Jumping a course

Jumping a polished clear round is an art-form! Leading show jumpers on Horse Hero explain how they do it. Irish rider Shane Breen, GB junior Jessica Mendoza and Working Hunter show rider Louise Bell demonstrate their warm-up methods and offer training tips, before jumping a course and commentating on their round. Just for good measure, we've added some videos of jumping rounds we've filmed at big jumping shows such as Express Eventing, Olympia and Windsor accompanied by interviews with riders. These include Olympic gold medallist Laura Kraut, Richard Waygood, Ellen, William and Robert Whitaker and Tina Fletcher, plus top eventers Mark Todd and Caroline Powell. Naturally, as professionals, they all make it look very easy but they have spent a lot of time honing their art! Learn from the experts and pick up some ideas to practise with your horse!

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Show jumper Shane Breen trains an opinionated stallion Show jumper Shane Breen trains an opinionated stallion
This 8 year old stallion has been with Shane less than a year. Shane says he is very difficult in the mouth and rides like a 6 year old. Nonetheless, he is talented and aimed at Grand Prix soon. Starting with poles, then a grid and moving to a course, Shane provides a fascinating insight into how to manage such an opinionated horse. The main problem is he locks his jaw and runs to the fence. Shane offers ideas to improve rideability with this common problem, including exercises and how to influence with his position. Without a gadget in sight, Shane finishes by working on related distances which highlight the problem and also show the improvement!

Shane Breen works on related distances with Cos I Can Shane Breen works on related distances with Cos I Can
Irish show jumper Shane Breen works his impressive homebred and home-produced 6 year old Cos I Can, at his Hickstead yard. Without the use of any gadgets, he explains how he balances and engages the stallion on the flat. Shane progresses to poles which he uses to adjust the number of canter strides; he explains that if he can apply this to jump-offs, he can be quick without going fast. Shane then transfers the exercise to a course where he works on the same distances and various lines. His course is modelled on the last Grand Prix he jumped. Shane's clear explanations and attention to detail give an insight the mind of a top show jumper.

Jessica Mendoza jumps a course with the spooky Starsky! Jessica Mendoza jumps a course with the spooky Starsky!
15 year old junior show jumping star Jessica Mendoza, works the exuberant Starsky (Usar Hune) at home. Starsky is a prolific international winner but Jess says he is a little spooky, though that also means he is careful! In the warm-up, she describes how she "gets the spook out of him" including riding corners without letting him fall in and using just one filler under the practise fence. Jessica works on improving Starsky's jump using more power and pace, until he is ready to jump a course on grass. Jessica narrates the feeling she gets from the talented Starsky and the round itself, and still manages to jump a polished clear!

Jessica Mendoza makes the warm-up work for Saorsie Jessica Mendoza makes the warm-up work for Saorsie
Top British junior show jumper Jessica Mendoza tailor makes the warm-up to get the best out the seven year old mare Saorsie, who starts off a little stiff on the flat and lazy over a fence. Jessica works on rhythm in the trot and varies the pace of the canter, before she starts to jump. Beginning with an upright, she alternates her approach by going deep and standing off. Jumping a short double also creates more energy in the canter and power off the ground. "The aim of the warm-up is to make Saorsie like a rubber ball", says Jessica. The work pays off and the pony looks very different jumping a course, which requires a strong pace!

Jessica Mendoza works on power with the talented Lanique Jessica Mendoza works on power with the talented Lanique
Top British junior show jumper Jessica Mendoza, works the successful international horse Lanique at home. In the warm-up, Jessica says Lanique is lazy, so she needs to "alert and pumping" for him to pick this up. He's an experienced horse with a good jump and he only needs a few practise fences but "he must move forwards with pace, so his jump is powerful", says Jessica. Lanique is ready to jump a course when he gets strong. Braving the rain, Jessica commentates on her round. "Getting a good first jump sets you up for the entire course. Lanique needs a good forwards rhythm without being too strong in the hand", says Jessica.

Jumping for Working Hunters with Louise Bell Jumping for Working Hunters with Louise Bell
Top showing rider Louise Bell demonstrates the art of jumping a flawless Working Hunter round with her rising star, five year old Into The Blue. "Keep the warm-up relaxed" she says. "If your horse is fresh, you must be water on fire". Louise gets Dynamo onto her aids, soft and ready to jump. After a practise fence to establish the rhythm, Louise explains how to tackle specific natural fences in Working Hunter classes such as the bullfinch, water tray and stile. She and Dynamo then jump a full course. "If your presentation is right, you have a better chance of jumping a clear round," says Louise "but above all else remain composed, whatever happens!"

