The Wizard Of HITS Exposed

The Wizard Of HITS Exposed

Deloise In America has laid down the gauntlet to HITS and Tom Struzzeiri.  For so many years riders, owners, trainers, vendors, staff, grooms, fans, and horses have been victimized by the money machine that has debilitated the horse show industry in America. I am interested to see if Struzzeiri will acknowledge her open letter and if he does so what form the response will take.

“Or the footing is an issue. (Which it is). This letter is about the decades-long feeling there is a lack of empathy for your customers which continues to resonate through our little horse community. I am now totally confused as to where we stand with you. Where do your clients (exhibitors) stand with you? Where do our horses stand with you? Where does horse welfare stand with you? It would be comforting to hear some honest answers for once.” Deloise in America

Will it be more of the drivel that he said when interviewed about the HITS Coachella Million being lowered from 1.60m to 1.50m?  To recap, Struzzeiri said it was to benefit the California horse business. “And the Million should continue to be a class where I reward the clients of mine for all they do to make my business thrive,” said Struzzeiri. In reality, it was to get more horses in the class so that he can make more money. HITS also allowed riders to compete with 2 horses as opposed to 1 mount in previous years.  There were 46 starters this year, up from 30 in 2016. With a $3,500 entry fee, that is a $56,000 increase for HITS. This was not done for the benefit of the professionals in California, or for the sport of Show Jumping. Popular spectator events like the Global Champions Tour limit the feature classes to 25 participants. This provides a better experience for spectators and more importantly for television which is essential for Equestrian to grow and survive on the world stage.

“What’s good for HITS is good for the sport” Tom Struzzeiri

In 1995 HITS Indio hosted a $250,000 Grand Prix during the circuit finale. The class was not advertised locally and Struzzeiri was asked why he did not promote an event that had many riders flying in from the east coast to compete. His response was that more spectators meant he would need to provide more parking, concessions, and restrooms; he did not want more people to watch. I heard this comment myself first hand.

There is ‘Pologate’, which embarrassed the sport at the 2016 Hits Thermal Million. The footing at all HITS shows is notorious for poor quality and the thousands of horses it has injured. I know several people who worked for several years for HITS; Gate people, jump crew, announcers, office staff. They all speak of how poorly Struzzeiri treated them for all their hard work and time. How he only provides 1 vehicle for multiple officials at his shows, how he tells the course designer to build the Grand Prix small so that he will have more entries for the Million dollar class the next week.

I used to regularly take 25+ horses to the entire circuit in Indio. Not once has Struzzeiri asked me how the show was or if there was anything I needed. Everyone who has ever stepped foot in the show office has a horror story to tell about how they were treated. In 2016 I watched 5 riders hit their heads in falls at Thermal. Not one of them was checked for a concussion and 2 of those riders were still experiencing concussion symptoms over a month later. I questioned a minimum wage medic after she checked a rider who had fallen and hit her head if she had done a concussion test on the exhibitor. The look of befuddlement she gave me was comical.

According to a source at HITS, entries were down 45% at Ocala and Coachella this year. Since the USHJA appears unwilling to monitor or regulate the quality of the horse shows it sanctions, maybe the horse community will speak with their pocket books. The time has come to end the wizard’s reign of pilfering the horse community.


Everyone’s A Winner ?

Everyone’s A Winner ?

The short video below is the inspiration for this article.


There are so many great aspects about working with horses. The sport teaches compassion, hard work, dealing with success and failure, and many other character building steps. Perhaps the most important aspect is the connection between horse and rider, an element that is unique to equestrian sports. Riders of all ages learn to deal with adversity and develop invaluable life experience through this relationship with their partner. I would like to see riders, owners, and trainers rewarded for their efforts. In the current system those accomplishments are diminished and trivialized. 

