences will be the backbones to the layout of your course! 

A lot of venues are posting the course layout the day before on their social media channels prior to their event, to these venues, I commend you! It is so helpful and takes that bit of pressure of the rider trying to learn the course on the day.

I personally find it very helpful to learn the course from watching other riders jump it, but ultimately walking the course will give you that extra bonus. I also find that referring to the jump as the “butterfly jump” or “the rustic” is easier for me to memorize rather than learning fences 1-12. If you are jumping more than one round of jumps in different jumping classes, memorize one course at a time. Trying to learn more than one course will only mess with your head & more than likely end up with you jumping the wrong fences! 

2. Fillers

It is very rare these days that you get a course with no fillers, crazy coloured poles or big fancy wings. My best piece of advice, make sure in training that you take the opportunity to show your horse as much as possible to ensure that when you get to competition and go in the ring they are not taken aback by what is in front of them. 

You can always improvise with different types of fillers at home such as cones!

When introducing something spooky such as a filler, speed is most definately not the answer. It may get you over it the first time but it will sit in your horses head that he jumped more from fear rather than with confidence. Get as much schooling as you can in at home, when it comes to adding in fillers, water trays etc. Try bringing your horse out for schooling days if these facilities are not available at home. This will help grow your horses confidence, and yours. There are a lot of riders out there that have a fear of jumping courses because of the fillers, remember your horse can feel your fear too!

3. The Warm up

 A correct warm up should be done with every horse no matter if you are jumping or doing flatwork session. When I mention a correct warm up, I am referencing a warm up at a show.
Extending my warm up over 20 minutes before I went in to jump was something that I honestly threw shade at when people suggested it. My god, I am such an asshole towards how stubborn I was. Of course, there are times when a long warm up just can’t be done under certain circumstances, but I now try my best to get at least a good 30-40 minute warm up done prior to going in to the ring. 

A lot of work is focused on getting an active & engaged canter, pushing & then holding back between paces, using my seat to control his speed. I find this gets rid of a lot of spice, in turn helps your horse to relax when it comes time to go in to jump.

When it comes to jumping in the warm up, I always start over a small vertical, I don’t bother with cross poles at a show, they won’t be in the ring so why jump it in the warm up? That’s my opinion, a few may be split! There are times when I will have to jump Dante more than usual, this is more so that he stops charging & starts listening to me. 

Always jump an oxer in the warm up! 100% of the time, they seem to always be the opening fence in your course.  Remember, If your horse is jumping well in the warm up, finish and get into the ring as soon as you can. Over jumping will only leave your horse flat & tired when they go in to perform in the ring.   

4. Having The Right Canter

I recently only learned how important the “right canter” really is when it comes to showjumping. It is a key element in maintaining no only a balanced well established round, but also in keeping your horses rhythm in tip top shape.

You should pay serious attention to this in the warm up, getting an active engaged forward going canter is what you are looking for. If you find your horse is not willing, start doing some transitions, so that your horses is responsive to your leg aids. I posted about my troubles with Dante knocking fences during his rounds, & almost everyone had noticed that his canter, it was flat, had no power to it so in turn he was knocking poles all over the place.

A great way to imagine how your canter should feel like, imagine sitting & bouncing on a yoga ball, that is the feeling you are looking to achieve in the canter when you are aiming towards your first fence. Let me tell you something, that comment has stuck in my head & has only helped me move forward in getting my Canter to where it should be so Thank you Eve O’Shaughnessy!

There is also no harm is wearing spurs if needs be, a bigger horse means you have to do a lot more to get them moving & engaged, especially if you have short legs like myself, it can be hard, so a back up aid is always an option.

5. In The Ring

This is a fear I struggle with big time. Once I enter the ring, I begin to focus & think more of who is watching me, where is the first fence, or is this over yet? I often find that I forget to breath half way around the course, or I often find myself starting before I hear the bell ring. If you suffer from the same issues dont panic. Every equestrian is in the same boat, in some shape or form! 

