How to Conduct a Course Walk: Walking Courses at Jumping ShowsMarch 22, 2019
A rider can choose to conduct a course walk himself or ask an instructor or trainer to join them. Either way, jumping shows run much more smoothly when riders are prepared for every fence. Courses open for fifteen minutes or so between every class so riders can spend time in the arena on foot.
There are several things riders need to look for when walking courses at jumping shows:
- Memorizing the course
- Counting strides between jumps
- Identifying tight turns
- Calculating approaches
There is no rush to walk the course at a certain pace, and riders can feel free to walk it multiple times if it will help them gain confidence. This is why it pays to have an instructor along for the ride; trainers are more experienced and can point out things their students miss.
Spend More Time at Combinations
Combinations are the trickiest parts of jumping shows, so most of the rider's time should be spent calculating approaches and counting strides. A two-stride combination, for example, allows two strides between two fences. If a combination occurs right after a turn, riders need to concentrate on maintaining balance and gaining sufficient momentum to make it through the combination.
Make Note of Decorations
Some horses and ponies are more spooky at jumping shows than others, and loud, colorful or unusual decorations can result in spooks and refusals during competition. Riders should make note of these decorations and decide in advance how to handle them.
Show jumping fences with flowers, brush or simulated water tend to be the scariest. Some horses dislike solid fences, such as roll tops, while others are more intimidated by open, airy verticals. It is important for competitors to know the horses before they attempt course walks.
Consider Options Carefully
At some competitions, riders have options in show jumping fences, which means that they can choose between two obstacles. One is usually higher, wider or otherwise more difficult; it might be a skinny or it might create a tighter turn.
It is never a good idea to dismiss options in show jumping out of hand because there are usually advantages to them. For example, taking an option might require a tighter turn, but it might also shave precious seconds from the overall time.
Count Strides for the Individual Horse
Counting strides might seem unnecessary; after all, the course designer counted them, and he or she must be correct. However, it is important to remember that courses are built based on the average horse's stride. If a horse's stride is shorter or longer than average, counting strides matters.
For example, to count strides in a combination, a rider should stand at the center of the first jump with his back to the top rail, facing the next jump in the combination. Then he counts steps up to the next jump and makes calculations depending on his particular horse.
Look at the Course Diagram
At most jumping shows, a course diagram is displayed outside the arena. This shows where each jump is located in relation to all the others, and every obstacle is numbered in the sequential order in which it is taken.
Walking courses is important, but the course diagram serves its purpose. Riders should look at the diagram and find each obstacle in the arena. Course diagrams can also be used after the course walk is over, especially if the rider is far down on the list of competitors.
Walking Unusual Courses
A course walk is important not only in traditional stadium jumping, but also in other competitions. For example, in eventing, the show jumping course is often set up on grass, which presents its own set of obstacles. In this case, riders need to watch out for changes in elevation of the land and any muddy or uneven areas.
Course walks are also essential in cross-country jumping. It is often a good idea to walk the course the day before the competition so riders can take their time and ask plenty of questions.