I’ve always believed that rosettes are won at home. You just collect them in the ring. With that in mind, here are five of my top tips to help you put all your schooling to good effect:
1. Be clear in what you ask your horse
. You walked the course and your horse didn't, so you need to make it clear to him which fence he has to jump. As you enter the ring, the first jump your horse sees may not be the first on the course and he may get drawn to the wrong fence. This is one of the course builder’s favourite challenges. The first fence may be relatively simple, but the second may actually be the one on a dog leg to the right and not the one straight ahead. You must be clear and focus him on the correct fence.
2. Walk the line you are going to ride
. Always, always walk the line you intend to ride and don’t be tempted to nip from one fence to another.
3. Keep a central position on each fence and look forwards to the next fence on the course
. Again the next fence your horse sees may not be the next on the course, so bear this in mind when you plan your approach to each fence. Course builders do this to draw the horse towards the wrong fence — this can unbalance the horse, or cause him to jump off centre and upset the stride pattern — all designed to cost a fence.
4. Work out your strides carefully
. As you walk the distances between fences, allowing for your take off and landing, what happens if you have space left over? If a distance is a bit forward or long, thinking of it as ‘forward’ will help you remember what you have to do — open the stride a bit and maintain the rhythm.
5. Be decisive
. A course builder will often follow a short striding double with a related distance to a parallel — say four and a half strides. You have to decide whether you are going to stay on the short stride and do it in five, or open up the canter to do it in four strides. There is no right or wrong answer. You have to think about the fence you have jumped, the line to the next fence and whether it allows you to lengthen without knocking it down.
This is a favourite test for the last fence — how many rounds are spoilt because the rider gets tempted onto a longer stride and down goes a pole.