The USHJA has announced changes for next year in the hunter divisions. You can attempt to decipher the changes here;    I will summarize; there are now green horse divisions AND young horse divisions along with the multiple junior and amateur sections. The 3’6 height now has 11 divisions; green horse, green horse conformation, young horse, performance, 4 junior sections and 3 amateur sections! Umm What? We need 11 different divisions for 1 height? This does not include the Low Hunter classes and the Equitation classes set at 3’6. In a social media time of fairness to animals and sensitivity to abuse, horses can (and will) show in more divisions.  Currently, the FEI is eliminating the Final Four at the World Equestrian Games (another poor decision by a governing body of the sport, 2016 is not a good year for show jumping) to prevent horses from being jumped excessively. Meanwhile the  USHJA is creating and allowing horses to compete in even more classes.  As a side note,  for those of you that are thinking that hunters jump much smaller jumps so it’s ok that they show in more classes, consider this; hunters work many more hours and jump up to 20x the number of fences than jumpers at the FEI level, not factoring in the many hours a day they are lunged and ridden).

Parents knows the insane number of ribbons their child comes home with every week from the horse show. Every one who has ever been to a horse show can observe the multitude of ribbons on the show curtains; many barns have over 50 per week. Almost every one of those ribbons ends up in the trash bin. For most people in most classes (there are exceptions of course), a 6th place ribbon is meaningless, and yet horse shows continue to hand them out. The result of this practice is rewarding mediocrity, praising rides and training that are at best average, diminishing the level of professionalism, and bringing down the sport to lower levels every year.

If you feel the above statement is too harsh, consider this; why are the heights of fences at national  horse shows increasingly smaller? The lowest hunter divisions used to be 3’6. Today there are large barns in the United States that compete on both coasts that have riders that never reach that height in their career. By lowering the standards of competition, horse shows have lowered the level of coaching. 

In 2017, it’s going to be even easier to walk home with dozens of ribbons, most of which you or your child will not remember or care about. The only benefit with these changes is to the pockets of the horse show managers as people can now enter even more classes. So who loses? How will this affect the industry?

The trainers: The horse show day, your work day, which was already too long becomes even longer. Also, with even more ribbons to go around, now even more unqualified trainers can start a business and be successful. If you are a trainer, in a business that is already highly diluted and hard to make ends meet, prepare to have even less clients.

Officials, gate crew, jump crew etc.: Your day also got longer. I know you start before sunrise and finish well after dark already. For those that do not know, horse shows pay their employees by the day, not the hour.  The show manager has a longer day, but at least he or she is getting paid more for that time.

The grooms: You already work ridiculous hours, so what difference does a little more time make?

Riders and owners complain about the poor quality of prizes and the lack of purse money that are given out at the horse shows. With so many divisions it is understandable that the prizes are cheap and forgettable, that for 99% of the owners there is no way to win back your show fees even if your horse wins every class it is entered in. 

I have a policy with my writing that if I am critical of something in the equestrian world, that I will also provide a reasonable solution. With my previous suggestions in prior articles, I am optimistic that they may become reality in the future. I do not feel that way about this topic, in this case  change is unlikely, but I can dream, so here goes.

My proposal is that all classes are placed to first, second and third. Being in the top 3, on the podium per se, is an achievement of which to be proud. Prize money is divided; 1st – 50%, 2nd – 30%, 3rd – 20%. This gives considerably more to the top 3 finishers. The point system for championships will be as follows; 1st – 7, 2nd – 4, 3rd – 2. I have gone through the different scenarios and this is the most fair in balancing wins versus consistent performance.  Simplifying the 3’6 divisions; 1 open, 1 young horse, 1 junior, 1 amateur, rather than 11 divisions that the USHJA currently has on the roster . The junior/amateur divisions could be combined with the exception of the largest shows. Being a champion in any of these divisions is now  meaningful and a great accomplishment.  

I would like to see this in all the heights at the tournaments. Running horse shows is a business, so to compensate for fewer classes the show managers can charge higher entry fees. Many classes at the shows do not fill in order to count for year end points in the current system, with the changes I proposed, it will eliminate this problem. Winning a ribbon should mean something to the riders, owners, and trainers. Few people at North American shows even bother to show up for the ribbon presentation. Oh wait, few shows actually even do a ribbon presentation! So riders work all year long, spend tens of thousands of dollars in preparation, and winning is not even recognized? Something seems very wrong with all of this, just like the coach said. 

