Report from the “Let’s Focus on Show Jumping” day

“Let’s Focus on Show Jumping” was the theme at this year’s Scottish F&I day, organised in collaboration with BHS Scotland & BS Scotland. Held on Monday 18th September 2023 at Netherton Equestrian, Perthshire, it was an exciting day with a full programme of Show Jumping experts.

Organiser Jen Morris had put together an amazing panel for us to learn from, which comprised:
Lucy Moss – BS Scottish Development Officer & Scottish Committee Chair
Shaun Sands – BS Level 4 Course Designer
Andrew Wilson – BS Scottish Junior Team Chef d’Equipe, UKCC Coach Tutor & Assessor
Linda Lucey – BS Level 2 National Steward & Coach
Sandra Low-Mitchell – UKCC Level 3 Coach, Sports Horse Breeder and International Rider
Aileen Craig – UKCC Level 3 Coach, Mentor, Educator, Assessor and International Rider
Julie Hanna – BHS Regional Manager for Scotland

The day was exceptionally well attended, which clearly demonstrated the need for educational opportunities of this calibre. The enthusiastic delegates set the tone for the day when we dived straight into lively debates on topical subjects such as:
Wouldn’t it be great if all the disciplines followed the same rules e.g. whips?
As coaches, should we expect riders to use “legal” equipment in training sessions?
Should the UK emulate some other countries and require rider grading / approval to be permitted to compete at each level?
Bigger tracks nowadays are not so common – have BS and BE lowered the standard by bringing in smaller classes?
Have we seen the best days of the sport? Nowadays there are so many rules, that it can be bewildering to keep up with all the changes.
Throughout all the discussions, Sandra kept us entertained with her down to earth comments and amusing anecdotes. One memorable quote she shared with us was from Dutch Olympian Albert Voorn, “Jump to the forward, not the up!”

We were very fortunate to have three exceptional, young demonstration riders who each brought a novice and an advanced horse:
Charley Hamilton is a full time rider with an exciting string of horses. A member of the Horse Scotland Performance squad, she is currently enjoying a very successful season.
Amy Morris is also riding professionally, and at just eighteen years old, is currently running her own business, taking in horses to produce and compete.
Sophie Girvan is an amateur rider who has a busy job with the Ambulance Service attending emergencies. Based with Aileen Craig, Sophie is currently enjoying a successful season with her own two horses.

For the practical sessions, the delegates split into four study groups, each led by one of the coaches from the panel. Course designer Shaun Sands first built a Discovery track for the riders’ novice horses and provoked discussion with a few deliberate errors for the delegates to spot as we walked the course. Sean described how he always strives to create educational opportunities for the young horses that will give them a good experience and build confidence. If an open class runs at the same height, he will always build with the novice horse as the priority, even if it means that the open horses are not being challenged.

His top tips for successful course design at this level were:
No two-stride doubles in a jump off
No oxers out of a double
Double of verticals is safest option
Put fillers in first element of double
Avoid putting a plank near the top of a fence with a pole above
Allow at least three strides from from the sides of the arena to a fence
Use poles with broken colours / white stripes
Avoid plain, single colour poles
Avoid poles with “Mafia stripes” (longitudinal stripes)

For the advanced horses, Shaun built a 1.30m track that included shorter approaches and challenging roll backs, which tested the riders’ ability to maintain the rhythm throughout. The coaches each helped one of the riders to improve on their round when they jumped around a second time. The fences went up to 1.40m for Amy’s more experienced mare, the 14 year old Lola, who recently won the Young Masters Final at the Royal Highland and the South East Championship.

Sandra Low-Mitchell works with Charley Hamilton on her 15 year old Con Air gelding, Horatio Van Ter Hulst. The combination recently won the Northwest Championship at Blair Castle and the Classic Final at the Royal Highland.

This was a rare and valuable opportunity to observe training at advanced level. At the end of the day, the delegates agreed that everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet across the disciplines with the Training Scale consistently referenced throughout. The day also highlighted how valuable a sound knowledge of course building is for coaches at all levels. Coaches are encouraged to train with BS as course builders and have the opportunity to learn from experienced officials through the mentorship programme.

Check out the video interview with Jen Morris, Dan Spencer and Sandra Low-Mitchell at the end of the day!