Above: A rider searches for her next fence while in the air. Photo by Full Gallop Captures.
By TPH Intern Lauren Aubert
If you can believe it, I love equitation even more than alliteration. The equitation, or simply “the eq” is a beautiful thing to watch, with elegant riders gliding around challenging courses and big strides horses effortlessly soaring over triple bar oxers. I began competing in the equitation three years ago, and I have loved it since the beginning. Through this seemingly short journey, I have learned a few tips to help my horse and me look and perform our best while executing the tough courses that the equitation classes have to offer.
1. Boot care: If there is one thing you notice about equitation riders, it is that their boots are impeccably polished. Every inch of leather shines like a piece of pure black obsidian. After I walk the course in my show attire, I always find that my boots need a little extra polish to look new again. Keep a rag to wipe off excess dust and debris off your boots, then use a shiner like the Effax Speedy Leather Shine to add sparkle. You can apply it right before you mount your horse to ensure your boots stay clean for your rounds.
2. Course map: In the equitation, the courses can be mentally demanding, and require intense memorization. Often I will learn my equitation courses hours before I get on my horse so I can repeatedly go over them. This is why a map of your course is a must. In some of the bigger equitation classes, you can get a hold of a physical course map that you can mark up with your “plan of attack.” This also helps with the work off because each jump number will appear next to the respective jump on the map. If you can not obtain a course map, take a picture of the course ahead of time so you are prepared and have mastered your plan once you step into the arena.
3. Show jacket: In some equitation classes, there is an order of go that is decided and posted on the course board. Because of this, you have to be prepared to show at any time, whether it is first, seventh, or twenty-first. After the course walk, I often do not have time to go back to my barn’s setup and fetch my jacket. For maximum preparation, I try to keep a classic equitation coat in my backpack so I am always ready to compete if the schedule shuffles around. My favorite brand of jacket is Winston because of the beautiful, deep colors they have in their selection. For my equitation classes, I either wear their simple navy jacket or their black jacket with a gray collar, each appropriate for any equitation class.
4. Fuel: Courses in the equitation are not only mentally demanding, but physically demanding as well. The courses require tight rollbacks, forward bending lines, a long six stride to a short two stride, all executed with connection to your horse. They can include eight or more fences, each one requiring a different turn or ride. This all requires muscle strength and showing in multiple equitation classes you will need quick, easy snacks to avoid running out of energy. I never leave home without throwing a reusable bottle of water, such as the 25 ounce S’well bottle in my bag to avoid dehydration. The S’well stays cold for 24 hours – Even if you leave it in your trunk any liquid left in it will be cold the next day! You can sip on it while watching others compete or learning your courses, even during the course walk. It can be refilled at your ringside water station so you always have a full bottle accessible. As for food, I store either beef jerky or a Quest protein barn in the small compartment of my pack. They have protein to keep you feeling satisfied and do not spoil in the heat. I can easily grab a little bit between rounds when I feel like I am fading, and never end up feeling stuffed.
5. A place to tally your points: When you compete in a equitation medal, you accumulate points for that particular medal final by placing in the class. Every medal is different, some give points for only a few placings while others give points for all. Look up the points key for the classes you will be competing in so you can copy down the amount of points you receive. You can use a scratch piece of paper that can easily be folded up into your backpack, or you can create a document on your phone with each medal final you would like to qualify for. When you meet the minimum number of points you need to qualify for your desired final, you can scratch that medal off your list. This way there is no confusion and you can pick and choose which classes you are most interested in by knowing if you are qualified or not.
6. Portable stain remover: To be successful in the equitation, you and the horse should look pristine. Unfortunately, stains happen, whether they are on your new tan breeches, beautiful navy jacket, or crisp white show shirt. Keeping some sort of stain remover like a wipe or a stick will remove slobber, condiments, or mud from your attire, and will help you look sharp again in only a few seconds.
7. Video camera: I have found that watching my videos after my rounds at a show helps me work on my position and fix my mistakes in the future. I can freeze the frame over a jump and assess my form. I ask myself, could I tighten up my leg in the bending line, or keep my body still over the single oxer? Video has helped my riding tremendously and always lets me know what I need to work on for the next round, especially in the equitation where the courses are difficult and the turns are tough. You can have a parent film you, like I do, or get a friend or trainer to help you. With portable video accessible to everyone with a smartphone, nearly anyone can film with only the tap of a button and the footage can be sent to you within minutes.
8. Black gloves: A staple item in the equitation world is a pair of good fitting black gloves to slip on before you mount your horse. They add polish and a final touch of perfection to any look. Keeping your gloves and a spare pair in your bag will ensure you always have some to wear if you find yourself in need. I currently wear the Samshield V-Skin Gloves because they not only look classy, but feel supple and soft. I purchased the simple black ones for equitation, but you can find ones with different neutral colors and patterns as well. While pricey, they hold up nicely and fit, quite literally, “like a glove.”
A rider wears the appropriate equitation attire while on course. Photo by Full Gallop Captures.
Undeniably, there are many, many more items you can utilize to help you look and compete your best in the equitation division. Each thing mentioned on this list helps me stay on track and adds a final touch of polish as I enter the arena. Good luck!