Jewel – A Legendary Pony Retires

Jewel – A Legendary Pony Retires

For the past decade, show jumping spectators in Western Canada have been watching a once in a lifetime pony in the local jumper rings. Born in 1995, standing 14 1/4hh, the Canadian Connemara pony Jewel (Bally’s Friar Tuck x Sea Me Two) has enjoyed a storied career with unprecedented success. From 2008 to 2016 the gray pony dominated the jumper divisions in Western Canada; from 2 time Canadian Pony Jumper Champion to 1.20m Alberta Champion to being the media darling at Spruce Meadows as the first pony to compete in the International Ring against the horses with a 5th place finish on national television.

The  pony spent most of her time competing against horses. In a 7 year period, Jewel won 43 championships of the 55 shows she attended. In 275 classes, she had an astounding 211 victories. That is a 77% winning percentage! She competed up to the 1.20m level at Spruce Meadows and at other world class facilities such as Thunderbird Show Park and RMSJ.

Jewel 3Karter & JewelJewel raceJewel at Spruce MeadowsHalle jewelHalle & Jewel 

Jewel’s riders were Karter Duke and later with younger sister Halle Duke. I asked them a few questions about their time with the pony.

What is your favorite memory of Jewel?

Karter: “In 2009 my 5-year-old sister did up her noseband way too loose and we went too fast in the jumpoff and flipped. I had to go in the ambulance and then we went to Subway for a meatball sub which I spilled on my white breeches. Upon returning to the show I learned that I still won the class because nobody else qualified for the jump off and I  had to take my championship picture with a meatball sub stain on my pants”.

Halle: “Trail riding, Jewel loves it.” 

What is Jewel’s favorite treat?

Halle: “Strawberry yogurt chewy bars and Welch’s fruit snacks.”

What International Grand Prix horse is Jewel most similar to?

Karter: Hickstead, she never has a rail and she always wins.

What is your biggest victory?

Karter: Placing 5th in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows in the Double Slalom against the horses and making the front page of the Calgary newspapers.

Halle: Jewel only likes leading the victory gallop, she pins her ears and tries to get to the front if she is not the winner.

What made Jewel such a winner? What is different about her than other horses or ponies?

Halle: Jewel loves horse shows and to compete. She loves being applauded. She is very confident and fearless. Jewel likes to take care of you.

Karter: She is ultra-competitive. She is also a great teacher. As I became a better rider, she would not let me make as many mistakes.

Show Jumping Rio 2016 -The Future Of The Sport Arrives, And It Looks Great! Exclusive: An Interview With Olympic Course Designer Guilherme Jorge!

Show Jumping Rio 2016 -The Future Of The Sport Arrives, And It Looks Great!        Exclusive: An Interview With Olympic Course Designer Guilherme Jorge!

The Olympic Individual Show Jumping concluded last week in a thrilling and emotional event in Brazil, and fans worldwide watched as the sport took on a different look. It is fitting that 58-year-old Nick Skelton, one of the greatest riders of all time, capped a spectacular career in golden fashion. The scorecard looked dramatically different than in previous Olympics, and the audience loved it.  How and why did this happen?

Sporting culture has changed in the past 20 years, and Show Jumping needed to keep up or be left behind in the ultra-competitive battle for fans attention. People still love to watch a literal car wreck, but these days they have reality TV to fill that void. People do not want to see horses or riders hurt, they want their excitement through drama and success. That is what we witnessed in Rio, and you can expect to see more of that in the future.

Four riders were disqualified for ‘rough riding’.    As a rider I did not like to see these rulings as I have empathy for the work these riders put in to attend these championships, but as a fan it was the right decision and has my full support. The message is clear, ANY form of what can be construed as excessive force will not be tolerated. This raises the bar on the training of rider and horse to an even higher level, and I am all for that.

