Hazel Shannon's Top 10 tips for a clear showjumping round

      Hazel and Clifford jump clear to win the CCI4* in Adelaide


Hazel Shannon and Willunga Park Clifford won the CCI4* at the Australian International 3 Day Event in 2016, sealing the victory with a clear show jumping round on the final day.

In 2018 they were out of contention for a podium finish at the same event but Hazel and Clifford once again produced a foot perfect round for one of only three clears

We asked Hazel for her Top 10 Tips to producing a clear show jumping round in such a pressured environment


1)            Firstly, I can’t take all the credit for the clear show jump rounds I have ridden at Adelaide. I am very fortunate to have a horse, Willinga Park Clifford, who really wants to do clear rounds too. Having a horse with an inclination to be careful is probably one of the biggest factors in producing regular clear show jump rounds. This isn’t really a tip but maybe something worth considering when looking for your next horse.

2)            Doing a clear showjumping round can become a lot harder when you’re at a competition. Especially when it’s the last phase of a Three Day Event and having a rail or time faults can mean dropping down the placings. I think that going into the ring focusing on that can take your focus away from riding your best. It’s a lot easier said than done, but being able to push the extra pressures from your mind can be the difference between having rails and a clear round.

3)            There is a particular showjumping exercise I do with all my horses from the young ones to 4* eventer Clifford. The exercise starts at poles on the ground, 3 strides apart. With the older horses I canter through in 7 strides. With the younger ones it’s not always possible to do 7 strides so I will do as many strides as they are capable of. The poles on the ground become small oxers, with no ground line. Again I will do 7 strides on the older horses and the young ones will do as many strides as they can manage. The oxers gradually increase in height and the number of strides I ride between them becomes less. However I never do less then 4 strides between them. I feel this exercise has really helped make my horses more rideable and more careful.

4)            Walking the course should be done thoroughly and thoughtfully. I find it extremely helpful having Heath Ryan (my coach) walk the courses with me. His experience can pick up on things I might have missed. We make careful plans on how to ride every part of the course. Deciding the amount of strides between combinations and related lines is critical and sometimes vary between riders and horses. But I will never go into a round without knowing exactly how many strides I want to do in each combination and related line.

5)            When jumping I don’t want to make the horses job harder than it already is. I want to meet each fence on a good distance. Sometimes this just doesn’t happen but the top riders doing regular clear rounds rarely get it wrong. If you’re too far away or too close to the jump it can sometimes be impossible for your horse to leave the rails up.

6)            If you’re fortunate enough to have time to watch some other riders rounds before you need to warm up I find this really useful. Being able to watch how the course is jumping and how many strides other horses and riders are doing between jumps can be valuable information. Sometimes I might change my plans slightly after I have watched how related lines and combinations are riding.

7)            I keep the gear I use simple; I don’t have any special training gear or tack. I have heard Heath say “there is no such thing as magic”, which basically means there aren’t any tricks or gear that will suddenly solve all your problems long term. Nothing beats hard work and thoughtful training.

8)            The warm up. I think there is only so much you can do in a warm up. A clear round is more likely to come from the training you have done prior to the competition. Keeping a horse confident is probably the most important thing. Start of low and build the height of the practice fence up gradually and don’t jump something a lot bigger then what you and your horse are capable of doing.

9)            With only a couple of jumps and a number of riders trying to share the warm up it can be stressful at the best of times. If you’re running late and frantically trying to get enough jumps in, it can pressure you into making silly mistakes.

10)          I know this is a boring and unoriginal tip but don’t underrate practice and experience. Not just for yourself but also for your horse. Every year I have been at 3* level with Clifford the number of clear show jump rounds we have done has increased a lot. Horses aren’t machines and they also improve and progress with experience and training. So stick in there and keep training!