Walking a show jumping course is not to be sneezed at. You have to:
- be focused
- have a plan
- understand the questions the course is asking.
It is not always about jumping clear, although the jumps have to be left standing. Sometimes the question is the turn, the inside turn, the long run to a vertical or sharp turn to the oxer. Analyzing the course is part of the course walk.
Step 1. Know the Course
If necessary copy the course from the ingate so you do not get lost. Believe me, people get lost. This is another reason why walking the course is so important, you plan your ride and ride your plan.
Step 2. Start at the Start.
Right from the ingate. Or even how you will get from the warm up ring to the ingate. By beginning right fro the ingate you can plan your best approach for your first obstacle, therefore setting up the whole round.
Know where the start/finish line is. AND, and this is important, where you can circle so not to start the timers, or conversely how to approach so you will start the timers. I have seen time and again, young or novice riders come in the jumper ring, circle in front of the first fence, to get a better approach, and break the electronic eye to start the timer. Then they wonder why they get time faults!
Step 3. Walk as if You Are Riding
This is important. Do not just stroll around, gabbing with friends. This is the time to focus and visualize which route you will take. Inside turns, options and footing should be considered. If there are options, investigate all of them and choose your best path suited to your horse.
Step 4. Determine Distances
Okay, you know if your horse has a 12 ft stride, 13 ft stride or a 10 foot stride. So determine if there are related distances. Then walk the line to get your distances and stride lengths.
Step 5. Know Your Horse and Know The Course
As you are walking imagine the course as if you were riding. Sit up here, leg on, outside rein. Coach yourself through any issues you may have. If you anticipate a challenge at any fence visualize and feel the horse jumping over each and every fence.
Walking the course is a vital part of your show ring preparation. Before you step into the competition arena, give yourself a fighting chance by walking the course properly.