Sep 15, 2019

The Thrill of the ‘Chase: Steeplechase Riding with Frederic Bouland

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

For those that compete in a Hylofit USEA Classic Series Three-Day Event, what truly sets the competition apart from a regular horse trials is endurance day, where, in addition to cross-country, riders have the chance to experience the two roads and tracks phases and the steeplechase phase. One of the hallmarks of the Hylofit USEA Classic Series Three-Day Events are the educational seminars that instruct riders on all types of topics, from how to present your horse at a formal horse inspection to how to time your watch on endurance day. At the Western Underground, Inc. Coconino Summer Horse Trials & Three-Day Event, one of those educational seminars was a mounted steeplechase schooling clinic instructed by Area X eventer Frederic Bouland.

“The idea is to give them an opportunity to get the feel of what they’re going to experience,” Bouland stated. “Give them the opportunity to know what they’re going to feel enough so that they feel good about it. They’re going to sleep better knowing that they can do it instead of worrying about what it will be like.”

Practicing the gallop. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Safety and fun are the two key factors that Bouland focused on in his clinic. “You’re trying to explain to them how to do it, but there’s also the fact that those fences are smaller, so you have to adapt the steeplechase riding a little bit. In the old days of steeplechase, you could run the horse at it and the fence would back the horse off, but not really [at the lower levels]. I want them to stay safe.”

“Beginner Novice speed for steeplechase is 420 meters per minute, which is only 20 percent more than their cross-country speed. We’re not here to suddenly be like Bruce Davidson in 1978 galloping at 660 meters per minute. I want them to enjoy it but we don’t need to go that fast. They need to learn to pace themselves.”

To teach riders about pace, he started off by having riders gallop along a stretch of ground to establish an appropriate rhythm and speed for steeplechase jumping. “When they start off, they realize their horse is kind of sticky and they have to send them forward,” Bouland explained. “It’s going to be exactly the same thing out of the steeplechase box, so we experience that already so we know how to react. It will give them a better experience at jump number one. A lot of people start leaning forward in two-point, and you’ll notice your horse will be more sticky. Start sitting and push forward for two or three strides, then sit up in two-point. Now you know they’re in front of your leg.”

Once riders established an appropriate pace for their level, Bouland added in a single steeplechase fence so riders could get the experience of jumping the fence out of stride and at speed. “As you gallop, I want you to do two-point position, and then 50 yards before, rebalance, go down in your tack – touch the saddle – and your hand holds the contact all the way to the fence. Don’t lean forward – if you get left behind it’s no big deal.”

It's okay to get left behind! USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

“I’m trying to help them understand that when riding at a steeplechase fence, a ride behind with the upper body is a much better than a ride in front – that’s true all the time, but on steeplechase in particular. If you get behind – no worries, it’s okay! The one I want to avoid is the one crawling on the neck in front.” Bouland concluded the clinic by having riders jump two steeplechase fences in a row at pace to get a better idea of what steeplechase will feel like on the day.

One thing that Bouland emphasized is the importance of wheeling the steeplechase track. “You want to know where your minute markers are, and the only way to know that is to wheel it. When you start you won’t be on your first minute because you start from a standstill, so you’ll be a little behind, but on your second minute you want to be on it because you’ll have one minute left and it will be hard to finish – you don’t want to be out of control at the end. Start strong to be sure you are close to the minute, then catch up to make sure you’re on your second minute, then maintain that speed. You don’t get more points by starting [phase C] early. If you go too fast that doesn’t change anything.”

For Bouland, knowing what to expect on steeplechase day is about more than just the 2 minutes and 30 seconds spent on course, so he offered a few tips to help things go as smoothly as possible from start to finish. “They’re going to arrive [at the start of phase B] and they’re going to have a minute to make sure they have everything ready. As soon as you arrive, check your girth. Sometimes you start your horse on phase A and they’re cold and they start deflating a little bit and you arrive [at B] and the saddle is a little loose. Also, as you arrive, check your watch and reset it. You want to restart it from zero for phase B.”

“The idea is to help them understand how they’re going to go through it before they go through it so it’s a little more familiar and they feel like they’re following a plan instead of trying to guess.”

About the Hylofit USEA Classic Series

The Hylofit USEA Classic Series keeps the spirit of the classic long ­format three­-day events alive for Beginner Novice through the Preliminary levels. Competitors can experience the rush of endurance day, including roads and tracks, steeplechase, the vet box, and cross­-country, as well as participate in formal veterinary inspections and educational activities with experts on the ins and outs of competing in a long ­format three-­day event. Riders who compete in a Hylofit USEA Classic Series event during the year will have the chance to win a variety of prizes at the events from USEA sponsors. Click here to learn more about the Hylofit USEA Classic Series.

The USEA would like to thank Hylofit, FLAIR, FITS, SmartPak Equine, Stackhouse & Ellis Saddles, and Parker Equine Insurance for sponsoring the Hylofit USEA Classic Series.

About Hylofit

Now available to purchase, the Hylofit system hit the marketplace in 2018. The Hylofit system is the only equine wearable to offer in-ride feedback for horse and rider. Hylofit’s state-of-the-art product is designed to maximize communication between horse and rider, improve training results, and promote the overall health and well-being of the horse. Hylofit unique features include real-time feedback, post-ride insights, rider insights, overall well-being of the horse and rider, zone training, sharing features, video features, weather impact features, and more. The Hylofit system that tracks both horse and rider’s heart rate is comprised of four hardware components, an app for iOS or Android, and an optional app for the iWatch.

Hylofit is generously providing a 10 percent discount for Hylofit products to all USEA Classic Series competitors! Hylofit will also provide 11 Hylofit systems to the high scorers of each USEA Classic Series event at the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.

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