Vittoria Panizzon at Express Eventing Vittoria Panizzon at Express Eventing

Glamorous 25 year old Italian eventer, Vittoria Panizzon, finished 16th at the Hong Kong Olympics with her plucky, pony-like Rock Model (Bug to his friends!). Showing their star quality again at Express Eventing, the pair finished 5th of only six completions. Being on the stressy side, Vittoria took Bug to Hartpury the day before to do three dressage tests (much to his disgust) to wear him out a little! On the day, he performed a lovely test (not fully appreciated by the judges!) and jumped like a cat, though a little over-zealous in the first section, rolling some poles. Read Vittoria's blog and see her video diary on Horse Hero for the full story!


New Zealander, Caroline Powell, at Express Eventing New Zealander, Caroline Powell, at Express Eventing

Caroline Powell has risen to prominence in the last two years. She and her crowd-pleasing 15 year old, Lenamore, finished 4th at Badminton in '08 and 15th at the Olympics. Startled by the music speaker behind him at the entrance to the dressage, their test didn't get off to the best start but finished well. Exuding star quality, Caroline and Lenamore sailed round the jumping, foot perfect, until missing their line at the double of corners. Nonetheless, they finished an impressive 6th, one of the few to complete!


Mark Todd & Gandalf take the Express Eventing challenge! Mark Todd & Gandalf take the Express Eventing challenge!

After an 8 year gap from competitive eventing, the maestro, Mark Todd, made his come-back at the Olympics '08, finishing a credible 18th on Gandalf. Mark, who has won Badminton and Burghley six times combined and individual Olympic gold twice, is revered amongst the equestrian community. Sadly, Express Eventing proved a little much for Gandalf, who is still only 10. Unsettled in the dressage, he show-jumped suberbly but was phased by a few of the cross country questions and eventually came to grief at the troublesome double of corners. Nonetheless, it's fabulous to see Mark in action again. What a horseman!


The talented young Alex Hua Tian & Chico at Express Eventing The talented young Alex Hua Tian & Chico at Express Eventing

At 18, Alex was the youngest eventer to compete at an Olympics and the first ever Chinese rider. He was also the 'local boy' at Hong Kong. Alex, who is based in the UK, took a year out of Eton to focus on the Games, having raised an unprecedented £1.8m in sponsorship! He qualified 4 horses but decided on the elegant grey, FBW Chico. Alex and Chico produced a fabulous dressage test set to Chinese music at Express Eventing, but sadly took a wrong turn in the show jumping and were eliminated from the competition for an error of course! A minor blip though, as the talented Alex is surely destined for the top!


Karin Donckers, Olympic stalwart, at Express Eventing Karin Donckers, Olympic stalwart, at Express Eventing
Belgium's leading eventer, Karin Donckers, has competed at four Olympic Games and was 9th at Hong Kong. In fact, she is rarely out of the top 10, which is remarkable coming from a nation known mostly for dressage! Based with her parents, Karin has a successful breeding programme which has produced many of her top rides. At Express Eventing, she competed her striking chestnut stallion, Charizard, who performed a fabulous dressage test but at only 8 years old, brave as he was, the jumping proved a bit much and they retired during cross country. Certainly a star for the future, perhaps even Karin's ride for 2012!

Mini Major victory at Olympia '08 for Ellen Whitaker & Holly Jones Mini Major victory at Olympia '08 for Ellen Whitaker & Holly Jones
Show-jumping supremo, Ellen Whitaker (winner of this class for the last 2 years) paired up with diminuitive Holly Jones from Cotswold Vale Farmers Hunt pony club and were the class act of the competition, as it turned out! Ellen, riding CS Online and Holly, on Swansea Jack II (so named because he started life on a housing estate in Swansea) produced a breathtakingly fast round with just one fence down between them. We were also lucky enough to get a course walk with Ellen beforehand (accompanied by Wendy Blelock and her husband who had won the Horse Hero Olympia competition). Ellen and Holly talk to Horse Hero's Fiona Price.

Richard Waygood's victory at Olympia '08! Richard Waygood's victory at Olympia '08!
Major Richard Waygood (Dickie to his friends) has been a prominent figure in the eventing world for the last 10 years having completed Badminton and Burghley from '02 to '05. He also organises the Services Jumping Championships at Olympia. Richard talks to us while he works in, we watch the action and then catch up with him afterwards. Having literally just retired after a career of 30 years in the Household Cavalry, Richard goes out on a high, winning the class in style on Her Majesty's fabulous coloured horse, Peter Pan. He is interviewed by Fiona Price.

The 'rise and rise' of William Whitaker at Olympia '08 The 'rise and rise' of William Whitaker at Olympia '08
William has arrived! Since winning gold at the Junior European Champs' in '07 his rise has been meteoric! He won the Puissance at Olympia last year with Leonardo and has since won the British Open Puissance and was 3rd in the Hickstead Derby. Being a member of the Whitaker dynasty clearly helps but, nonetheless, William has huge talent! Fiona Price interviews him before the Puissance. We follow him though the competition in which he is victorious for the second year running! It all turns out to be a bit of a family affair!