The good news is that all these fears can all be overcome. The easiest one being the bell, when you enter the ring, take your time, trot a lap or canter a lap, show your horse the Spooky corner if you need too. The timer does not start until you canter past the laser which is normally 3/4 strides out from the first fence.

Breath! Whilst riding a course of 12 – 14 fences it can be tiring, It is scientifically proven that breathing can often be very helpful from time to time… LOL! Take Deep breaths before you start, relax your mind, this will also keep your body more relaxed. If you forget to breath or forget to exhale out your breaths your body becomes rigid & stiff, this will give your horse a not so relaxing feel. So remember, always Breath!

Keep yourself focused. Instead of looking at the crowds, I always, always look to the next fence. This is not only what I should be doing but it keeps my mind focused, it also makes me work towards what I should be doing. This will also keep your mind off anyone or any big crowds gathered by the ring. Let’s be realistic here, they are all probably just crowded around chatting amongst themselves not paying attention to you, so you don’t pay attention to them! 


So there you have it, 5 of my Top Tips for riding the perfect Showjumping round. The hardest part is always approaching the first fence once you get over fence number one you are closer to the finishing line than you think! So enjoy yourself, take time to acknowledge that getting to the show is an achievement in itself!

It will all flow & fall into place and before you realise you will become that ring master perfectionist! Having someone with you is always a massive bonus, that extra bot of confidence, between myself & Orla it is great to have one another at shows, the tips & advice we give each other is always top notch!

Do you have any pre show tips? Or any tips to help get you around a course of fences smoothly & efficiently? Let me know in the comments below!

Until Next Time,

Darielle

Small Fixes with Big Results – 8 Tips To Improve My Jumping

This post has been brewing for some time now! Over the last few months I wanted to pull together a post about where I currently stand with Dante’s jumping. The most annoying part about this post comes down to the fact that the things I have learned on my jumping journey come down to me the rider & my bad habits…

On a positive note, I have began to see a huge difference. From the way Dante collects himself, approaches fences & even lands afterwards, to how I as a rider ride him & position myself over fences I think we have really started to show progress.

Keep reading to find out what I have been doing to get to where I am know..

Flatwork

Without basic flatwork you have no foundations to work from. Jumping is not just about jumping a fence. Balance, rhythm, straightness, it all springs from your horses ability in his flatwork. I spend a lot of time at home working on transitions in walk, trot& canter. This not only gets Dante listening to me, but also help to engage his hind end.

The ability to lengthen & shorten your horses canter stride as well as pushing them forwards & holding them back is very important. This can all be practiced during your flatwork sessions, using the long side of your arena to lengthen & the short side to shorten up your horse. I am focusing on doing this using my body movements in the saddle.

Polework

When practicing for a jumping session, it does not necessarily mean you must jump. Sometimes doing pole-work, or jumping smaller fences can be more beneficial.

I find scattering poles around the arena, letting Dante approach them randomly helps him learn and appreciate me more as a directional giver. Basically he needs to wait & rely on me for where he is going rather that rushing off or tanking off across the arena doing his own thing.

Not only that but it will improve your eye for a stride & help establish your canter as you move over the poles. You will start to see yourself holding & pushing for the longer or shorter stride without even realising!

Jumping Position Over A Fence

This is something that needed some minor adjustments. From my 3 years of Dante, I have had a number of different instructors with nearly all of them having a different opinion on how I should ride his jump. To be fair they have all been extremely helpful, from everything I have learned there is nearly a bit of everyone’s advice in my jumping position, if that makes sense!

Firstly lets mention that no drastic hand throwing is needed. Something that needs practice to get rid of, I think we all fall victim to this at some stage of our riding. A common issue amongst a lot of equestrians, the “Throwing your hands half way up your neck” was certainly not one that worked for me. When it comes to jumping your horse you don’t necessarily need to throw your body or entire self at your horse whilst going over a fence. Your jumping position should be a natural movement, moving with the horses body giving them enough freedom to clear the fence comfortably.

