Friday, Feb. 23, 2024

Turning Out The Best Jumper Riders

When I was a child and had aspirations of riding jumpers, I thought doing well in the sport was all about going fast. I intently watched my idols, such as Rodney Jenkins, Leslie Howard and Anne Kursinski, gallop and jump their way to blue ribbons and Olympic medals and hoped some day I could do the same.
   

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When I was a child and had aspirations of riding jumpers, I thought doing well in the sport was all about going fast. I intently watched my idols, such as Rodney Jenkins, Leslie Howard and Anne Kursinski, gallop and jump their way to blue ribbons and Olympic medals and hoped some day I could do the same.
   
When I began my own jumper career, however, I discovered there was a lot more to riding jumpers than just moving the rails higher in the cups and hitting the gas pedal. Doing well in jump-offs and in speed classes required balancing pace with efficiency: the fastest time was often achieved by saving ground and executing inside turns. Pure foot speed often carried you well past the optimal line.
   
I had a favorite mount who taught me this most valuable lesson. Her name was In Flight, and the first time I showed her she nearly turned me right off her back in our first jump-off together (much to the entertainment of my trainers). Even though she was a Thoroughbred and was blessed with natural speed, it was her cat-like agility and talent in shaving turns that won us top ribbons (if I kept my feet in the stirrups!).
    
As I brought my own jumpers up the ranks a few years later, I remembered the feeling In Flight gave me and sought to recreate it. A strong base of flatwork is a key ingredient, of course, and in this annual Show Jumping Issue I’m thrilled that Olympic veteran Anne Kursinski took the time out of her busy schedule on the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival circuit to show us one of her favorite exercises for improving a horse’s turning ability. Her article “Tighten Your Turns With Anne Kursinski” (p. 12) highlights the shoulder-in and shows us how mastering this movement can lead to an improved performance over fences.
   
I’m also thankful that our Between Rounds columnist Linda Allen spent time thinking about her career in the jumper world and the many and varied responsibilities of a course designer in her article “The Course Decides The Winner In Show Jumping.” (p. 38).
   
Over the years I’ve come to realize that jumper course designers as a group are probably the most nervous individuals on the show grounds. These are the people whose work is on public display, whose talents determine the outcome of the class, and who strive to set courses that safely challenge and educate the horses and riders without undue harm.
   
In her column, Linda notes the differences between jumper and hunter course designers, and she bemoans the fact that this year the U.S. Equestrian Federation approved a rule change that mandates A-and AA-rated hunter competitions require licensed course designers while the same cannot be said in the jumper world. Only those presiding over classes with more than $5,000 in prize money are required to have a formal education and a USEF license.
   
Perhaps it’s time for show jumping’s leaders to turn their thoughts to this situation and consider mandatory licensing for these valued members of our community. Improving the sport at the lower levels only increases the likelihood that we’ll continue producing future generations of gold medalists who master the basics early on, including that critical and influential inside turn.

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Tricia Booker, Editor

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