“N°1: red oxer, n°2: blue vertical, n°3 the combination, n°4 … Where is n°4?”
Memorizing an obstacle course, in a limited amount of time, is not an easy task. With the stress from the competition and interactions with the environment, it is sometimes hard to focus on your course walk to remember all the information you need to finish your course without penalties and in the time frame.
To help you, our international french rider Camille Condé-Ferreira shares with you her techniques to have a successful course walk, where you will never forget the twelfth fence ever again.
First piece of advice ➡️ take the time to walk the course twice.
Table des matières
The first course walk: ground & technique
Before your first course walk, Camille’s first tip is to try and guess the course, this will give you an idea of what the course will look like. If you don’t have the time, no worries, it’s just bonus.
1. The ground
The aim of this first overview is to walk the course entirely, from the first fence to the last. The best option is to do it with your coach, who will be able to give you all his advice. Knowing you, your horse and the different difficulties of the course, he will give you key points to complete the course successfully.
- Start and finish lines:
To start, you must identify the start and finish cells. Without this, you could forget to cross the starting line when rushing to the first fence and end up eliminated. For the end of the course, forgetting the finish line could make you lose precious seconds, and miss the top rankings.
- The ground composition:
It is equally important to think about the details of the ground and its composition to have a successfull course. Is it grass? Don’t forget your studs! Deep? It will require more efforts for your horse. Are there any puddles which could spook him? Or does the arena have a slope ? In this case, you would have to be careful to not get carried away going downhill, and not to lose momentum uphill.
💡 T I P S :
The size of your studs depends on the quality of the grass track: its firmness and humidity rate. If the track is soft and not very deep, you can choose square studs. On the other side, if the track is quite firm, it is best to choose dome studs.
- The stride count:
Count your strides with your coach. The stride count will be different depending on your horse’s range of motion and the kind of approach you want on each fence.
Let’s take an example: If your horse’s rhythm rises as you approach a combination, his stride to cover the fence will be longer. Upon landing, his balance will be towards his shoulders, creating an imbalance. You will then have to straighten your horse for him to fit into your stride count.
On the opposite, if you have a slow rhythm when approaching a fence, you will have to ask for your horse to engage more to reach the right stride count and have enough energy for the combination.
This part of the course is difficult to anticipate on as your horse may have other ideas on the day of your competition, and you may have to adapt to his strides in the heat if the moment.
- The turns:
The layout of your turns is an important part of your course walk: tight or wide, it will define your approach to fences and could make you save a few seconds. Don’t be too greedy or you could risk a refusal or knocking a pole to the ground.
It is up to you to judge whether or not the decision you take is the best for this test. If the aim is to be the fastest, it is best to tighten your turns to gain some time, but be careful to not lose your rhythm or momentum.
💡 T I P S :
In combinations, it is important to know the precise number of strides between each fence. This will determine how you should approach the first element.
Two things you can do:
– Measure the number of strides in steps: four steps are equivalent to a horse’s stride
– Measurer the number of strides in metres (or feet): one step is equal to one metre (or three feet)
– 2 strides: between 10 and 11 metres (33 and 36 feet)
– 3 strides: between 14 et 15 metres (46 and 49 feet)
– 4 strides: between 17 et 18 metres (56 and 59 feet)
– 5 strides: between 21 et 22 metres (69 and 72 feet)
Read more in our blog article to know more about the distances to put between ground poles
Second step: the tactics
Now that your course’s layout and technique are set, it is essential to focus on the tactics of your course and figure out the different options you could take. What is the timing like? On which fence could my horse hesitate? Where could I save a few seconds?
The goal of this second course walk is to imagine yourself in the course, check your stride counts, visualize your course and focus.
💬 Camille Condé Ferreira : “I like to do my second course walk alone: for the lines and places where I may have a doubt, it allows me to confirm my choices. It’s very interesting to visualize the course a second time alone, without having any interferences from other riders or coach, to really immerse yourself fully in the course”
The type of test
What is your category? BE80? 90? Hunter or equitation? To secure a victory, it is best to avoid taking any risks in certain categories, and focus on avoiding penalties. On the other hand, some categories will force you to find places where you can save up some seconds, without putting yourself or your horse in difficult situations which would require unecessary efforts for your horse.
Finally, it is necessary to take into account any traps you could fine along your course and which could surprise your horse: fences with vivid colours, imposing fillers which could discourage your horse. Be attentive to isolated fences close to a speaker or a booth, it could distract your horse and induce a different reaction at this place during the course. Before the bell rings, go and show your horse this place. However if you do this, be careful as you only have a limited time once the bell has rung.
If you have enough time, don’t hesitate to watch some of your opponent’s courses. You could confirm or infirm your technical choices and figure out other traps you could have missed before.
After the course
Whether you finish with no penalties or not, finishing a course is always an interesting experience for you and your horse. The best is to do an analysis of your course in the heat of the moment: how you felt, your mistakes and good initiatives. Then do another one later on with your coach and videos in order to see your actions with hindsight.
It is essential to spend time walking your course for your competition to be a success. From a simple fence to a combination, you have to stay present, anticipate and be ready to react at any point during your course.