How to get the best out of your Show jumping warm up
Last week we focused on beginning your day with a stress-free Dressage warm up. This week let's imagine that you’ve made it through the Dressage, staying within the white boards at all times and are therefore allowed to continue to the next phase: the dreaded showjumping.
Why is Showjumping an Eventers worst nightmare? We may never truly know the real reasons but what we do know that it scares the bejesus out of most of us. So take a deep breath, don’t panic and relax. Here’s my top tips to not only survive the SJ warm up, but to thrive.
1. When you go to collect your number find out if they are running in number order or if competitors are declaring and plan your warm up accordingly. Number order is always easier as you are more likely to go on your time but bear in mind multiple riders may be slotting in before you. If it’s declaration, make sure you get your name on the board and you keep up with how many are in front of you.
2. There is often limited space in the warm up so use the outside track if you are not jumping and remember to pass left hand to left hand. Transitions and gear changes on the outside track can help get your horse paying attention.
3. Keep your wits about you at all times: do not ride directly behind a jump and try your best not to cut anyone up. This will inevitably happen to you at one stage and you will inevitably do it to someone else at some point but try and minimise the risk by keeping your head up and being aware of other competitors.
4. Take a helper to adjust jumps and pick up poles for you. If you are on your own then fall into line with someone who’s got a helper and kindly ask if you can jump the jumps before their helper adjusts them again. Please and thank you go a long way with those who risk their lives by being on the ground in the warm up!
5. Don’t feel pressured to jump too big. You will on occasion come across competitors who like to whack the jumps above your designated coloured tape but don’t feel like you have to do the same. The warm up is for installing confidence in horse and rider, not testing scope so keep them at the height they are in the arena and get a few confident jumps under your belt before entering the arena.
6. Don’t over jump which is different to the above as it means don’t jump time and time again – remember you’ve still got a XC course to go after the SJ. I usually jump a couple of cross poles, a couple uprights and a couple of spreads. If he’s jumping well then I leave it there. Of course, every horse is different, and what works for me might not work for you but just don’t exhaust them at this stage.
7. If the poles fall, don’t stress. This is what the warm up is for.
8. Remember “Red flag on the right”. It amazes me how many competitors I see jumping the warm up fences the wrong way and narrowly avoiding collisions.
9. Be at the gate waiting to go as the horse before you is jumping the second half of the course. This really helps the day run smoothly and will give you time to get in and have a good canter around before the bell rings.
A well planned warm up will help reduce stress levels which in turn will transfer to your horse, making you both more relaxed about the situation. Remember we pay a lot of money to do this for fun, and fun it should be!
Happy Show Jumping,
Photography by Dave Cameron Photography