The biggest change though was in the scorecard of the class. Team scores were better than normal, but I am focusing on the Individual results. Here is some insight into the mind of a rider; we hate large jumpoffs! It’s very difficult to produce clear rounds at the top level, and when you do you want to be rewarded. SO when there were 6 double clear rounds in Rio, my immediate thought was ‘whoops, it’s too easy. The highly respected (and with good reason, he is my favorite designer as a rider) Guilherme Jorge had missed.’ How can you be double clear in the Olympic final and not medal? AND that was going to happen to 3 riders? Double clear means an automatic medal in modern Show Jumping. What transpired next was the most dramatic jump off in World Championships history and vindicated Mr. Jorge, who as it turned out did his job perfectly and ushered in the future vision of Equestrian. In order for the sport to continue in the Olympics, the TV and social media numbers need to be high. Riders will always watch, it’s about attracting the casual fan to the sport that will determine its success or failure on a world wide scale.

As I just mentioned, 6 horse/rider combinations were double clear in Rio in the Individual Final, with Nick Skelton and Peder Fredricson triple clear. The Swedish rider jumped 3 clear rounds and ended up with silver. This is unprecedented in modern Olympic history. In the past 20 years there have been a total of 3 riders who jumped a double clear at the Olympic final. In Athens, Sydney, and Atlanta nobody was able to accomplish the feat. This historical shift happened for 2 reasons; There is more depth in the sport than ever before. You could legitimately say that 20 riders were very capable of winning Gold in Rio, more than ever before. Having the top 35 riders enter the final round on a clean slate is unique and creates amazing drama. Secondly, Olympic Show Jumping is no longer who can ‘survive’ the massive jumps. It now combines huge jumps with more technique and style. The competition ended up with a very deserving winner, as Nick and Big Star are both superstars in jumping and now have an Individual Gold Medal to go with their Team Gold Medal from London 2012.

The fans were treated to Show Jumping that is perfect for the world today. Drama, brilliance, athleticism, and no disasters. Expect to see more of this in the future, and that is good for the horses, the fans, the sport, and ultimately the riders.

Read my exclusive article with Guilherme Jorge in the Chronicle of The Horse, Olympic Analysis Issue, on September 26!




Drugs In The Hunters – The Solution

Drugs In The Hunters – The Solution

There is a lot of recent discussion about the hunter divisions and the many problems surrounding the sport. This is a topic that has been debated since the 1970’s, when some of the top professionals recognized the problems and wished to preserve the industry they loved. Despite the efforts of many, show hunters have regressed dramatically as a spectator sport from when they were a feature event of the horse show at Madison Square Gardens in NYC.

The topic that everyone is aware of, but not actually willing to make the changes to is drugs. This is not isolated to show jumping, it is prevalent in every sport in the world. People like to win, and some will do anything to succeed. If you want to change the way people cheat the system, you must change the parameters of how they are successful. Here are the 3 ways to fix the massive problem of drugging and quieting hunters: education, penalties for drugging/horse abuse, and reforming the system of judging.

Every day I hear top horse professionals lamenting the fact that there are too many trainers that do not have the education and experience to be in the horse business. This is an obvious fact, but really what kind of trainers do you expect to develop within a system that has no regulation? If there are no educational requirements or restrictions on who can work in the industry as a trainer, you are going to end up with a mixed bag of people with greatly varying degrees of knowledge, talent, business ethics, ability, etc. This is the case in the USA and Canada, but some countries have programs in place that work. Germany is the best example, here is a quote from Equestrian Sports and Breeding in Germany;

 “One of the most significant elements in the equestrian world are instructors and coaches, also called multipliers. As they are responsible for the education of riders and horses, they have a great impact on the present and future of German equestrian sports. Therefore, the education of the instructors and coaches is an absolute priority.” Germany has an educational system that is designed to educate and develop knowledgeable horse people, a huge benefit to the entire industry. “In Germany, the vocational education of riding instructors is divided into two categories: professional and amateur. The professional education consists of an apprenticeship of three years at an officially accredited facility and under a “Pferdewirtschaftsmeister”, a German master coach and rider, as well as the attendance of a vocational school. Candidates need to have good riding skills before commencing the apprenticeship.” Here is the link for more information.

How would this be implemented in North America for the existing professionals? Not as hard as it sounds. Develop criteria for trainers, 100% based on the merit system. The onus will be on accomplishments as a rider AND as a coach/trainer. There will be several people that will be grandfathered in based on tenure. The ones that do not meet the requirements will be given the first opportunity to go through the new program and gain the credentials necessary to attend horse shows. Yes, I do feel strongly that in order to coach at a recognized horse show that all professionals should be qualified. The competitions, who can restrict who competes and who coaches, are the only feasible way to regulate the sport.

