Tips to Remember Jump Courses in Lessons?

Any tips for quickly learning courses in lessons? I just started riding regularly after about a 5 year break. I used to be great at remembering courses at shows and during lessons, but now I am STRUGGLING. Not sure if quick course memorization is an ability I “lost” during my break from riding and will have to work to regain or if it has more to due to mental burnout (I just graduated from law school and am studying for the bar).

Anyway… Any tips or advice is welcome. Thanks!

I am one of those people who can not remember names, dates, or other such details. So I get the struggle.

From talking to others I think the best trick is to figure out how it is easiest for you, and that might not be how it is told to you.

I do well with - Outside line, diagonal single, single outside, roll back to …
I have a friend who does - Blue jump line, red diagonal, yellow gate to green brush…

I have a hard time doing it her way and she gets totally lost doing it my way. If your instructor is saying outside line and you do better with something else just say to yourself ‘blue line away’ instead of whatever the trainer says.

I also think it is fair to say to your instructor that you are having a hard time remembering courses so would appreciate some help as you go. I doubt they will mind doing that.

I tend to think in terms of turns after jumps. If I can remember the turn, the jumps will be in front of me (esp. handy if it’s lines).

Also, it’ll get easier the more practice you get. I am much more likely to forget where I’m going if I have two or three other things I’m concentrating on as well - I generally only do one thing well at a time!


No real advice. But if it makes you feel any better, the brain function for memorization peaks at something like 18 :scream: I once had an elementary school aged piano student who was struggling with a passage tell me, “Wait, wait! Let me memorize this real quick!” And I looked on in awe as they memorized a few measures in what had to have been sub-60 seconds.


I think it’s mostly just an ability you lost and that you will start to pick up again with practice although you may never be quite as good as you originally were. When I returned to riding after a 15 year break, I really struggled with remembering courses originally. It’s definitely easier now, although I still have to focus on it more than I remember doing as a teenager. But I no longer have to ask my trainer to repeat it three times or call out the fences while I’m on course. I think it was just a particular spatial memorization part of my brain that hadn’t been used much recently.


My issue with lessons is remembering where I’m going while the instructor is instructing. If she would just keep quiet, I could do it! But… that’s what I pay her for… :joy: :joy:


I remember the pattern, so it is a line in my head - Like I mentally jump it first. Took a while for my trainer to get used to the fact that I don’t say much for jump courses or dressage tests, more like: 1, then left turn then over there, then right turn, then the line…

or with dressage: left turn, circle in the center, across the diagonal (which happens after say I circled at E and went past C but apparently all of that is irrelevent to my brain).

I tend to shut off hearing - which also took my trainer a bit of getting used to. So when I’m jumping I just don’t hear her instruction at all. She adjusted to tell me what I needed to correct after I did the course.

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I didn’t know that but it makes total sense! I very rarely forgot a course as a teen.

Thanks! This makes a lot of since. The trainer I rode with before the break used colors/jump descriptions to tell the course. My new trainer uses the method you do well with (outside line, diagonal, etc). I have asked him to call out jumps to me, but would really like to get back to remembering them better myself. It is so much easier to focus on riding when I’m not having to focus on the course so much.

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Yeah, I can’t do the colors thing, but I know lots of people who do.

I try to memorize the point of the exercise. We were working on bending lines – it makes sense, right, that there will be bending lines in the course. We are working on rollbacks? Similar.

We are working on lead changes, makes sense there will be diagonal lines.

I do memorize by lines instead of by jumps, because you subsum 2 or more jumps into one line, less to remember.

It comes back fast! It just takes practice and repetition.

I’m one of the people that likes to “name” the jumps based on how they look or what they remind me of. I’d call a course “green fluffy to brown oxer to blue outside line, rollback to white gate.” My friend might call the same thing “outside single, diagonal oxer, outside line, gate on quarter line” but I need the visual of the jump to look for as I ride.


If you’re in lessons, it’s fair to tell your instructor that you’re rusty. Have them tell you the course slowly, so you can start to figure out what works for you. You’re paying them to instruct you, so you should feel ok telling thme if you don’t understand, or need more help.

Then, too, starting slowly (a course of 4 fences, incluing a rollback, or 5 or 6 if it’s just outside, diagonal, outside) might help you work back into things.

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As the instructor is telling me my jumps I point to them and then draw in the air over every jump she gives. I’ll think to myself “quarter line away from home, single blue diagonal bend to purple oxer, first part of black outside line roll back to roll top, outside green line going away” while tracing in the air (while looking at the jumps) the course. I repeat it, I say it out loud if I need to, then I go do it and my instructor knows that if I get lost I will call out “next” and she’ll tell me. Usually I can remember it if I went over it enough in my head before hand.

Now what I can’t figure out is how to remember a course when you are only given numbers. Unfortunately, this means medal classes and jump offs (which seem fun) just aren’t for me because the call back courses are given in numbers and my brain can’t comprehend that.

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A lot of times, I just picture the flow of the course. You’re rarely going to only jump the out on a line, you’re never going to jump an oxer backwards, it’s rare that you’ll do a 90 degree turn to a jump unless you’re specifically practicing for jumpers/eq. If I know where I’m starting, it’s usually always outside, diagonal, outside, diagonal.

What works for me is to “dance” the course. I put one hand in front of me and use it to point the way, and I turn my head and shoulders and kind of shimmy through the whole thing from the waist up, while my bewildered horse just stands there waiting for me to get it together. I try not to make too much of a spectacle of myself, but fortunately everyone else is too preoccupied with their own learning techniques to notice my weird little snake charmer dance.


I agree. I’m chuckling at what my associations would be for the one of the schooling series we attend frequently attend: courtesy circle clockwise to judges’ line. Deep into the Corner of No Return to diagonal. Boomerang through Show Secretary stand corner (scary, crackly loudspeaker) to the drunken outside line. Leg, leg, leg. After landing off of The Oxer By the Water Tank of Doom sit back & half halt before riccocheting off the far corner into the opposite diagonal line. Not a pretty Hunter half halt. Sit back on all your butts and HALF HALT like you’re a GP dressage rider whose horse is about to mow down the C judge because your horse has landed at a gallop thanks to all that leg you applied & will further accelerate to Kentucky Derby speed as he gratefully locks his sights onto the final diagonal line with the (unfortunate) 100% straight trajectory out the gate to safety. If you pull really hard on your inside rein, you should be able to land your final courtesy circle, Because centrifugal force is F = mw²r. We ran out of coffee & brain power for Newtonian physics at 8am, but we think the numbers will work!


I use the end of my crop (if I have one) to trace the course. I have so many pictures from shows where I’m on my horse beside my trainer waving my crop around before my class. Thank goodness my horse is a saint.

I also use colours, although that can sometimes lead to confusion when I call the yellow-and-black striped fence ‘the yellow’ and the instructor calls it ‘the stripes’ or something.

Numbers are pretty much hopeless for me too.

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This is why I will forever be a hunter - I can’t remember for the life of me. I can usually get side diagonal side diagonal right … and if I’m unsure, I have enough time to figure out in the corner whichever oxer isn’t backwards as being the one I should do next :).

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