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Sunday, 3 November 2019

Showjumping Competition Report - 02.11.19

What a fantastic blog post to be writing!! I am beaming from ear to ear and feeling proud, happy, and like all the hard work is now starting to really pay off with things starting to come together! A few weeks ago, I entered a showjumping competition at a local venue, entering the 75cm & 85cm classes. I know, it's pretty unusual to pre-enter local unaffiliated showjumping, but this competition is run slightly differently to normal and is PERFECT for combinations who want to get out & about in a supportive environment.

For anyone who has followed our journey over the last few years, you'll probably be more than familiar with photos & videos from our training, but one thing you'll have spotted is a distinct lack of fillers, planks, and generally spooky fences. We're really struggled to get Louie's confidence over these fences, with many a time capturing on camera Louie's speedy decisions in the final stride to run in the opposite direction.

Anyway, since he came back into work mid-October, things just seemed to have started to click into place. If you read our showjumping training report from our first outing with our local riding club, you'll see that we started off well. And then two weeks later we hired our instructor's arena and jumped around once with fillers half and then with them fully in. It went well as we posted about in the training update last week.

I knew the venue holding the competition had a great variety of planks & fillers, which was exactly the reason I'd entered. Things were going well and I wanted to go somewhere totally different to put all of our training into practice.

It might help if I explained the format to the Jump & Go competition. Basically, you all warm up together in the main arena, warm up over a few of the jumps, before standing aside to let each one in your group jump around first the smaller course, and then secondly the bigger course.

I entered thinking that the warm-up would be over simpler versions of the fences, so expected fillers to maybe be only half under the jumps, before being pushed in for when your round started. That I was comfortable with.

I got there and watched the course as the group before my class jumped around so I'd sort of learned the course before going in. The fillers were half in, great, I expected to warm up over their second height jumps...

We went in as a group when it was our turn. The lady who runs these events is also a very well qualified trainer so she's on hand in the warm-up should you need it. We started off just walking around on a loose rein, before warming up in trot and canter as a group. While we were walking, I started to notice the jumps were being put to the correct height & the planks and fillers were all being pushed in. We can only give it a go, see how it goes, and we'd got a lovely supportive & encouraging hand from the ground if we needed it.

While trotting and cantering round in the warm-up I started to wonder how the jumping was going to go, especially as Louie got particularly excited at the prospect of running around with all his new mates and switched to his keen bean pants. For Louie, warm-up and getting his way of going correct is key.

Then came the warm-up jump. One at a time (brilliant!) we popped over number one. A simple upright. We popped over no problem. Next, which I didn't expect, onto warming up over the green upright with a white plank (fence four). Again, cantered to it and popped over it. Next up was five to six - a four stride distance - with the second part showing a lovely yellow wiggly plank. Again, he popped straight over.

Then I heard the 'let's finish our warm-up over fence seven...' It was the one I had the least idea as to how things would go - a brick way arch set of fillers. It was a short two, but I knew not to worry about the second part and ensure that I stayed positive into the first. I set off and thought to myself 'well, I'm not coming off...' which actually helps me to keep my hands low, use my core to sit up & keep Louie in balance & in rhythm. As we turned the corner to come into the fence, I thought 'look up and leg ON'. As with all of the other warm-up fences, he just popped over.

I was over the moon and also couldn't believe how easy it had been. There was so slowing to have a good look and then ballooning it, or stuttering side to side before a kick and going over. He just popped over.

Once we'd all finished our warm-up fences, we stood in the corners to let each person jump around the course. You start off by jumping the lower height of the two fences that sit next to each other, with fences one and seven being altered after everyone has jumped around.

Here's a video from our first round, which to my amazement was also a clear round!

We all walked around while the two fences that needed to go up (one & seven) were put up, before heading back to the corners for everyone to jump the 85cm round. This round had a few extra pieces in it which would be our very first time EVER together jumping straight up 'cold' - bright blue fillers at number two, bright green ones four strides later at fence three, brush fillers at fence four and flame fillers to finish at fence eight!

Louie had worked hard and he'd done a great job so I did deliberate finishing him for the day - I didn't want for it to all fall apart because one of us was tired after achieving so much already. But, I also knew I wanted to jump around a course of jumps with spooky fillers in that we hadn't practiced over. Remember at the start I said I thought the warm-up would be over everything but with filler half in? That wasn't the case, but it was great, as it was giving us the chance to test jumping everything cold.

I decided to give it a go - he loves to jump so if he was keen, I had started to get the confidence he would go! Off we went and he produced ANOTHER clear!

Both rounds we made it through to a jump-off. My gosh...I don't think I have EVER been in a jump-off! I didn't know the numbers of the jumps, just the pattern of where to go, so in the first round, I had a total sat nav error, plus just knocked the first. Of my group on Saturday, I was the only one to go through to the jump-off. The second jump-off, I knew where to go, but we knocked number one (again!) so we will have finished on a 4-fault score.

The massive benefit to the Jump & Go format is that there is no waiting around. You have your one hour slot, go in with up to 6 others at those heights, and leave when you are done. The downside is that it runs all day/weekend, so there were more competitors in the 75/85cm today. It means that you just have to wait to find out how you did overall.

We had a great day, and this was absolutely NOT about being placed, but instead about education and a training opportunity somewhere new, jumping cold over things we've previously had problems with. It's given us such a confidence boost to get out and about more and having a go at more showjumping alongside our dressage.

For anyone in the local area, I'd highly recommend High Plains as a venue for anyone looking for a non-competitive, supportive and encouraging competition. I've been to dressage there with Louie as a baby, and Julie was super accommodating then, and we jumped around their 55cm & had a go at their 65cm last year, where Louie showed how spooky a plank can really be! Julie was on the ground to help if I needed and there to encourage us, unlike other venues where one or two mistakes at 55cm have left you being asked to leave the arena. She takes limited entries and all the events seem highly popular, so if you see omething, it's wise to get your entry in sooner rather than later! My thanks to Julie for running events and training facilities like this to encourage everyone to have fun!

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