I am dismayed at the lack of professionalism I see but am disheartened by the fact that our industry in North America truly shows no concern for quality control. If literally anyone that has been on a trail ride can be a professional and a competitor to an Olympic Gold Medallist, there is an issue with the business.  This why we must not go the route of legalizing acepromazine or any others ‘safe’ meds for the hunters. There already is a lack of incentive to be great at what trainers do, if you legalize drugs there is even less. Though I do agree with many of the points that Ernie Oare brought up, and I believe his intentions are well placed, that course of action will be the death knoll for the ‘sport’ of hunters. I admire that he made a bold statement, and I condone all of those that have been so critical of his article without providing a viable alternative plan. He provided a straightforward solution to many issues and one that could be easily implemented. Unfortunately, it lacks long term vision and further damages a sport that is in serious need of positive media, which leads to industry growth and increased sponsorship. Here is the link to read more of Mr. Oares idea.

In addition to regulating who can be a professional in the sport through the governing federation as referenced by what Germany is doing, there is a need to have programs to educate the young riders and trainers of the future through schools. While there are some  places where this currently exists, many of the programs are woefully inadequate to prepare these kids for a future in the sport. To create a culture change, it must start with the kids in their formative years. Provide school programs that start in middle or high school, and improve the college system to where it is producing kids that understand all aspects of horsemanship. I am involved with a developing program in Vancouver that is an excellent step in the right direction.  With all the specialty programs that are happening in public and private schools today, this is a viable solution to create a better future for the sport.

The second part in stopping the use of drugs in hunters is the penalties imposed. Looking at the literature in the USEF rulebook, it reminds me of when I was doing research for the concussion protocol article. Truly it is so weak and pathetic that it is no wonder many trainers freely cheat the system, there is little downside if you get caught.” The penalty types and ranges below are simple guidelines and are not mandatory. These Guidelines are intended to provide a basis upon which discretion can be exercised consistently in like circumstances but are not binding on the Hearing Committee Panels. Depending on the facts and circumstances of each case, a Hearing Committee Panel may determine that no purpose is served by imposing a penalty within the range provided in these Guidelines. In some cases, a penalty below the stated range, or no penalty at all, may be warranted.” Did somebody actually take the time to type this? Here is the penalty for a first offense for a Category 1 violation. – “Overages of NSAID’s and other quantitatively restricted medications such as Dexamethasone.  First offense – Censure and $750-$1,000 fine.” I have no words to describe how appalled I am by reading this ‘penalty’. Here is the link to read all of the fines and penalties that ‘may’ be imposed depending on the Hearing Committee Panel.   If you want to stop people from illegally using drugs, the penalties need to be enough to discourage them. Let’s look at what baseball currently imposes for drug violations.

  • First positive test result: 80 game suspension [3]
  • Second positive test result: 162 game suspension (the entire season, including the postseason)
  • Third positive test result: lifetime ban from MLB   

Recently tennis star Maria Sharapova was banned for 2 years for using performance enhancing drugs. The ITF actually pushed for a 4-year ban. This for a first time offense. “Tennis has a really strong anti-drug policy in place and it helps the sport really keep clean,” Caroline Wozniaki, former world #1.

The entire Russian Olympic team may be banned from the 2016 Rio Olympics for a wide ranging doping scandal. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said it was “pleased CAS (court of arbitration for sport) has supported its position”, adding that the judgement had “created a level playing field for athletes”. Is that not what people wish for in equestrian sport, a level playing field? 

“While the IAAF’s decision to ban Russian track and field from Rio is a grand statement, it certainly is not surprising in light of Russia’s inability to sufficiently curb cheating,” Rishe said. “Though cheating still occurs in sports that have tried to become clean (e.g., baseball), the economic lesson to be learned is that if you raise the price of cheating (through greater suspensions and other financial penalties), the incidence of cheating will fall.” Patrick Rishe, director sports program Washington University. “The incidence of cheating will fall” are the key words here. This is why I so disagree with the current drug penalties. 

