Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Natural Obstacles

Today's post is about some of the more common natural obstacles that you might find in the jumper ring. It is just a sampling of the natural obstacles that you are most likely to see in North American rings and is in no way comprehensive.

Natural obstacles, with the exception of the liverpool and the water jump, tend to be used more in derby or speed classes. The course designer can still use them in other classes, though, so it's a good idea to become acquainted with them.

Sometimes natural obstacles can be placed between hedges or other natural settings. These can serve to make the jump slightly more spooky for some horses because they darken the area around the jump.

We'll start with the liverpool:

The liverpool consists of a jump placed over either a permanent in-ground or moveable above-ground water tray. The entire width of the jump mustn't be more than 2 m wide, including the water portion. The water tray for most liverpools is rectangular, in various sizes, but round versions are also available.

The water may be placed directly underneath the jump, or in front of/behind it. If it is placed in front or behind, there mustn't be a gap between the end of the tray and the vertical plane of the front of the jump. A liverpool cannot stick out more than 1 m in front of an oxer. Changing the placement of the liverpool serves basically to alter the ground line of the jump.

Moving on from the liverpool, we have the open water:
The water jump is wider than the liverpool, being more than 2 m wide. It also must be dug into the ground. The traditional water jump, as shown above, has a small obstacle at the front of the jump (between 40 and 50 cm high), which does not count towards penalties. With an open water jump, the horse must pass to the inside of all the flags in order not to have a disobedience, and the horse must not land in the water or touch the (usually) white lath at the back of the jump with any foot or shoe. The open water is not typically seen in lower-level jumper classes in North America.

There is another version of the water jump that is more inviting and requires no extra judge on the ground, and it is therefore seen more often at levels where water jumps are introduced:
This type has a vertical set over the water, no further back than 2 m from the front of the obstacle. The lath can still be used as a visual aid, but the obstacle is judged as a vertical and therefore faults are only added for a disobedience or for knocking down the rail. The difference between a vertical over water and a liverpool is that the water jump is wider, can only be a vertical, and still incorporates the take-off element of the open water.

A jump that is slightly similar to the liverpool is the dry ditch:
The dry ditch is essentially a shallow wood-lined ditch filled with stones. This creates a visual element but almost no actual depth. The jump over top can be a vertical or an oxer.

A completely different type of obstacle is the table top bank:
This obstacle can take a variety of shapes but is almost always rectangular with a flat top and revetted sides. One or more of the sides may occasionally be sloped rather than upright, or it may be set against the side of the ring so that only two or three sides can be jumped.

The course designer can use flags to indicate where the horse should jump on and/or off the table top, or there may be jumps set against one or more of the sides. If there are no jumps used, only disobediences can incur faults at the table top. If only one jump or set of flags is used, the rider can decide which side to approach or leave the obstacle from to save time, depending on how it is set up.

The bank is a related obstacle:
Unlike the table top, the bank requires the horse to climb up and down the taller, sloped sides. It can take a variety of shapes and sizes, and it can be used in a variety of ways. If no jumps are used, the course designer can place one or two sets of flags on the bank to indicate where the horse must go. As long as the horse passes between the flags (white on the left, red on the right) without any disobediences, no penalties are given. If only one set of flags is used, the horse can turn as tightly around the inside flag as is desired before heading back down the bank.

The bank may also be used with a jump on top:
In such a case, flags on the ground aren't usually required because the jump itself requires the horse to travel all the way up the bank. This obstacle is judged like any other, with faults for a knock down and for any disobediences along the way. The jump is usually a bit smaller than others on course to compensate for any loss of impulsion from the bank or limited space to set up for the jump.

The bank can also be used to make a jump at ground level more difficult:
In this example, the horse must travel up the bank and pass between the flags before coming back down the bank and jumping the vertical, with only a few strides in between. This tests the rider's ability to focus and balance the horse, and may offer a variety of routes to choose from, from the difficult and direct route to the safer but longer one. Jumps can also be built heading toward the bank, but in such a case the bank would serve more as a distraction or attempt to back the horse off.

To learn about another natural obstacle, the grob or devil's dyke, see Natural Obstacles: The Grob.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Turnout Critique Reminder

Remember that if you would like some feedback on your show ring turnout before the show season starts, you can e-mail your photo(s) to to be featured in our Turnout Critique series!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jumper Jumps

The jumper ring has a greater variety of jumps than does the hunter ring, designed to test the horse and rider rather than show them off. In this post we'll cover the main obstacles that you'll find in the jumper ring (aside from the natural ones). Most of the variation that you'll see beyond what I'm showing is simply in height and width, although you will occasionally see some fan-type jumps created by using only one standard on one side of an oxer or triple bar.

We'll start with the simplest jumper jump, the vertical:

Unlike in the hunter ring, jumper verticals tend to be truly in one vertical plane. There is occasionally filler placed under the jump, but it doesn't usually extend far enough in front of the jump to change the shape. The vertical requires the horse to rock back and jump a round arc rather than a longer, flatter shape.

Next up is the oxer. There are several types of oxer that you'll see in the jumper ring, and we'll start with the ramped oxer:

Similar to the hunter ramped oxer, this jump doesn't test the front end as much since the ramped shape gives the horse extra time to tuck up the front end. This shape tends to produce a longer, flatter jump. You'll often see this type of oxer at the beginning of the course because it's inviting and encourages a good flow.

And now the square oxer:

This type of oxer tests both the horse's front end and the ability to cover width by having the front rail and the back rail at the same height (or "square"). This will produce a more rounded jump out of the horse than a ramped oxer would.

Thirdly, we have the Swedish oxer:

This type of oxer has the front rails and back rail(s) slanted in opposite directions. The result is a ramped oxer on one side (in this case, the left) and an off-set descending oxer on the other (in this case, the right). This type of jump requires precise riding to avoid the horse jumping the off-set side, which could result in knocking the high front rail down or landing into the unseen back rail. It can be jumped either in the very center (in which case one side would still be mildly off-set, risking a front rail) or slightly to the ramped side. In the diagram on the right, the ends of the top rails furthest from the viewer are in grey, while the ends closest are in blue. The lines show the difference in shape from the front rail to the back rail on each side.

Finally, we have the triple bar:

This jump consists of three sets of standards creating a wide obstacle with three top rails in an ascending shape. While the width of these jumps can be imposing, the shape of the jump actually makes the width easy if it is accurately ridden. Because the first rail is so low, the horse can take off very close to it and reach the top of the jumping arc by the final rail. This is not a jump at which to take a long spot!

Next time we'll look at some of the potential natural obstacles that you might encounter in the jumper ring.