Sitting on a half-ton animal as it clears 2 metre jumps, water obstacles and fences isn't for the faint of heart...
Equine sports are unique in that it requires two living athletes to perform - the horse and the rider and show jumping requires a lot of strength and muscle from both athletes.
As riders stay up and out of the saddle during most of their course, their thigh muscles and legs do a lot of the work.
Horses need the strength on their haunches and back to be able to push hard enough to clear the jumps, that can be anywhere from three feet to over six feet high!
1. Learn the Course
Jumping is not a “point and shoot” sport. Riders do not simply aim for the jump and then let the horse go! Before the show begins, riders are usually allowed to go “walk” the course, which helps with memorization and they can count the strides needed in between.
Counting the strides can help the rider clear the jumps with less issues, such as crashing into them, which can lead to serious injury.
An easy way to count the horse strides in between is to measure out twelve feet on the ground. An average horse stride is about 12 feet. Count how many strides you can fit in the twelve feet.
Then, as you walk the course, use your stride count to measure how many horse strides fit between the jumps. Math is unfortunately required…
Memorizing a course doesn’t sound too difficult, but when you enter that arena and are trying to remember how many strides are in between each jump with the crowd cheering and loudspeaker blaring, it’s not that easy! While the number of jumps on each course varies, you can expect at least 8 jumps, and many courses have 13 or more.