This Week at Hartpury – An Evening with Paul Tapner

On March 15 at 7:30 p.m. Paul Tapner hosted a show jumping and cross country demo in Hartpury Arena. Each demo was run as an hour-long training session with two riders per session. Tapner is a professional eventing rider who has represented the Australian Eventing Team and is a previous winner of the Badminton Horse Trials.

The entry fee ranged from £15 for Hartpury students and staff to £25 for tickets at the door. Many companies and local businesses donated prizes for a raffle that was open to all spectators and participants. More than 15 prizes were given out, including a training session with Paul Tapner himself.

All proceeds from the event went to two charities:

  1. Cancer Research UK which works at increasing the survival rate of cancer patients, relying on dedicated scientists, doctors and nurses, and supporters across the UK. By 2034 they hope to achieve for 3 out of 4 people to survive cancer.
  2. The Horse Trust specializes in providing retirement and respite for working horses and ponies who have served the UK in the Police, the Army, or with other charities. Their Home of Rest for Horses also provides sanctuary to horses, ponies, and donkeys who have suffered from cruelty or neglect and who are in need of specialist treatment and care.

 

Show Jumping Demo – The show jumping demo was at the level of BE100. Warm-up began with trotting and cantering a lap around the arena, followed by a large circle, and a smaller 15m circle repeated in both directions. Tapner emphasized the importance of getting the horse forward and in front of your leg right from the start, which enables the horse to have the ability to shorten and maintain impulsion on the smaller circle without breaking.

At the canter, the riders moved on to a set of three canter poles set 9’ apart. He highlighted the importance of having a forward canter with impulsion as you come through the turn, and half-halting on approach as needed, rather than building the appropriate canter in the last few strides. By already having the optimum canter there will be minimum last-second changes that need to be made to successfully complete the exercise. This point was a theme throughout the SJ demo as the riders rode a single crossrail, vertical, and oxer in both directions to complete the warm-up.

The arena was set with a single warm-up fence on the outside centered on the long side of the arena, a one-stride double on a diagonal, and a four-stride line on a diagonal. Tapner said that single fences, doubles, and related lines are all that make up SJ courses, so those are the elements that he practices while training rather than entire courses. Putting the elements together will emulate a full SJ course without overjumping the horse.

Now that the horses and riders were thinking forward, Tapner had them think about their line to the fences. With both related distances on diagonal lines, it was important for the riders to ride into the corners and turn so that the horses were able to be straight for 3-4 strides with their eye on the fence.

To end, Tapner created a six-jump course out of the different elements. Both riders rode successful courses by putting together the main points from the session.

Eventing Demo – The eventing demo was set for the level of Novice/Intermediate Eventing. Warm-up was similar to the SJ warm-up, with both horses moving forward from the start on small and large circles. At the canter Tapner focused on different body positions while maintaining the same canter rhythm and speed. He had the riders stand in their stirrups and bring their body vertical, then into a low two-point, with their shoulders as close to the neck as possible. The riders had to maintain a correct leg position while only moving their upper body, demonstrating independent aids.

After working over a single warm-up jump that increased in height from a crossrail, to a vertical, to an oxer Tapner moved on to a three-jump combination. It was set to mimic a one-stride coffin combination with a water tray as the middle element. Both horse-and-rider combinations rode through the exercise without fault. Tapner noted the difficulty of this combination depending on the horses’ reaction to the water/ditch element which would affect the distance to the out element. It is important to introduce the different elements one at a time to acclimate the horse to the exercise.

Next the riders jumped a narrow arrowhead towards the audience, focusing on straightness on approach and landing. After successful efforts, Tapner upped the difficulty by creating a sharp bending line from an oxer to the arrowhead set at 3, 4, or 5 strides depending on the riders’ chosen line. This tripped up one rider and highlighted the importance of being dedicated to a line before approaching the combination. With a specific idea set in mind, the rider will prepare their horse prior to take-off to ride the track, rather than jumping in and then finding a track to ride.

The group moved on to a simulated corner and skinny rolltop on a turn similar to the oxer-arrowhead line which posed the same questions with different jump types. Finally, both riders rode a course that incorporated each element strung together to simulate a cross country course. As both riders came across different problems, Tapner spoke about the quality of the canter on approach and the angle of take-off which both affect the rideability on landing. Both utilized angling take-off and the all-important outside rein to change and improve their tracks to lead to successful jumping efforts.

 

Overall, the evening event with Paul Tapner was both educational and entertaining. Tapner has a great sense of humor that he incorporates into his teaching, and engaged the audience throughout both demos. His methods were basic, highlighting that breaking down competitions into their simplest elements will give you the tools to practice at home in order to be ready when they are strung together. Getting a horse forward, in front of your leg right away, and building a strong trot and canter all lead to better jumping efforts and less faults. He emphasized repetition, repetition, repetition for both horses and riders to be successful. Practice until an exercise is easy in order to be ready for competitions.

The night was very successful, with a large audience that participated in the raffle to benefit two important charities in the UK. The mood and atmosphere were upbeat and positive. Tapners teaching allowed riders of all ages and levels to take something away from the demo, from the most basic to advanced points.

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