Dec 09, 2021

Education and Safety are Key in Course Design: Show Jumping Seminar with Chris Barnard Recap

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
USEA/ Nancy Knight photo.

Serving as a precursor to the 2021 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention esteemed course designer Chris Barnard gave 25 attendees a deep dive into show jumping course design during the Show Jumping Seminar on Wednesday, December 8th. The seminar began in the classroom at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico before getting some hands-on experience at the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Posse with the help of the Watermelon Mountain Pony Club. All were invited to attend, from course designers and licensed officials to competitors wanting to get the inside scoop on how design can impact their ride.

“I want to give people the knowledge I have learned,” said Barnard at the start of the clinic. “With horses, it is such an educational thing. You can watch and learn with any part of the sport. The more you watch, the more you pick up. I want to cover all of the bases in what course designers do, what my job entails, and to provide the information that I have learned from doing this from 20 years and giving it to you.”

To kick off the day’s educational seminar, Barnard and the participants began by going over applicable rules from the USEF Rules for Eventing and going in-depth on how they impact the decisions he makes with each course he creates. Together they outlined arena requirements, course specifications and measurements, allowed obstacles, combination regulations, designations on time allowed, and more. After combing through the rules that are set for proper show jumping course design, he detailed how he takes into account the requirements for each level into his design.

“Why do the questions that I ask in a course?” Barnard posed the question to the group. “That is why we are here, to learn how I set things up for the horse and rider and to decipher what each question is so then the officials understand what I am asking and the riders understand what is going on in my brain.”

Did you know that each level has different regulations for maximum course length, speed, efforts, height, and spread for oxers and triple bars?

For example, at the Advanced level, as set by the USEF Rules for Eventing, the course must include either a double or triple combination OR three doubles with the maximum height being set at 1.25m. In comparison, a Beginner Novice test should be inviting and straightforward, may only include one double combination made up of only one oxer, with the maximum height being set at 0.80m.

Barnard then discussed distances and the factors that necessitate shorter distances versus longer distances and the science behind a horse’s jumping arc over verticals, oxers, and triple bars. After going over his course design checklist, it was time to put their new or enhanced knowledge to the test.

For the second portion of the class, participants made their way outdoors for hands-on course building with Chris Barnard. USEA/ Nancy Knight photo.

Thanks to the Watermelon Mountain Pony Club, jumps and demo riders were on-hand and ready for action at the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Posse. While Barnard came into the clinic with courses prepared, he was pleased that his participants were excited to build a track as a team from scratch.

“We went over and laid out some jumps from the beginning as if I was doing this on a piece of paper, this is what I would have done,” Barnard reflected after the seminar. “We had six or seven jumps which was perfectly adequate and we were able to watch how it rode over two different heights so you could see the difference in the same course at a different height.”

Participants had the opportunity to assist with course building for both a 1.0m and 1.20m course, as well as watch the riders execute their track as Barnard went into further detail on how the design of the course they had created would impact the riders’ plan.

“We built a very straight-forward course with a couple of related distances and we were able to watch them go,” Barnard shared. “The course was very straightforward, but we were able to see if it rode that way. We could ask ourselves if the distances or the course itself was straight-forward?”

Barnard shared his top two takeaways that he hoped his participants absorbed:

“Firstly, everything that I build is educational, even at a show. I hope that when riders ride the jumps or trainers walk the course, that they learn something out of that class.” It was Barnard’s goal that the seminar participants leave with the knowledge they needed to set up educational and appropriate course design for the shows they design for, their students, or themselves. Documents such as The Basics of Jumping Course Design for Eventing and other resources are available on the USEA website to set yourself up for success in building an educational show jumping course.

Barnard felt his first point tied directly into his second. “The safety aspect is huge,” he shared. “We talked about safety cups and the appropriate levels of course and helping trainers understand what is going to be in a lower-level or upper-level course. If riders have more knowledge of what is going to be in a course, they can be prepared for that level, especially as they move up.” The USEF Rules for Eventing are a great place to start in learning what is and is not allowed at various courses throughout the levels. Put Barnard’s suggestion to the test by preparing for what you will see at the show at home in your practice sessions.

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About the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention

The USEA Annual Meeting & Convention takes place each December and brings together a large group of dedicated USEA members and supporters to discuss, learn, and enjoy being surrounded by other eventing enthusiasts. The USEA organizes multiple seminars in addition to committee meetings, open forums, and tons of fun! The 2021 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention is taking place at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, December 9-12, 2021. Click here to learn more about the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.

The USEA would like to thank the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention Sponsors: Adequan, Bates Saddles, Gallops Saddlery, Mountain Horse USA, Nunn Finer, Nutrena, Parker Equine Insurance, RevitaVet, Rebecca Farm, SmartPak Equine, Standlee Premium Western Forage, D.G. Stackhouse & Ellis Saddles, Sunsprite Warmbloods, World Equestrian Brands, Area X, and Saratoga Horseworks.

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