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.

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