Competitive showjumping requires a bond of trust between Dr Leanne Welsh of L&R Dental in Toowoomba, QLD, and her horse, Zeeke.
“Showjumping tests the athletic ability of the horse and rider. A course of 10 or 12 jumps is set out and the object is to get around as fast as possible without knocking off any of the rails. Rails can be set at different heights but I generally jump at 1m 10cm. I set the rails higher when training to ensure that Zeeke, my horse, is well prepared for the competition.
“I’ve been riding Zeeke for quite a few years now and we know each other pretty well. There’s a real trust between us.
“Showjumping is not a particularly dangerous sport but injuries can happen. A few years ago, I was training and had set the jumps quite high. Zeeke misjudged a jump—actually, we both did—and he fell and landed on me. I was knocked unconscious, broke my scapula and hurt my knee. I was pretty sore and had to take a week off work.
“I’ve been riding for as long as I can remember. I had a pony when I was young and would ride with my sisters. As I grew, I started entering eventing and showjumping events. All of my sport during high school was horse related. When I began a full-time job, it was difficult to keep up with the training and fitness needed for eventing so I decided to stick to showjumping.
“I’ve travelled all over Queensland for showjumping competitions, though this year has been a bit of a write-off. It rained heavily at the beginning of the year then COVID-19 took off. I haven’t competed since January.
“To be good at showjumping you need a balanced, forward-going horse with an even temperament. You certainly need to be brave and fit. I do a lot of Pilates and a weight session each week. During competition season, I’m at events twice a month. There’s a great social element to showjumping that can get a little rowdy at times.
“I really love the challenge of showjumping. It’s difficult to master so you’re always striving to get better. You need to set goals and work out ways to achieve them. It’s also a great adrenaline rush.
“Most professional riders look on their horse as a working animal and aren’t so emotionally attached to them. Zeeke is a bit of a pet, stabled at my house so I see him every day. I ride him four or five times a week. When we are competing, we’re definitely a team.”