As Graceful as a Rider

Riding in general is not an easy sport to get involved in, and that especially goes for jumping. It takes finding a stable, money, and a trainer. Since I do not own a horse at this time, and was not able to borrow one, I was placed in a position to just observe my sport. A few years ago, when I was an avid rider, I was able to begin to learn the beginning techniques that are involved in jumping, so I do have some experience. But it was nothing like having the opportunity to watch someone who had been riding all her life. Through a friend, I was able to watch a fellow UCSD student, whom is on the Equestrian team here, practice her jumping.
Upon arriving to the stable, the familiar smell of hay, horse manure, and dirt filled my sense of smell. It was invigorating and exciting. My friend pointed out her friend that we would be watching practice today; she was tacking up her horse when we walked up. For those who are unfamiliar with these terms, tacking up refers to the rider placing the saddle and bridle on the horse as well as prepping the shoes and anything else before they start riding. When we walked up, I saw her tacking up her beautiful horse, a glossy dark brown mare. As she was tacking I asked her how long she had owned her horse and how long she had been riding and jumping for. She had actually grown up with her horse from the age of 12, now being 20. She also told me that she was the only person that had ever rode her horse, and that she had started in dressage, but about 3 years ago began jumping. Her practicing outfit was simple, just an old t-shirt, helmet, riding chaps, riding boots with dull spurs, and gloves. She told me that no one ever practices in their show uniform, mostly because the clothes are so expensive, most riders only have one show outfit. So ruining it from practice every day wasn’t really an option.
Once we got to the ring, there were five obstacles set up around the ring, but she chose to focus on three parallel oxers. An oxer is a type of obstacle that is involved in jumping; it is simply a jump with two sets of poles that can be adjusted to different heights. This part was new for me because in my experience I had not gotten to those types of jumps, so I was interested in watching her set them up in preparation. The bars were set to about 4.5- 5 feet, which is pretty high. To warm up she post trotted her horse around the ring for about ten minutes. Post trotting, in the simplest of terms is when the rider bounces up in rhythm with the horses steps.
The magic didn’t start until she began jumping. Being able to be so close was such a different experience. Watching someone that had such amazing technique was breathtaking. To see her jump her horse over these tall obstacles while remaining so poised…..it was amazing. When jumping you have to stay in sync with your horse, move as one over the jumps. Being a rider that had only learned the theory behind the technique and was never able to actually see why I was learning the basic stances in the saddle and how it portrays in actual jumping, it all settles in a rings true when you watch someone that knows what they’re doing. There was one jump when her horse stalled and threw her overhead. We all stopped and stood up, ready to run in the ring if she was hurt, but she landed on her feet and with a simple yank of the reins, her horse was back in tune. I feel like I was able to learn so much by seeing an experienced jumper practice. The technique, the bond between horse and rider, the physique of both horse and rider in mid jump, it is all a part of the greater beauty that is in the art of jumping.

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One Response to As Graceful as a Rider

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    You present a great example of how those learning a sport can learn more via observation of an expert. Without your knowledge of the sport as more of a novice jumper, I doubt you could have appreciated her skill and ability with the horse. This gets at one element I’ve thought about relating to fandom. To what extent does being a fan involve knowledge of the game? And to what extent does it matter if this knowledge is theoretical or embodied? How does this change the way that we appreciate or act as a fan or spectator?

    It is evident that you have a lot of passion for riding. I really hope that you have a chance to ride again soon!

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