One Step Forward Two Steps Back – Part 1

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When I hung up my Cross Country Vest

and switched from eventing to show jumping (at least for now) I truly did underestimate how difficult show jumping is.

Between the show jumping phase in eventing,

an occasional low level jumper show, or a schooling show that offered jumper rounds,

I don’t think I really understood what I was getting into.

I had evented for many years on many MANY horses. And of course because of that I had done literally hundreds of jumper rounds.

I guess I thought I knew something about it.

But the joke was on me!

It’s hard to describe the difference between the sports, but I’ll give it a try.

Loosely, eventing is a “get shit done” kind of sport.

There can be a lot of kicking, and flapping, and gunning, and hoping and praying.

Scrambling through a scrappy go at a complicated drop into water to a turning water to water obstacle to a crazy brushed skinny on the out is something people cheer at and brag about.

The show jumping phase tends to be what I would currently describe as “relatively kind.” The courses are flowing, and the questions not usually “tricks” like we have on cross country.

And every single oxer isn’t built so square you can’t see the back rail behind it. (Seriously, can you see that back rail?) Typically they are ramped, at least a little, and not the absolute maximum on every jump.

And then……..

There’s show jumping.

I think the first thing most eventers would probably notice is the “width” of the oxers. They aren’t JUST max height, and perfectly square (and I mean ALL of them), they are also as wide as Texas.

I’ve run quite a few intermediates.

That’s 1.20 meters height in show jumping. The cross country obstacles can be 1.15m with 8 inches of brush making them 4’5″ or 1.35 meters.

And let’s be real, no one builds jumps your horse wants to “brush through” anymore. That brush is pretty solid and you typically need to clear that too. So with several Intermediates and more than a few 3* stars under my belt, I felt like I’d jumped some pretty big jumps.

The first 1.20m course I did at a jumper show, I was so impressed with how big they were that the Fearless Leader threatened to lock the gate behind me so I couldn’t chicken out and leave the ring. It was the biggest thing I had ever seen.

Actually, this is only 1.15 meters…….and look how crazy square that oxer is.

And of course besides the height and width, the courses are more technical. Tighter turns, far more roll backs, and they love “tricks” where a jump points straight at a water fountain, or the score board. They use planks and different colored rails to get the horses (or maybe it’s the riders) to look down. There could be a wall, or a skinny, or some crazy T shaped jump without wings that half the horses in the class actually bolt away from. (That happened in Kentucky the last time I was there.)

You can see one of those T jumps in this article.–with-javan-dalman

And then there is the entire “speed” component we don’t have in eventing. If you jump around clear and make it to the jump off. You might have a twisty turny crazy jump off course with a dead gallop down to the last fence.

All that is to say show jumping at jumper shows is a very different sport than show jumping in eventing.

And of course, the jumps get considerably BIGGER. I suppose they don’t hesitate at all to build jumps the height of a sky scraper when they fall down.

And when a hundredth of a second can win or lose a big competition riders (or maybe it’s mostly coaches) get kind of insane about tiny little details.

You know, like not getting to the biggest jump on the course on a total half stride. I mean they are soooooo picky…….

I’ve been show jumping for a few years now. And exclusively for the last couple.

And little by little, the jumps have been getting bigger

and bigger

and bigger.

Things have been going pretty well.

This season I’ve been competing in Wellington where the jumps are as big and the courses as technical as they are going to be anywhere in this region.

After several months of big, tough courses

we road tripped to Mississippi where the jumps are on grass, the courses a little more “forgiving” with the plan to maybe, possibly, perhaps, do my first Grand Prix.

There’s a Welcome Stakes on Friday, and if you enter it, your entry to the Grand Prix is free, so it seemed like an easy choice. Do the Welcome, if we bomb around that like rockstars we might just do our first Prix.

We arrived in fine form, and jumped the 1.20m on Wednesday in the same grass field the Welcome Stakes would be in to see how the Zebrasaurus felt about it.

The Fearless Leader, who regularly pulls his hair out at my riding, said it was the first time I didn’t take several years off his life in the ring, the best round I’ve ever ridden. Smooth, good choices, the same canter and rhythm. He actually made a point to say he doesn’t give out compliments and it was really good riding.

I felt like a total champion. It really was a great round, and honestly it was the first time I’ve seen a legit smile (and not the fake-it-til-you-make-it smile I put on for dressage judges) in a show photo in AGES.

We were ready.

He felt great.

The Welcome was in the same ring.

And I thought, “we’ve got this.”

To Be Continued…………………..

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