Going public – on the day.
The day before the show make a list of stuff you will take – many a rider has arrived at a show minus their jacket or a girth! It’s really important to have someone with you, a horse holder, practise jump assistant and general supporter…..and great if your instructor can come too.
On the day of the show, give yourself plenty of time – you’ll probably be in the 1st class so get ready for an early start. Load a couple of well filled haynets and a water bucket, tack, horse – and then check your list!
When you arrive get yourself entered, ready and on board. Have walk around the lorry parking, and then go and check out the warm up area, get yourself and your horse used to it while it’s quiet. If your horse is experienced he’ll be familiar with the practise arena and the mayhem that can go on in there. The early small classes will often have less experienced riders and novice horses, this can lead to some very random riding…. Make the best of having some time and space – have a canter round and pop a few crosses, and a small vertical or two. Remember to put a rug your horse when you stop to walk the course – ask your assistant to keep him walking round – you want him to be warm and comfortable.
As you compete more, you will become better at knowing what is needed to prepare yourself and your horse for the competition arena, often less is more. An older horse, a long journey, a cold day… may require more gentle loosening up and stretching flatwork before you use the practise jump. A spooky youngster may be similar, except they can quickly get tired. A lunge before leaving home, and then walking round with an experienced buddy at the show can relax them before you prepare to start jumping.
Ask your assistant to let you know when the course is ready for walking, and also to have a look at the board to see how many riders have put their number down to jump. You probably want to put yourself around 10th to go, so you can watch a couple of rounds and then get ready to jump. Walk the course carefully and alone, or with your trainer – this is not the time for a chat with friends. Pay attention to turns out of corners, and see where you have a bit of space for re-organising if necessary. Have a plan where you will set off in your ‘competition canter’ – well before you go through the start, so you’re in a positive forward rhythm. Make absolutely sure you know where you are going. Watch the first couple of competitors go, and mentally note any tricky turns or lines.
If you have already had a good canter, and a few small jumps, your horse is not far off being ready to jump in the ring. You will be nervous, but that’s OK, feel confident in your preparation and knowing that you have done everything you can. Have a plan with your trainer or practise jump assistant about the jumps you need outside. Generally, a couple of verticals, a couple of narrow oxers and then a bigger vertical, similar to the height in the competition, should be enough for your horse, especially if you have 2 classes to jump in. If you have enough room, try and find your ‘competition canter’ for your practise jumping. Your target is a confident and forward thinking horse under you. Leave all the advanced practise jump ‘tuning’ to the professionals – that’s another world!
So, you’re next to jump. Try not to stand by the door too long, it’s better for you and your horse to be moving and thinking forward. Good manners usually means the rider exiting the arena will wait for you to enter before leaving, but don’t take that for granted! Deep breath, touch your horse on the neck and reassure him, and in you go.