Both Karen and David set up a thoughtful, technical course to challenge the riders on the second day of stadium jumping. Both courses had odd distances, bending lines, and lots of rollbacks.
Karen’s first question to the participants: How does the specific technicality of the course affect your warm up?
The “flavor” of this course was adjustability, so the warm up should reflect that: Lots of going forward, coming back. Karen says when she warms up, she’ll begin with the walk, making sure it’s adjustable, doing lateral work, making sure the horse is on the outside rein, etc. THEN she’ll move on to other gaits.
In Karen’s course, the riders had to come to the first jump in a collected canter so the jump will be soft, get close on take off, then do a quarter pirouette to a long five/short six stride combination. Riders needed to be able to get the turn without losing energy so they could get a good, rhythmical canter for the line.
Her next advice is what I need to tattoo on my brain: “You can’t get self-absorbed in what’ve you just done. You MUST be thinking ahead.”
Why is it SO HARD for me to do that?
After the related distance line, jump four was a little skinny demanding almost a three quarter pirouette about six strides from the third jump. The riders needed to know that they should begin the turn at least by the second stride…then a roll back left to a bending line of three jumps (a fan jump, an imposing vertical with dressage letters underneath, to a triple bar). The striding was a strong three to four stride, and participants were instructed to “attack” the triple bar.
After that line, we were to send our horses strongly around the first jump to a triple combination of one stride to three stride Liverpool with the “water” part BEHIND the jump, not under it. The final line was another triple combination, a three or four stride to a one stride.
She encouraged participants to think about how they would ride the course: where will you enter? Salute? Karen noted that if she had a “spooky” horse, she’d do a shoulder-in past the dressage letter jump and Liverpool, then gallop down the long line, collecting before the turn so she’d have a nice line to the jump.
“Jumping a course is NOT a survival game. You MUST have a plan!”
She suggested to the participants that we see the course as a series of exercises grouped together. USE our corners as “decompression” places to balance the horse and prepare for the next series of exercises.
One of the riders asked about sitting in the corners, and Karen noted that riders often snuggled in as they slowed/balanced. But don’t “sit” to the point where you flatten the horse.
She likened the rider’s position to plane: You can’t keep a plane in the air at 30,000 feet if you’re not going fast enough—so you are in two point while you are “going”, and you come closer to the horse as you collect.
She made sure that the advanced group was very, very detailed. Depending on the ground and what kind of shoes she has one, Karen will check her “stride” step with a 12’ pole. Then she’ll very carefully walk her strides several times.
As one rider went onto the course, she said “you’re nervous about getting it right, but intimidated by all that’s around you!” WOW. That pretty much sums up how I’m feeling! So how do we get over that?!
Karen tried to get riders to pick their horses up (and it might be heavy), then make them “light in the bridle”. I don’t think I’m getting that; I think I’m fighting too much. I need to learn “feel”…which means being elastic (not dropping, but not too much).
To one rider: “He doesn’t care if it’s four feet or two feet—if you drop him, he’s upset and he won’t do it!”
Once the advanced riders analyzed their first course, Karen gave them a second chance to do it again. “Ride smarter!” Karen advised. More rhythmical, too.
To another rider having trouble on the course: “What’s the big deal? Why are you hyperventilating? You’re not having a baby!”
One young woman was having trouble with her very FORWARD horse taking back too much. Karen suggested “when you add an aid, let go of one. That way he won’t be overloaded.” It really helped. “You can’t push and pull at the same time; you do so at the cost of rhythm.”
When riders (including me) chipped at a fence, she said “get the three stride in the corner! Fix the striding before you get there!”
A rider with an “electric position” was told to let her arms follow, but NOT her shoulders.
“GET ORGANIZED!” This pair of words was uttered quite a bit, and it made me wonder: how does personality type affect riding? I wonder if there are any ENFP eventers, and what they do to BE successful given their outward focus, their tendency toward theory, and so forth.
When a rider had a refusal and was tentative toward the next fence, Karen shouted “forget that happened!”
“You’ve got to be cool in your head so you can see where to kick and where to pull!”
I asked Karen how often we should we be schooling this size/level of technicality. She said “you can school technical stuff any time—even over poles. You should school big, but only under supervision.”
“Most riders can jump big, or jump technical—but if you put them together, it gets challenging.”
When a pony when first in the after lunch group, Karen told the rider “you’re dealt with a bad situation: the adults are too lazy to change the distances for you. You need to figure it out.” And the rider/pony did! Karen then asked “what does it tell you that the pony got a four to a five in that line?” One of the riders responded “Pray!”
I was really able to see how the rider’s body affected the horse/the ride by watching all the groups go. I saw picking at the reins (which I tend to do) vs. holding, and the latter almost always resulted in a smoother ride.
In my own session with Karen, I had a rough time—I misunderstood what she was asking for several times (when she yelled “Gallop!” I tried to do it—but she meant in the context of the line for the jump). It was a rough session, but ultimately, we had a good course….after several “false starts”. What I learned is that I can “get by” pretty easily: that is, my horse can save himself when I get him in badly, or in a lesser balance—but I need to step up to the plate and learn balance and rhythm (and how to control both) MUCH more.
More Karen Gems:
Jumping is NOT seeing what you can get away with.
“yes ma’am” doesn’t take me anywhere.
Your horse is saying “why’d *I* get stuck with the dope on the rope?!
Never put your body where you want your horse to go.
As soon as you get a reaction, ease up!
Land faster than you took off.
Try to do what I'm saying! I'm an expert!
Shorten his neck! He looks like he ate a telephone for breakfast! Make him look like he ate a slinky!