Call it another successful experiment in show jumping for Olympic and World Cup course designer Linda Allen. The inaugural rally for her Benchmark Program took place Sunday, Jan 9., Allen’s latest brainchild is a program designed to provide affordable mileage for horses and riders.
An antidote to huge shows where amateurs and professionals with young horses might pay thousands to test their progress against the finest competition, a Benchmark Rally provides a training opportunity at a much lower cost. It’s a one-day affair where conditions simulate a show, but participants can school and have the opportunity to “iron things out” as the day progresses.
The rallies run like this. Horse and rider combinations enter the desired height and proceed over the course, which is set to be similar to what they’d find at a show, but designed to be straightforward and inviting in nature. If they complete the course in their initial try and are registered with the Benchmark Program, their fault score will be added to their performance record. If they have difficulty with some element of the course, or just wish to improve upon their round, they may jump additional schooling rounds (either at the original height, or later in the day as the course get easier, whatever will assure that the day is a positive learning experience). In their schooling rounds they can jump parts of the course or even devise their own ‘jump-off’ course if they feel this practice would be advantageous.
In the kick-off rally held at El Sueno Equestrian in Somis, Calif., about thirty five people and close to twenty horses came to test their skills. The course was initially set at 1.30 meters. Twelve jumping efforts over nine numbered obstacles tested competitors with all the elements of a recognized show. The course contained a double combination, liverpool, narrow jump, simple bending lines and finished with a triple. As the day proceeded, the fence heights lowered about every half hour, and the more complex elements of the course were modified as the heights went down.
The feel of the rally was like a Concours Amite, with a strong group of volunteers producing it all. Officials and competitors were able to speak with each other throughout, with learning and camaraderie as a result. This unique format created a relaxed and fun event, with professionals helping each other. Every one came away with good mileage and knowing more about how prepared they are for a real show. More information on the Benchmark Program is available on the web at www.thebenchmarkprogram.com.