My suggestion is simple and straightforward for equestrian sport. This applies to ALL illegal drugs or performance enhancing substances:

  • First offense: 6-month suspension and $10,000 fine. 
  • Second offense: 1-year suspension and $100,000 fine
  • Third offense: lifetime ban
  • These penalties will apply to the owner, the rider, and the trainer/coach

Some may think this is too strong. My response is no, this is a straightforward issue, DO NOT DRUG YOUR HORSE!! 

My next suggestion will have its detractors, and some reasonable arguments can and will be made against it. The response to all the future comments is twofold; 1) I am looking to legitimize a corrupt sport. 2) We are dealing with animals that are reliant on our care and judgment for their health and well-being. There needs to be a no tolerance policy on medication. That’s right, FEI drug rules must apply, no medication allowed. There are many (literally hundreds) of ways to keep horses healthy and sound for competition. This goes back to educating the professionals. These days, many are reliant on the needle, it is  easier and less work. This is NOT in the best interest of your horse. Pain killers can be used to make your horse more comfortable when on rest or rehabilitation, but are not acceptable so your horse can be used to compete for your own benefit.

In addressing the topic of excessive lunging of the horses, this also must be stopped. It is common that hunters will be lunged for 30 to 60 minutes each day. Obviously, this is hard on their bodies and leads to several injuries. This one is easy to fix. Have a steward at the ring, put a maximum of 15 minutes for lunging. Every ring has a steward, and when they are not there the ring is locked. The same applies if a steward sees a horse being ridden in the warm up ring for an excessive amount of time. Make it mandatory that every rated horse show has 1 steward per warmup ring, horse shows can and should provide this service. Very few riders and trainers self-regulate their sport, this must come from the federation.

My first two suggestions are essential steps in reforming the hunter division to a credible and popular sport, but they will have a limited effect without the third step. Most people are competitive and like to win. To change the culture in the hunter industry, we must change how people are successful. The system of how hunters are judged is the number one priority in this discussion. I am not being critical of the judges, they work very long hours and most of them are excellent at their profession. The criteria by which hunters are judged is the problem. Horses need to not be penalized for instinctive and natural physical reactions, within reason of course. There needs to be a system where there is full disclosure, where hunters are judged with a technical score and an artistic score. I have written an article describing this in detail, here is the link to read my suggestions on this very important topic.

Figure skating faced a major problem in their sport in 2002 after a judging scandal at the Salt Lake Olympics. The ISU addressed the issue by revamping the scoring system. “This new system was created in response to the 2002 Winter Olympics figure skating scandal, in an attempt to make the scoring system more objective and less vulnerable to abuse.” Yes, you could say this statement applies to the judging system in the hunters. If the sport of figure skating can overhaul and revamp their scoring system, then so can judging hunters.

The courses need to change to promote a more natural manner of movement for the horse. This can be done even in the small rectangular rings we see at too many shows.  Additional single jumps and fences on long approaches is a simple and refreshing look. Get rid of the boring and mundane side/diagonal/side formula, throw in a bending line, a jump on the corner, and encourage galloping to the jumps.  This will improve the quality of riders and the interest for viewers.

Three steps. Educate the trainers, penalize the cheaters, and reward the people that do the sport the right way.  I am not advocating hunters be old fashioned, lamenting what has been lost. I am looking to the future, to take the sport to where it is capable of being and creating sustainability and growth in the industry. These reforms are easy to implement, steps two and three could be in place for the 2017 show season. They will improve all aspects of the sport of show hunters; the riders, the horses, spectating, and sponsorship.




3’3 Hunter Division – Why??

3’3 Hunter Division – Why??

I am looking for my readers to answer this question; what is the purpose of the 3’3 hunters? I am not saying it is a waste of time, I am opining this division is harmful and detrimental to the sport of show jumping. Hopefully, some of you out there can answer this question.

Reason #1    Horse shows do not allow cross entries between the childrens and junior divisions, and you cannot enter the 3’3′ and 3’6 juniors. Also, you can not cross enter between the 3’0 pre-green and the 3’3 pre-green or the 1st year green and 3’3 pre-green. This division does not bring more horses or riders to the show, and it does not exist because there are too many 3’0 or 3’6 horses.  So this is not a money grab by the horse shows.

