Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Aaaand the other piece of Saturday's fun: jump judging.

I understand the principle of jump judging, and I know the rules, but I had never actually done it before Saturday. It was really terrific fun. Well, as much fun as standing in the pouring rain/swarming mosquitoes for 5 hours can be.

I was paired with a very experienced jump judge, who was an old school, very sarcastic horsewoman who smoked like a chimney and luckily declared she liked me. She was kind of hilarious, in a wonderful way; I didn't even mind the cigarette smoke - it kept the mosquitoes away. She also really, clearly knew her stuff; she made small comments after each rider went through that were always spot-on, several of them things I hadn't seen, and I learned a LOT.

My Training fence was 17a&b, a lovely carved and stained bench, two stride, to a big log that was curved in such a way as to *look* hanging, but actually was stable. They were very straightforward gallopy fences with a relatively clear approach and no spooky elements; perhaps a verrrry slight bending line if you didn't get your approach quite right, but nothing to worry about at all. My big lesson watching those fences was about the balance on approach: I got to see, in minute detail, where exactly each rider chose to half-halt and rebalance and prepare the horse, and to see which ones left it too late and took a bit of a flyer. No stops, no problems at all at our fences.

The Beginner Novice fence was #3; after a bit of a run uphill, riders had to come around a Novice log, and down a shady lane into an open, sunny clearing with a very straightforward log in it. Nothing spooky at all about it, and indeed we had one rider who had stops at fences 1, 2, and 4, but rode ours nicely. So again a very easy one to judge. My lesson for this fence was about rhythm and staying in front of the leg. There was much more variation in the rides to this fence than there had been at Training; BN riders are a much broader variety. Some came in half-halting for all they were worth and choked the horse up; some came in clearly very tentative and dreading the whole thing, and didn't know how or were too afraid to really boot the horse to carry them to the fence. You could tell the move-up riders five strides out; they had an air of confidence and the horse had clearly already settled into the galloping rhythm.

My partner made an excellent metaphor: driving a car down a road filled with potholes. If you go too slow, you're going to dip into every one and jar yourself. Too fast, and you'll skip over the top of them and eventually crash into one when you dip at just the wrong moment. A good in-between rhythm and you'll feel them, but won't skim them. It really sunk in for me how important riding a good galloping rhythm around the course is.

King Oak treats its volunteers faaaaabulously, too: gave us a really thorough briefing, drove us out to our jump, brought bug spray to us when we asked, thanked us over the radio repeatedly, and came around a few more times through the day with extra snacks. All of that was very much appreciated, as the day alternated between cold pouring rain and hot, muggy mosquito swarms. I was either shivering in fine tremors or pacing and swatting away half a dozen bugs at a time.

Looking forward to my next jump judging opportunity. :)

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