Follow this advice to NEVER go off course at a horse show again


Follow this advice and NEVER go off course at a horse show again

There is nothing more disappointing than going off course at a horse show. It doesn’t matter whether it is in dressage, cross-country or show jumping, going off course sucks and can cost you a top placing. Don’t let yourself down by forgetting your course. Drastically lower your chances of ever going off course again by following these straightforward tips for all three phases…


1) Practice your dressage test at home until it is second nature to you. Dressage is the one phase where you know the pattern you’ll be riding well ahead of the show. Take advantage of this by learning your test weeks ahead of the event and practicing your test on a regular basis. Not only will this cement it into your mind but it will also improve your performance by helping you master every movement.

2) Ride your complete dressage test in the warm-up. There should be sufficient space in the warm-up ring to ride your entire test before you have to go into the ring. This will ensure that it is fresh in your mind and can help you iron out any kinks before you have to perform in the ring. Just remember to keep your eyes up, so you don’t run into any other riders.

3) Go over your test out loud right before you head over to the show ring. The stress of competition can cause you to lose your focus and increase your chances of going randomly off course even though you’ve mastered your test. Simply say your test out loud right before you have to start going around the ring. This will help calm your show jitters and maintain your composure and memory.



1) Download the CrossCountry App and USE it on your course walks. This cell phone app is a gift from the horse gods. It allows you to record your entire cross-country course as you walk it, complete with minute markers, photos of each jump, voice recordings (if you want to remember what your coach tells you on your walk) and notes on striding. Walking your course with this app is simple and will allow you to review your course as much as you want. I love to go over my entire course right before I mount up before my cross-country time. Click here to learn more about the CrossCountry App.

2) Walk your cross-country course as many times as you can manage. Even though the CrossCountry App is incredible, nothing can replace actually walking your course. Manage your time at an event to squeeze in as many walks as you can. You’re better safe than sorry, and it is also great exercise.

3) Make sure you walk all the options and understand them totally. Even if you have zero intentions of taking a particular option, still walk it. Anything can happen on cross-country so you should plan for this. There is nothing sillier than picking up a 20 or an elimination because you didn’t know your options.

4) Visualize riding your course while they are counting you down at the start box. You typically have a two-minute countdown at the start box. Utilize this time by visualizing riding your entire cross-country course, so it is fresh in your mind when you gallop out of the box. This will also help calm your nerves and create a clear plan in your mind for how you are going to tackle the course.



Show Jumping

1) Show up on time to walk your course. There is usually a time slot scheduled for course walking the show jumping course, make a note of it to ensure you plan your day so you can be there in time to walk the course. If you need to be warming up before the course walk begins for whatever reason, enlist someone to hold your horse and quickly hop off to walk it. It is difficult to get a feel for how the course will ride by just watching and looking at it. You need to walk your course if you want to deliver your best possible round.

2) Watch a few rounds and pay attention to the track and how it’s riding. Sometimes, the course won’t ride how it walked for whatever reason. A line may have walked in a five-stride, but 90% of the horses are doing it in a six-stride. There is plenty of valuable information that you can learn by watching other rounds, and it will better your chances of remembering the course.

3) Ride the course pattern in the warm-up ring. This can be tricky in a packed warm up arena but riding your show jumping track minus the jumps in warm-up is an excellent way to learn it. Even if you only walk or trot the pattern, it is still valuable. Just make sure you visualize jumping your actual course, don’t just ride around in the pattern aimlessly to say you did it.

4) Eye up the entire course as you enter the ring. It is not a race to get into the ring and over the first jump. Take your time to quickly look over your entire course, jump by jump, before you start running down to your first fence. This will allow you time to gather yourself, settle your horse and commit your course to memory.

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