Show Jumping in France: My First Competition

I promise I will start writing about other things other than horses soon! It has just so happened to have been a very horsey month… If you missed my last post about keeping horses click here. Or, stick around for my first competition Show Jumping in France.

Equestrian Competitions in France

Coming at this from the UK angle, French competitions are the same but different. You have the similarities in terms of it being the same concept – rider and horse compete against others and are judged for their abilities – but different in terms of who can compete qualifications, and atmosphere.

In my opinion, the Equestrian world, in general, is cliquey either you have money and can rise to the top without issues, or you can fit in with the pony club girls (and boys). Of course, this is not true for everyone but there is a known stigma around the riding world

A Brief French Lesson on Competition Lingo

Depending on where you come from, the amount and variety of competition differ. From the UK, you would probably be used to in-hand showing, working and ridden hunter, show jumping, dressage, and cross country being a few of the horsey classes available to partake in regularly. Where I am in Normandy, the popular competitions are something to do with jumping.

List of Competition Vocab:

Competition – Concours

Course – Parcours

Show Jumping – Course Saut d’Obstacle (CSO) / Jumping

Cross Country – Cross / une épreuve du concours complet

Dressage – Dressage

Driving – Attelage

Hunter – Hunter

Jump – Obstacle

Line – ligne

Aproach a fence – Abord de l’obstacle

Refusal – Faire un refus

Clear round – sans-faute

Dressage Test – Reprise de Dressage

Eventing – Concours Complet (CCE) / Complet

Stride – Foulée

Show jumping arena with small fences and horse jumping
Amazing capture of me and Rees tackling a 75cm fence.

Club Competitions Explained

Club competitions are open to all riders with a valid competition license and provided they have the required minimum number of gallops.

Minimum number of gallops
Lower Levels: Club 4, Club 3: gallop 2
Club 2: gallop 3
Club 1: gallop 4
Elite Club: Gallop 6

Obstacle height
Lower Level: Club 4 : 65 cm
Club 3 : 75 cm
Club 2 : 85 cm
Higher Level: Club 1 : 95 cm
Club Elite : 105 cm

Course technicality
Lower Level: Club 3 and 4: only one combination per course, no river.
Club 2: one or two combinations per course, no river.
Higher Level: Club 1: two to three combinations per course as well as a barred river.
Elite club: two to three combinations per course as well as a river of 3 meters.

For a more comprehensive guide read the FFE website.

image of me and horse
Post competition talk with Rees

My Experience

Having not competed in 5/6 years, this competition, albeit club 3, was kind of a big deal for me. Club 3 complet consisted of a small dressage test, mainly consisting of circles and, arguably too much, sitting trot, as well as a small 12 jump course at 75cm. 

Getting there early to prep my horse for the day, Rees was a small therapy window that was needed. For some strange reason, my nerves were threatening to get the better of me. 75cm is not a big jump at all, yet here I was getting worked up. Something that this chestnut schoolmaster is great at, other than being patient and kind with rider mistakes, is enjoying the preparation process and drifting off into a relaxed doze. Rees is a cross Selle Francais, Trotter, meaning he has an incredible trot that can get very fast, especially when you ask for a canter and he does not want to change gait. Being a 16.1hh boy, 75cm is a breeze for him, especially since he is capable of jumping 120cm.

But this is not the reason for my nerves. Unlike my previous horse show experiences, everyone was kind, helpful, and supportive. During the warm-up, I was given really good advice on top of the usual “RESPIRE” as I have a great habit of forgetting to breathe when I concentrate. Club competitions I had competed on before had the stereotypical mean girl equestrians who seem to feed off being mean to others. Being an adult now it makes zero sense to be anxious about teenagers being mean to you, but here we are! Safe to say I had literally nothing to worry about, except for their inability to look where they were going on their ponies. Everyone was encouraging and kind during the competition, even if there were mistakes or faults made. 

In the Dressage, I had a couple of errors, the infamous trotter part of Rees refusing to give me the canter I needed twice, but overall scoring 63.5% I can’t complain. Next, the jumping phase where I had the fastest time clear, made my Dressage test seem less detrimental to the overall score. I ended up in second place in my class, something I am absolutely delighted with. Of course, Rees got many carrots for his effort.

Overall a super positive experience, and one I plan on returning to in the future!

featured image of blog post My First Jumping Competition (Living in Normandy)
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Published by Briony-Molly

Photographer & Designer. Horse Owner, Book Fanatic

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