Justine’s Top Tips for Workers!

Justine Armstrong Small is a familiar face in working hunter circles. She won HOYS two years consecutively in 2003 and 2004 riding the prolific Zin Zan, and the pair went on to stand supreme horse of the year in 2003.

Justine gives her tips for last-minute preparation worker preparations!

  1. Don’t over jump

It’s tempting to go into overdrive and jump, jump, jump. But this isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. Panicking and building jumps that are bigger than usual or on particularly difficult lines can put undue pressure on yourself and your horse and might lead to a loss of confidence. Stick to your normal pre-show routines don’t overdo it!

2. Indoor training

Whether your horse is used to jumping indoor or not, it’s well worth getting in some indoor training. Jumping indoors is very different to the kind of jumping horses will have done all summer at shows. It’s an enclosed area and the turns are tighter. Ideally, go later in the day or after dark, so that you have to turn on artificial lighting. I find that lights can cause strange shadows, and so even jumping indoors can be different depending on whether or not the lights are on.

3. Plan your last pre-HOYS jumping session carefully

There won’t be fences during the working in the night before, so I tend to give mine a jump the day before they travel to the show. Bear in mind that your opportunity to jump before your class is relatively short, so plan for that at home and adjust – or don’t! – your normal routine to reflect this.

4. Make the most of arena familiarisation times

You absolutely should use the arena familiarisation slots. Even without fences, they are a brilliant opportunity for horses to see the arena, get used to the atmosphere and generally get a good heads-up about the environment they are in. Make sure you get down there in plenty of time as it will fly by, and you don’t want to run out and risk your horse not being acclimatised. Even if you just walk around for the whole time, use it.

5. Prepare for the atmosphere

The atmosphere is really unlike any other show. The clapping in the TopSpec arena in particular can seem really intense for horses as the audience are so close to the arena, and often ponies must stand with their hindquarters close to the railings. If possible, try to prepare them at home, if only by playing music when they are working.

6. To plug or not to plug?

By this point in the season, you will probably know if your pony struggles with clapping. If so, it might be worth considering ear plugs to muffle the noise. That said, I am always reluctant to use ear plugs when jumping as I worry it will disorientate the horse and have heard from others with a similar experience, so if you are considering plugs for the first time, you MUST practice in them.

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