JAS was a concept brought to life by the late Kenneth Clawson as a way of providing pre-season competition for eventers and a means of brushing up style and technique over show-jumps and mock XC fences in the confines of an arena. There are usually around 8 show-jumps followed by 8-10 XC fences and competitors get a score which is the addition of their jumping faults (SJ scores eg. 4 for a pole down etc. apply across both phases), their time faults on the XC section and their style mark which is judged by a BE coach or an elite rider. The lowest score wins. So far, so simple right?
The four levels mirror BE levels and maximum heights – BE90, BE100, Novice and Open. The Open has a max height of 1.15m. The speeds for the XC section increase by class and the Open time is pretty tight – occasionally no-one in a class makes the time.
The show-jumping section is untimed and pretty self-explanatory. Competitors then move straight onto the timed XC section. Judges usually like to see an obvious change in speed and a move to a more forward seat at this point. The XC section usually has arrowheads, a rolltop, a corner, a mock coffin and a road crossing at all levels. At Novice and Open the road crossing is generally a bounce, so make sure to practice these! At the lower levels the skinny questions will often have Christmas trees or similar to aid the wobbly green horse, but they become increasingly skinny as you move up the levels. It is expected that a horse at Open level will not need artificial help to stay on a straight line!
What to Wear
XC colours, including a number bib and medical card. Body protectors are not compulsory but a majority of competitors do seem to wear them.
How to Enter
You and your horse must either be BE members or have a (free) Associate Registration. This can be done on the BE website. All entries are via the BE website which also shows the dates that each competition opens and closes their entries. The cost per class is £22 for members or £27 for non members and you have to pay a start fee on arrival at the competition. Like for eventing, times are posted on the BE website a couple of days before each fixture.
How to do Well
Prepare! The jumps are bright and will have fillers right from the first fence. The course is usually the same, or similar at all venues so if you can get to one to watch you should get the idea. Searching on youtube for ‘JAS’ should also give you plenty of examples of what to expect. I would make sure that your horse is comfortably jumping courses 5-10cm bigger at home than the class you intend to enter as I do find that the bright, busy courses back them off a bit. I would also practice corners and arrowheads at home. Walk the course well – there are a lot of fences to remember! – and look carefully at lines and turns. Usually the arena looks packed with fences and it isn’t always obvious at first glance where you go next. Watching other competitors, even in earlier classes as the course layout will remain the same, will help to cement it in your head. The BE blurb says that you don’t need to go fast, but I find that the times are often quite hard to get due to the twisty nature of the course: get into a comfortable forward rhythm and ride positively round the corners. This should also help your style marks as it is a lot more attractive to watch than galloping and making handbrake turns.
Don’t forget to pick up your score sheet at the end. When all’s said and done there is a subjective element to the style scoring as different judges look for slightly differing things, so don’t be too downcast if they didn’t score you well. Read the comments and try to improve the areas they mention. If you’re still around at the end of the day the JAS team hugely appreciate a hand to take the course down – often they have to disassemble it, load it onto the lorry, drive for several hours and reassemble it somewhere else ready for a 9am start the following day. Many hands make light work and it’s amazing how quickly everything gets packed away if enough people chip in.
Usually the top ten qualify for the final, this year at Bury Farm. It’s a super atmosphere and I’d recommend trying to go if you get the chance.
All pictures kind permission of Charlie Whittle and her father.