7 reasons showjumping isn’t as straightforward as some riders think

  • When H&H mused on the reasons showjumping is better than dressage, one was that you either win or you don’t; it’s straightforward. Unfortunately, however, this isn’t always the case…

    1. Taking your own line

    Hands up who’s never forgotten the course. Really? Don’t believe you. Or what about pulling up after a nice jump-off clear, delighted with the time displayed, only to hear someone at the gate ask: “Why hasn’t she jumped the last fence?” Oh.

    2. Being accused of taking your own line

    You’d be disappointed if, having walked the jump-off phase carefully, you made a turn no one else in the class managed, only to find out the judges thought said turn was “virtually impossible” and decided the only explanation was that you hadn’t jumped one of the fences. And then refused to believe otherwise until photographic evidence of you jumping said fence was provided. Yes, this did happen.

    3. Taking your friend’s words too seriously

    It was a special class, and the rider really wanted to win the rug and the sash on offer. The jump-off course involved a turn round an oxer to get to the second fence. “Really hug that spread,” a friend advised.

    She did, so closely that her foot (clearly turned out too much) caught in the wing and demolished the fence. Shocked by the noise, the rider pulled up. “Keep going!” came the shout from the sidelines but by that time, she’d circled, incurring jumping and time faults. And looking like an idiot. Brilliant.

    4. Taking the judges’ words too seriously

    You’d be surprised to hear the bell ring after you’d jumped clear in the first phase of a two-phase course. Pulling up by the judges’ box, you’re told the pole-picker hadn’t picked one pole, the judges hadn’t noticed in time and it was in a dangerous position, so they had to call a halt.

    “What do I do?” called the rider, slightly not with it having been pulled up in full gallop. “Just go through the line,” said the judge, indicating the beam at the start of the jump-off. Sadly, the word “just” was taken literally, and the rider managed to think that meant “and don’t jump the fence after it”. She only discovered the error when she went to see whether she’d been placed. No, eliminated, actually…

    5. Swearing

    Just because Evention TV called that long one the “Oh s***” stride doesn’t make it acceptable to shout similar when you encounter it. Not loud enough for the spectators/children/judges to hear, anyway.

    6. Shouting

    Combine a horse who hadn’t been to a show for some time and an inexperienced member of the arena party and what do you get? Said horse coming round the corner and the rider realising: A) said member of staff is right in the line to the next fence and B) no brakes are available. “Get out of the way!” came the screech. It may not have been polite, or very pleasant for the member of staff, but, on balance, probably better than being trampled.

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    7. Showing the pros how it’s (not) done

    Feel for the rider who was delighted to find herself in the same class as a top international showjumper – and in the warm-up ring at the same time. “Can I just jump that?” she asked as the pro’s grooms were about to put the oxer up. They waited, and they watched, and the pro watched, as the amateur cantered a circle and came into the fence. And completely misjudged it (see point five, above). Poles flew, wings rolled, it was carnage. “You can put it up now,” muttered the amateur, making a hasty exit.

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