How to Start Show Jumping
a blog post by Alexandra Uren
Show jumping: Whether you’re after a new challenge or you dream of a wall filled with bright red rosettes, this is a sport in which there’s no limit when it comes to adrenaline!
Show jumping at the highest level is a demonstration of athleticism, accuracy, power and trust. Lower level show jumping is (of course!) slightly less intimidating, and seriously fun for riders of all abilities!
Here’s what you need to know if you want to start show jumping.
Set Small and Achievable Goals
Setting achievable goals is one of the best ways to stay motivated. If your goal is a small clear round competition at your local riding school, organise a weekly or bi-weekly jumping lesson with a reputable instructor. Groups lessons at the riding school are great as you can learn watching others.
If you have your own horse, achievable goals are just as important. Polework clinics, private lessons and eventually a jumping clinic at another venue are great ways to help you reach your jumping goals – eventually building up to a small competition.
Unaffiliated vs Affiliated
There’s two types of show jumping competitions – unaffiliated and affiliated. If your goal is a small show jumping clear round, a local unaffiliated show is a fantastic option. These are low pressure, cheap to enter and much more relaxed than affiliated shows. They’re a fun day out for everyone involved, and the lowest level will be just a small course of cross poles.
Affiliated shows require both the rider and horse to be a member of British Show jumping. These shows are more competitive, allowing you to win money and the results will go on your horse’s record.
For the beginner show jumper, unaffiliated shows are by far the best option – but low level affiliated show jumping is a great long term goal. Bear in mind that these shows will have more established horses and tougher courses. Affiliated competitions usually start at 85 or 90cm.
Ensure you have the Right Gear
The right gear for show jumping is essential. For your jumping lessons, standard riding leggings are fine, although many prefer grip breeches for extra security! Competitions will require white or beige breeches and a smart competition jacket. Of course, if you want to feel like a real professional then you’ll need a matching saddle pad and ears, spotless tack, and sheepskin everywhere!
Not only are the right clothes important, it’s also essential you have the right safety gear. If you are totally new to show jumping, a back protector or air jacket can make you feel safer. A GP saddle is fine for the lower levels, but as you progress you may find a jumping saddle more comfortable.
Take Regular Lessons
Even when you feel like you’re getting to grips with leaving the ground, you should still take regular lessons. Show jumping is a lot more than just pointing your horse at a single fence, and your instructor will design exercises to help you practice what you might meet in a competition. Dog legs, combinations and one or two stride doubles can make up the majority of show jumping courses – so it’s important you practise these at home first.
It’s easy to let competitiveness and a drive to succeed get in the way of our enjoyment, but show jumping is supposed to be fun! If you find the pressure of competing is getting too much, take a step back. You are far more likely to stick at something if you actually enjoy it – so don’t put yourself under too much pressure or try to do too much to soon.