Keep My Toes Pointed In

A terrible terrible trait of mine. Another habit to add to the list. I have a tendency to ride from the heel, in turn I point my toes out. Not only does it look horrific but it stems to a list of other problems such as constant leg on from my heel, which could be a reason behind Dante being dead to my leg at times. Riding with such pressure in my heels has effected my overall position, It has resulted in me gripping with my knees rather than with my lower leg & calf.

Fixing the problem is currently ongoing! Constant shouting to tell me turn my toes in really works when it comes to fixing this one. That and no stirrup work. Something I am neglecting… When I do start thought, this will help strengthen my calf & lower leg muscles & help with my overall position in the saddle.

“Your heals and lower leg are your seat belt. If they aren’t on there is not much keeping you in the saddle”- this quote I read recently really did make me feel better about my heel issue though, I cant be that bad!

Quiet Hands

Once you achieve the “Quiet hands” phase you will begin to see a lot of improvements in your riding. Don’t get me wrong, it is probably one of the most aggravating, tedious things to try & perfect, but time & patience is key. And trust between you & your horse!

Focus on riding with your hands out in front, in line with your hips. I tend to ride with quite open reins, the width of my hips also. I find this opens Dante in his movement. You are focusing on getting your horse to ride into your hands from your seat & your leg. Technically your hands are just there to establish a light contact to the horses mouth. Pulling the mouth off your horse is what you are aiming NOT to do.

You need to work your horse up into your hands, basically your legs do all the work here & after your first few days of focusing on this your legs will be dead!! But trust me.. it is worth it when you see the results you get.

Body Position

My Body has a mind of its own… if that makes any sense! Landing after a fence for a while became extremely troublesome, I put this fear of turning right into my head, and it did not look pretty.

Body position plays a massive role in how Dante lands correctly, I have the worst habit of leaning over his shoulder & looking down at the floor. I do this for a good 3-4 strides after a fence in the direction that he lands. Looking back on videos it is so horrific to watch. No wonder we were having such difficulties!!

My focus is to keep my body centered in the saddle!! Sitting up tall & keeping those shoulders back.

The Canter – Rhythm & Balance

You have nothing without a forward going canter . Dante’s canter work is coming along well but it still need loads of improvements. My main focus is getting his engine turned on, once I have that moving & activated,maintaining a forward canter is key, he is a divil for breaking into trot from his canter.

Once the ignition is turned on it makes jumping & maintaining a steady forward going pace much easier. Loads of focus on getting Dante moving from the leg is key. Maintaining an even rhythm whilst keeping Dante balanced in his canter is another thing that is improving, but still needs work. Lengthening & shortening his stride is so important, all whilst keeping a maintained rhythm & balanced canter, my work is really cut out for me over the next few weeks as I focus more on these points.

I try to get these reactions from using my seat & legs! Interfering to much with his mouth only results in him getting pissed off at me. I tend to hold on to his mouth as he moves forward in the canter, the fear of him bolting off always comes back to me! This is a fear I need to let go off, he isn’t that crazy 4 year old anymore.

Don’t Look At Your Fence

Look up, look up, look up!! Why do we just not listen to this? How many of us out there put the absolute fear into ourselves looking at fences we are about the jump, looking at the ground pole, or the scary filler as we approach instead of looking up and giving your horse direction as to where they are to go to next, well I am Guilty!!

Look up and & over your fence, basically looking to where you want your horse to go. I didn’t realise how much I looked at the jump until I started to focus and pay attention to certain aspects of my riding. Once you start looking up & not at the fence, the difference you will see, not only in your riding but in your approach to fences!

No wonder we knock so many !!


I have been focusing a lot on improving my position & my over all approach to jumping with Dante. The above of some of the main point I have been focusing on. And they have shown an overall massive improvement in our work together.

I will also like to mention that everyone should also invest in a neck strap for their horse! Everyone needs a Jesus Strap!! Expecting the unexpected with horses is something you should always anticipate, I still get reared & spun around at times.. you can never be too careful, & well sometimes when your grabbing the mane it tends to get pulled out….

I hope you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments below if any of my tips will help you in your riding & be sure to keep an eye out for my next post, I will be running through my 5 top tips for riding the best Showjumping Round!

Until Next Time,

Darielle