Guest Post by Country & Stable
The big day is just around the corner. You’ve trained for weeks, months, even years, and now you’re ready to compete in your first hunter/jumper show. It’s an incredibly exciting time, and hopefully the first of many! However, it can also be a very nerve wracking experience. Country & Stable knows just how overwhelming your first hunter/jumper competition can be, so we’re sharing 10 of our top tips to help the day go smoothly and be as enjoyable as possible…
Test out new gear beforehand
When competing, you have enough to concentrate on – you don’t need the added worries of uncomfortable clothes or equipment that doesn’t fit you or your horse properly. That’s why it’s essential to test out any new equipment well in advance of the show.
Ensure everything fits correctly and enables you to maintain full control over your horse. If your horse doesn’t take kindly to a new saddle pad, for instance, then they’re not going to perform to their potential. By checking new gear early, it gives you time to replace anything you’re not happy with. If in doubt, don’t use untested equipment unless absolutely necessary.
Control what you can, don’t worry about what you can’t
There are plenty of things you can control about your first show – your equipment, your routine (if you have one), all the boring admin when you get there, so make sure you’ve planned as much as you can. Take some spare gear with you in case something breaks, and allow for any potential changes in the weather. The more you plan, the more prepared you’ll be if something doesn’t go quite right.
On the other hand, don’t worry about things you can’t control. Don’t worry about who the judges are, what the other riders might think, what happens if you fall – it’s natural to have concerns like these, but try not worry about things you have no real control over, as it’ll only affect your performance.
Give yourself plenty of time
One thing you can control (most of the time) is what time you arrive at the show. Give yourself plenty of time to get there, and then ensure you have enough time to speak to the relevant people and get in the right mindset for the show.
If possible, have a good walk around the venue, work out where the restrooms are, where the judges will sit – all things that will help you manage the day that little bit better. The last thing you want is to be running late and getting stressed before your ride.
Attend a similar show
To really get a feel for what a show will be like, attend a similar one yourself. Even if you’re just in the crowd, you’ll get an idea of what the atmosphere will be like, how the riders and judges behave, and generally what you can expect on the day. If you can shadow a rider or help out a friend with their show then even better, as you’ll get further insight into what goes on behind the scenes.
Take someone with you
Your first show can be very overwhelming, but don’t think you have to do it all on your own. In fact, you shouldn’t! If you know someone who has competed, then they’re a perfect person to take with you as they can talk you through what’s going on and provide any help you need. However, even if you just take a friend or family member with you, it’s better than doing it by yourself.
Take advantage of schooling
Before some shows, you can take part in what’s called schooling. This is basically an informal practice session prior to the start of the show in which riders can ride in the show ring and jump the fences, but without the pressures of the competition itself. Hunter/jumper shows also sometimes offer schooling classes (sometimes called clear round or clear blue in jumpers and schooling or warm-up in hunters). These are essentially another way for you and your horse to get used to the layout of the fences, and prepare for your judged or timed jumping rounds later in the day. If this is your first show, then see if you can take part in schooling before the show, and a warm-up or clear round class — you may even get a rosette if you do go clear!
Remember the basics
The day of the show is not the time to try anything new. You’ve done the training, so stick with what you know and remember the basics – most of the time this will be more than enough to get you around. Many riders forget how to ride under pressure, but as long as you do the easy things well, it’ll put you in a much better position for the trickier parts.
Set realistic goals
Confidence is a huge part of jumping, and it’s important you display that confidence to your horse and the judges, but you also need to set realistic goals. If this is your first show, then don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t go completely to plan. Your goals could be to come in the top three, but they could also be as simple as just going clear or having the experience of competing.
Learn something from the show
The most important goal you should set yourself is to learn from the experience of competing. Even if you come last and hit every fence, as long as you learn something for next time, then there are positives you can take away from it – and hopefully next time you will improve your performance.
Above all, make sure you enjoy yourself. If you don’t enjoy it then it’s not worth competing in the first place. Drink in the atmosphere, chat with fellow riders, and make the most of your opportunity. And if you enjoy yourself then it will show in your riding and you’ll perform better too.
We hope these tips help you at your first show – and good luck!
About the Author: Country & Stable of Olney is a thriving online country and equestrian lifestyle business with a quaint country shop in the heart of Olney, Buckinghamshire. Established in 2012 Country & Stable offer fabulous clothing and accessories for you and your horse and let’s not forget your canine friend!