Caen Normandy, 2014 Jumping Final Four: victory of good and elegant riding

The final of the championship in Caen was an amazing show, which needed to be seen from behind the scope.


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Caen, Normandy, WEG. The finalists of the championship are exceptional riders, they offered to the public and experts thrilling moments. The finalists showed their own style, they also demontrated that riding must be well structured, light and forward. Obviously, you should know about the importance for the rider to be well down into the saddle and also close to the horse (even light seat). The rider must also maintain his balance above his feet, to keep the bust in front of the vertical, before, during and after the jump remaining stable in order to avoid unbalancing his horse. For the same reason the rider must focus on maintaining a central position. Hands and legs have to work together with reins slightly tense and a good balance on the feet (this technique allows the horse to keep a positive attitude by giving him self confidence). The rider also need to be able to gently keep the impulsion (too much pressure can block the fluidity of the horse in front of jumps). The rider must also have good training bases in order to create a real complicity with the animal, this relationship is created through well established and accepted codes (training must respect the moral and physical integrity of the horse. Every horse has its proper attitude. The horseman must ensure the horse attitude is better, and how he can maintain its balance. Understanding those aspects result in avoiding potential injuries and creating harmony between the horse and the rider).

Now that I've reminded you some important points of classical riding, do your own analysis and please watch again the courses of those talented finalists. In my opinion, they were the perfect ambassadors of the modern horse, combining control, fluidity, sensitivity, discretion and accuracy in the forward movement. Jeroen Dubbledam demonstrated amazing skills in the horse training, a good strategy is certainly the key to success. Before competing in the championship Jeroen Dubbledam was only 64th on the FEI ranking list, futhermore he was not competing full time in the GCT championship. However on the D day, Jeroen was able to bring his horse to the its best. What an exciting ride! He is often seated, but light on the saddle. Even when he rises from the saddle, he still touches it. His bust always remains in the same position and with the movement. He keeps his body straight while remaining flexible, his legs and hands are in perfect position and well proportioned. He has a sense of rhythm without falling into agitation or precipitation. He understands how to communicate with the horse without using force ... I know Jeroen’s career and he trained many horses for merchants. Considering his experience, I was certain, before the final, that his horse would be the most difficult and could challenge many riders. Patrice Delaveau, who was certainly stressed due to all the expectations from the french fans, made an incredible job. After many titles another medal was well deserved in a world championship. I love his techniques. Partrice knows how to keep his balance centered on the horse, his gravity center always over the horse. He has a natural ability to manage his balance, this technique requires hours and hours of saddle-up in order to maintain flexibility and independence of each body part. I also really appreciated the physical and mental relaxation and stability of Beezie Madden. What a position! What a lesson of perfect riding! She keeps the horses in a certain rhythm, the movement is always on balance guided by invisible movements. She keeps this flow gently. Her legs give the rhythm and the line before the jumps. Have you noticed as her horse wonderfully galloped with his neck and nose in a natural position? It was soft and light. In contrast with other riders trying to bring back the horse's mouth to them, it seemed heavy on the bit, stiffer. Beezie is really a great horsewoma. Rolf Göran Bengtsson is an amazing rider! No doubt about it! However, during this final there was certainly to be a winner and a loser! This time Rolf got the "chocolate medal"! Was this due to the stress, his physical condition, the public or media pressure, or simply bad luck ? ... Or simply, did not he have enough determination and pressure to make the horses jump ? It is often true, especially with sensitive horses, that overreacting result in loosing balance, flow, and the horse prone to mistakes. Here is all the subtlety in horsemanship. This sport is becoming very emotional and horses are more sensitive than people might think.

To make this sport popular and exciting a good Chef de Piste is also a key factor to consider. Congratulations to Frédéric Cottier who built up an amazing course in Caen ! He managed to create a course where a good rider and horses could make the difference without taking any unconditional risk. It was also really interesting to see the beautiful obstacles designed by Frédéric. Some of them were really tricky, especially during the first days of the show. One of the reason is that many horses compete every weeks and mainly jump the same obstacles for some of the greatest sponsors (Longines, Rolex, FEI…)

Consequently, horses are not anymore used to jump non mainstream obstacles. Our sport is nowadays based on speed and bars. In contrary, in the past bravery was part of the game, for both riders and horses. Speed was less part of the competitions, the rider could show his talent on really diverse shapes of jumps (there is a huge difference between jumping a river and a vertical, or between an heavy or light obstacle). Distance and quality of courses were really inconsistent. Each contest had variable jumps belonging to local, national and international sponsors. Each contest course had its own features, the rider had to analyse the course in order to choose the best horse. All those aspects involved a perfect preparation and an undeniable courage not only for the horses but also for the riders.