Handy round advice?

I recently moved up to the 3’3’’ A/O hunters from the adults and am struggling mentally and literally with the handy round. There are several issues, but the main one is that I am afraid of forgetting the course and then am not riding the turns properly; I get nervous jumping oxers off tight turns because i get too slow and then my horse jumps a little hard and I get a little loose; I get all disorganized with my reins and blow the trot jump because, well, I’m not sure why. Some of these things are mental I think, I haven’t yet forgotten a course. My horse is very capable of chipping all the jumps on the course without so much as a come on, lady! Got any suggestions? Thank you!

I love the Handy but I know many don’t. What I have noticed over the years is that many A/O riders are not all that handy and often times not penalized for big turns, etc. Obviously depends on the judge and competition. My advice would be just take it slow - shave the turns a bit and gradually make it more handy. You will get the hang of it as you do more classes. And even if you aren’t the most handy, if you find all the jumps, you may still get a good ribbon. Good luck!


First, stop worrying so much about forgetting the course. Who cares if you do? Learn the course and go do it. If you get lost you get lost.

Second, go into your turns with more pace than you think you need. You’ve identified the problem (too slow) so the only thing left to do is to fix it.

Third, stop looking at the trot jump. Get your trot and your straight line then look somewhere out of the ring and let it come to you.


These are really helpful suggestions, thank you so much. My horse will appreciate them too!

Thank you, I appreciate, this is reassuring and now that I think a little, seems to be the case in the rounds I’ve seen in my area.

People often seem to forget that doing the handier options badly will usually result in a lower score than doing the easier options well. So the inside turn to an awkward jump will often pin below the wider turn to a smooth jump.

When you get comfortable enough to do the inside turns, have at it. But in the meantime, do the things you can do well and have fun.


OP, if you get the chance why don’t you enter into a 3ft (or lower) jumper class early in the week at one of your shows. You don’t have to go any faster than you would in your handy but you’ll have another chance to practice learning (and walking) a more technical course. You’ll have opportunities to practice a tight turn to an oxer and to make smooth inside turns with no pressure of being judged. Wear a polo, work on being smooth and make it less intimidating for yourself. I’d also recommend you walk every single jumper course you can at the shows, no matter if youre in the class or not. You’ll quickly get used to learning and memorizing them and it won’t be so nerve wracking when it’s your turn to go into a handy!

ETA: Congratulations on moving up! But remember learning isnt linear and new challenges usually involve new learning curves. You got this


As a junior, I had these same issues. My junior hunter did not like trot jumps, so I learned not to like them either, and it was a big mess for a while. Not looking at the jump, as mentioned by On Deck, helped a lot, and trying to imagine it as a trot pole. My dad used to tell me to “sing a song” because that worked for him when his trainer back in the day told him to try it, because it helped him be patient and wait for the jump and keep a rhythm. I found just counting one-two-one-two like a metronome helped me the most. You might experiment with that.

As for losing your canter in the roll back turns, I unfortunately didn’t learn this tip until I’d switched only to the jumpers and was riding with a different trainer, or my career with my junior hunter could have been much more successful, but my jumper trainer had me visualize my turns as having a “racing line” and instead of thinking of riding the turn to the jump, instead riding the turn to each point of the racing line - turn in/entry, apex, and exit. Depending on the turn, the jump, the footing and the horse, the points for breaking, gear change, acceleration and full throttle are going to vary, but on a sweeping rollback like you would find in the hunter ring (in my case, that was really the ends of the ring, because I was the queen of 1 time fault on my junior jumper for a while), I always thought about riding the turn a bit more “square” mentally and instead of sweeting momentum which usually resulted in my horse falling in and falling behind my leg and me fixating on the jump looking for a distance and wanting to slow down until I “found” it, I would ride UP to the entry point of the turn in a straight line, half half a little for balance so we aren’t on the forehand, balanced turn, trail braking and keep the engine revving as we get to the apex, don’t fall behind the leg but don’t focus on the jump yet, hit the apex and make sure you have enough throttle to hit your exit point, and then come out of the exit “full throttle” (obviously not literally full throttle, but my version of “full throttle” tended to be just barely at the necessary pace, so mentally, that’s what I needed to think of). Helped me a lot, but now trying to write it out, I’m not nearly as good at explaining it as he was, especially typing on my phone, and that may not make sense.

Long story short: try breaking the turn up into pieces mentally and use each segment to check in with your canter’s pace and balance, rather than getting lost looking too far ahead to the next jump.


Do a little cross training on you and your horse. Often we are not good at trying new things because we A) Don’t know how B) Don’t get qualified instruction and C) fear public failure.

Add to that a horse without proper training and possibly without basics ( like leg yields, half halts and proper stride control) and its a set up for frustration. And horses don’t “hate” anything. They are either scared, don’t know how, lose focus on rider input or just don’t understand what rider wants.

These things can be fixed. Take lessons over low jumper courses, no times, just ride the track. Focus on some Equitation courses, nothing fancy but the average show Hunter can do simple things besides inside/outside/diagonal. The average Hunter rider can find riding these courses teach them where to look and how to plan and navigate something besides straight lines. Possibly even find their way to the perfect spot in the center of every fence. Even the dreaded single oxer on a diagonal.

Get with your trainer to help you broaden your skill set here. Possibly explore other options. Better flatwork is key for horse and rider, even the D word. It builds the muscle and balance to allow an inside turn and stride adjustability and teaches the rider to understand how the horses body works.

Handy courses should be viewed as your friend, especially if you do not have the fanciest, biggest moving, knees to nose, crack back over fences horse out there. Many high mileage veterans really brighten up when schooled over a simple Jumper or Handy Hunter course breaking the boredom of same old same old. Many riders get so involved with planning and riding a precise track, they look up and forget to worry about the jumps. Its fun for both.