Reason #2   The 3’3 junior hunter division. There are young riders who are not ready to move up from the 3′ childrens division competing, jumping too high for their abilities. Then you have the juniors (and trainers and parents) who want to win more ribbons but are not competitive in the 3’6 division, so they move down. The 3’6 divisions are already very low on entries, are horse shows attempting to marginalize this division even more than they already have?

Reason #3    Developing hunters now have these steps to follow in their career. 2’6 baby green, 3’0 pre-green, 3’3 pre-green, 3’6 1st year green, 3’9 2nd year green, 4’0 regular. Assuming a horse begins its show career at age 4, that means it is now jumping 3’3 as a 6 year old. Jumping only small jumps is detrimental to the horses form at the fence. In the USA, The 6 year old jumper division has specs of 1.20m(4′). Horses today are bred to jump 5′ with ease. Now some hunter people may feel that only applies to jumper horses. I disagree. The top hunter in the world the last 2.5 years is Mindful. At the age of 6 he was successfully competing in the 1.30m division. His beautiful form at the fences and even better canter took years to develop, jumping sizable jumps  in huge grass fields.  I assure you that no one would ever have heard his name if he had followed the current traditional system of developing hunters.

So, no one is making more money from this division, it over faces some of the kids, and it is detrimental to the development of the horses form and technique. I have asked several trainers this question and have yet to receive any answer other than a shrug of the shoulders. In speaking with a top horse show manager, I was told they run the height because there is a consumer demand and it is quite popular. So while this may answer the question I pose, it does nothing positive for the sport and hurts the level of riders and horses in their development. I am hopeful you can enlighten me.


8 Tips For Walking The Course

8 Tips For Walking The Course

Show jumping is 90% mental! I’m sure you have either heard this statement or said it yourself. An important part of a rider’s success in the show ring is the course walk. Being prepared, positive, and focused is essential for every athlete as they enter the competition ring. As a coach and rider I like the term ‘being present’. An integral part of attaining this state of mental preparedness is how you approach the course walk and the time you spend between the walk and your round.

1) Have a clear strategy in mind before the walk. Specifically, are you attempting to win this class, be competitive but not take risks, or is this a schooling round for the horse.

2) Familiarize yourself with the details of the ring and the jumps. It is helpful to walk the exact track you will be riding, this way you will not be seeing it for the first time when on your horse. Pay attention to the corners before and after the jumps. The fences are only a part of the course. For example, if there are 100 canter strides from the start line to the finish, and it is a 10 jump course, then 90% of your ride is flatwork. Be able to visualize every jump in your mind, the design of it, the color, etc.

3) Always check the placement of the  start and finish timers.

4) If time permits, walk the course twice. The first time with your coach, the second by yourself.

5) Make a strategy that is best for your horse. Know that you can change the plan, it is important to have flexibility with your ride.  Unforeseen events can happen on course and you need to be able to adapt. I always tell my riders that you can always make changes , just make sure that if you do, make the right change.

6) If you have multiple horses in the class, walk the course based on the first ride. Focus on the next horse before that ride. Be in the moment, not thinking about the past or the future. Its possible you will make adjustments after having ridden the track.

7) If you are undecided on a count in a line, it is only an issue if you are first in the order. Watch other horses with a similar step to your horse, then finalize your plan. If you are first, believe in your strategy. My favorite position was always as first in the ring. With a great round,  you put pressure on the other riders and can defeat them before they even ride.

8) After walking, mentally visualize  the course. First, go through it step by step looking at what may happen. Example 1; your horse may spook at the corner, making the line tougher to the next fence. Example 2; your horse drifts to the right and that will change the bending line distance. Example 3; your horse could get strong in the last line towards the gate, etc. This prepares you for different circumstances which may occur in the ring. Now go through the course in your mind again. This time visualize everything going perfectly, exactly to plan. The feel of your horse in the air, the shape through the corners, every distance coming up perfectly, etc. For me this the key point. Be prepared, be positive!