Category Archive: Education & Training

Dec 15

Course Walking Explained – Sue Middleton EA Level 1 Coach & Course Designer

Course Walking

Why do riders walk the showjumping course before riding it?

The showjumping course is a test of the Course Designer’s skills in producing a course that is safe to ride, but provides enough challenges and options to provide the best result on the day.  If you don’t walk the course, you are not only putting yourself in an unsafe position, but you haven’t studied the lines and distances that the CD has designed to challenge the riders, and therefore decide the placings at the completion of the event.

The following are some tips to make the most of your course walk and help you progress to being a successful competitor.

  • The course cannot be walked until the CD, judge or other official says it is open to be walked.  This is usually announced over a loud speaker and indicates that the course has been checked by the course builder and is considered complete and safe to ride.
  • Normally the course walk is 30 minutes prior to the start of the class, but can be shorter.
  • You are not allowed to walk the course with your horse.
  • Your horse must not enter the ring until the marshall instructs you to do so.
  • If you are in the first 5 of the draw, you may need to warm up your horse before walking the course.
  • Some judges prefer to walk the course as well, so they are satisfied it is the standard required of the competitors and that there are no obvious dangers or obstructions.
  • It is better to walk the course alone as you will find you concentrate better, unless you have a more experienced rider or coach walk with you to discuss the obstacles and to help you learn.
  • The competitor should be dressed as you would be to ride, i.e. boots, jodhpurs, official EA uniform if required, helmet and whip if you intend to carry one when riding the course.


Now that you are ready to walk the course you will be looking for the following points.

  • Location of the start and finish poles in relation to the corresponding fences and distractions, i.e in/out gates, marshalling area.  Plan which direction you will approach on, depending on the situation and your preferred canter lead.
  • Walk the lines between fences exactly as you intend to ride them.  Cutting corners does not give you the correct vision of your ride and may not highlight obstructions, distractions, poor quality terrain and difficult lines.
  • Stride-out distances in combinations and related lines.
  • Check the footing of your lines, corners, take-offs and landings.  Look for soft or muddy areas that you may have to avoid.
  • Identify any problem fences, i.e. spooky fill, difficulty approaches or if at Agricultural Shows there are often rides, marquis, etc. outside the ring that may make the horse not want to go near fences in that area, or fences near the in/out gate or marshalling area.
  • If there are any fences that your horse might spook/balk at, make a visual plan of how you are going to approach this fence.
  • If you are unsure of any parts of the course, walk it again, until you are feeling comfortable with your plan.
  • Stop several times and look back over the course from the start, and plan your lines, count your striding, etc. as if you are riding the course.  Train your brain to believing it has already ridden the course and ridden it as you planned.
  • Check the course plan that should be posted near the in/out gate or marshalling area and read distances, time allowed, jump-off course if applicable, compulsory turning points, etc.  You can also walk the jump off course at this point, but not once the class has started.

Allow yourself time during your warm-up to watch a few riders on the course to observe how the distances and turns ride.
This should help with riding your course and if you have any further questions don’t hesitate to ask.

Sue Middleton

Equestrian Australia Level 1 & CD