“Those who can, ride. Those who can’t, teach.”  I used to believe this before I got my teaching qualifications and absolved myself of this credo.  I have never been one to give lessons day in and day out as I have too much fun doing other things, stuff that I deemed more important than teaching.  Looking at the state of the sport in Malaysia, I am not surprised I have been called back into service!  I let fly in my blogpost, The Blues this week.  This is a follow-up rant.

If those of you who teach and think you can ride, think carefully before you absolve yourself of my criticism.  When I see coaches walking a related line, a lot of the time I see the coaches trying to work it out for themselves if it was a five or a six.  Throw in a bend and you might as well call it a curve ball.  They don’t seem very good with their distances.

When I run Course Design seminars as I did recently, I am always shocked at how little qualified coaches know about distances used in related lines and combinations.  The average instructor here knows next to nothing.  My first day test, designed to find out just how much they don’t know, attests to that.

So how many instructors are teaching their riders to count strides? If they don’t know distances, what are they walking?  What exactly are they teaching?

Riders, if counting strides between fences isn’t second nature to you, you haven’t even started to understand jumping, much less what the course designer is asking of you.

How do you know if you should do five or six strides in a particular bending line?  What will it matter if you aren’t already trained to count strides?  You are destined to hit or miss if you don’t know what you should be doing as compared to what you are doing.  In other words, you won’t ever realise if you did it well, got lucky or are just a mistake on a horse.

If you have never trained over poles, you will not have learned how to adjust your horse from five to four or six strides over a set distance.   If you cannot adjust your horse’s strides on command, you have no way of dealing with short or long distances for your horse if ever you encounter one.

Why is it necessary?  Well, not every horse travels with the same length of stride.  Does have your horse have a long or short stride, or is it just a perfect 3.60 m stride all the time?  If it does, congratulations, but what will you do when you encounter an imperfect line?

When you get up to 1.30 m and beyond, you are going to get technical lines.  I’ve never jumped a 1.50 m course that didn’t have something a little longer or shorter than usual, somewhere in the course.

Show Jumping is a test.  It is a test of horse and rider together, the partnership.  It isn’t a test of who spent the most money on a horse.  It isn’t a test of which horse has the perfect stride.  It’s a test of the horse and rider partnership, on the flat between fences, and in the five phases of jumping.

Yes, there are five phases that your instructor should be teaching you:

  1. The Approach to the fence
  2. Take-Off
  3. Flight over the fence
  4. Landing
  5. Departure from the fence

Any instructor worth his salt will know them and how to teach the five phases.  That is, any instructor who has undergone a professional training course.

By that, I mean the BHS, EFA or another professional qualification.  These professional qualifications courses take time because there is a lot of learning involved.  Generally it takes two years to get your diploma.

(If your coach has an FEI Level 1, it means he did a four-day seminar, not a two-year career training course.  The FEI Level 1 is a “gimme” and not something I personally recognise as a professional qualification.  Having said that, those with FEI Level 1′s tend to be the better riders, who had achieved something in the arena, such that they were given their level 1′s.)

Back to the basics of jumping:   How many instructors are teaching crest releases?  How many riders are actually using them?  I saw so much haulage that some of you can start your own transport companies!

If you have never heard of a crest release, ask your instructor if he has!  If he can’t show you the difference between a short, long or automatic release, please ask yourself what exactly it is that he has been teaching you.  As the saying goes, ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’

If your instructor isn’t teaching you some form of crest releases, and how to count strides, or worse, can’t count strides himself, tell him to take up another profession.  This one isn’t for him.

About Peter Abisheganaden

Polo Player, Tournament Director and Executive Secretary of the Royal Malaysian Polo Association. FIP Ambassador and FIP Tournament Director of FIP Snow Polo World Cup and Super Nations Cup. World Cup and Asian Games Showjumper. Champion SEA Games Showjumper and Eventer. FEI L3 Show Jumping Course Designer and L1 Course Presenter. Champion amateur jockey. Retailer and wholesaler of saddlery and polo equipment and Managing Director of Zack's Tack.
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