Laura Kraut, America's Olympic gold medallist! Laura Kraut, America's Olympic gold medallist!
Olympic team gold medallist, Laura Kraut, is one of the few Americans to be based in Europe for most of the year, so she's also a regular at the big shows in Britain. Her top horse, the lovely grey Cedric, with his big heart and equally big jump has won the affection of the show-jumping public. Laura talks to Fiona Price about the Olympics and her training style, and we see her in action in the Xmas Stakes with Miss Independent. Later in the week, right on form, she won the Grand Prix!

Tim Gredley at Olympia '08 Tim Gredley at Olympia '08
Tim Gredley started life in the show ring and progressed to jumping. Making his mark winning team gold and individual silver at the 2004 European Junior Champs', Tim, 22, is currently ranked 17th in the country (in 2008) and has ridden on 12 Nations Cup Teams in the last 4 years. Tim competes abroad a lot, to ride against the best and just before Olympia, he won the Grand Prix in Geneva on top horse, Omelli. Fiona Price interviews Tim and we follow him through his competition in the Christmas Pudding Stakes.

Puissance magic at Windsor '09 Puissance magic at Windsor '09
What a great competition the Puissance is, always a spectacle and full of excitement but often difficult to predict. Horse Hero's Fiona Price met up with Tina Fletcher, William Whitaker, Ben Maher and Daniel Neilson during the competition at Windsor '09 and also followed the action. We find out about life as a working mum for Tina who has taken over from the legendary Graham as the family's leading show jumper, what Daniel puts his junior and young rider medal successes down to, how Ben coped with his roller-coaster Olympic year and William's spectacular rise to glory. Who was victorious? You'll have to watch the video to find out!

Robert Whitaker, Finbar & mum Clare at Windsor '09 Robert Whitaker, Finbar & mum Clare at Windsor '09
There was never a time that Robert didn't consider joining the 'family business'. Now, he is also joining the great men themselves, his father and uncle, John and Michael, at the top of British show jumping! Fiona Price meets Robert at Windsor Horse Show '09 with his Puissance star, Finbar, who is a very sweet character and almost certainly enjoyed the interview more than Robert! Does Robert get nervous when the pressure is on? What's his winning formula? Is there any family rivalry? Fiona finds out the answers. We then interview Robert's manager and mother Clare who keeps the show on the road and tells how the Whitaker dynasty started.

Ernest Dillon gets to know the 8 year old jumping mare, Cassie Ernest Dillon gets to know the 8 year old jumping mare, Cassie
8 year old Cassie, is not as well educated in the basic aids as she should be for her level of jumping. Ernest says "Cassie has a limited grasp of flexing and bending and has been held together in the past". Draw reins help her to stretch and work over the back in the warm-up without too much resistance. Ernest talks about the good and bad uses of this training aid, which is removed before jumping a small course. As the fences get bigger, Cassie becomes a lot more exuberant, so Ernest uses his seat and leg to keep her together and "create power without hysteria". He says she is brave and careful but needs a more gymnastic technique over a fence.

Building horse & rider confidence for jumping bigger fences Building horse & rider confidence for jumping bigger fences
4* eventer Clea Phillipps uses a series of exercises to build Superstar's confidence, as he moves up a level from jumping 1.10m to 1.20m courses. 'Rising canter' helps the sensitive 5 year old to relax and stay soft. Starting with an upright, show jumper Vere Phillips uses an extra pole to back the horse off and explains where the rider should be looking. "Jumping is all about rhythm. Tackling the fence is the easy part", says Vere. Clea shows the correct position over a larger fence. Vere uses a double to build width, then Clea tackles a single spread fence which gradually becomes a large parallel. Essential tips for show jumpers and event riders!

How to ride related distances with Clea and Vere Phillipps How to ride related distances with Clea and Vere Phillipps
Husband and wife team Vere and Clea Phillipps (both 4* eventers and show jumpers) demonstrate the art of riding tricky related distances of four strides or more. Working a pair of 6 year old eventers (16 and 18 hands), they start with 4 strides over training and competition distances. Clea keeps the power low to the shorter distance and increases it to the longer one. When riding a dog-leg, however, Clea adjusts the stride to suit her horse, while Vere has a game-plan and trusts the distance will work. A two stride double is more difficult than a one stride combination. Clea says "the quality of the canter and calm, consistent training are the keys".

GB Olympian Daisy Dick puts Basil through his paces before an event GB Olympian Daisy Dick puts Basil through his paces before an event
GB Olympic eventer Daisy Dick tests Basil's jumping in preparation for an event. In the warm-up, she ensures the Advanced 10 year old is on the aids, supple and in jumping mode. "He has a bouncy, powerful canter which is highly adjustable," says Daisy but 'V' poles on the fences help with straightness. Daisy uses all the space in the tight arena with the 'solar-powered' Basil and keeps the revs high around the corners. She says "There is no time to adjust on the corner, so you must prepare before by looking early." As the fences go up, the three and four stride distances ride shorter, requiring more accuracy. Daisy offers an insightful commentary.

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