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Course Design With Oscar SoberĂ³n


Article & photos by Nancy Brannon

On April 13-14, 2019, Southern Blues Equestrian Center (SBEC) offered opportunities to learn jumper course design from Oscar Soberón, during the WTHJA Encore show at the Germantown Charity Horse Show grounds and at SBEC for a Saturday evening seminar. About 15 people met with Oscar at the concession area on a rainy Saturday, April 13. Oscar frequently referred to his notebook with course designs and photos of jumps to explain the elements of good course design and answer folks’ questions.

Oscar Soberón is an FEI Level 3 Course Designer, residing in Dallas, Texas. He’s been designing courses since 2003, and from 2005 to 2007 he has won awards for his Grand Prix course designs.

Oscar said that “Good course design is the most important aspect because it provides the challenges and track that the horses have to jump. The course should be fair, but challenging; and keep everything safe. It should also be entertaining to the spectators. The riders should feel they’ve accomplished something, even if they had a rail down.” Oscar says he collaborates with the stewards, judges, show management, riders and trainers in designing a particular course. He watches who’s riding and which horses are competing, he said.

With jumps, he says, start with the basics – verticals, oxers, straight lines, bending lines, etc.; use all the elements.
“For the lower level riders/horses, you want the course to be a good experience for them. At the Grand Prix level, you test a lot more of shortening and lengthening of stride, and the time allowed is a factor. At the Olympic level, you use big walls, gates, liverpools, open water jumps, and a variety in turns. Have variety in the number of strides between jumps, in the turns, and in the types of jumps. The more difficult jumps are solid color rails and open water.”

Regarding combinations, Oscar said he “typically uses two combinations – one double and one triple or two doubles. Sometimes there are three doubles, but no more than three combinations.

“In building a course, start with the easiest jump and build up the difficulty. You also want the las line to be a challenge so you leave the spectators wondering if the rider and horse will go clear.”

He explained measuring the track, determining the pace around the course, e.g., 350 – 400 meters per minute, and then doing the math to determine the time allowed to complete the course. “You always round up to the next second,” he said, if there is a fraction.

Oscar has been riding his whole life, he said. “When I was a kid, at my first show, I was walking the course and thought ‘this isn’t going to ride well.’ I got fascinated with course design and all the opportunities you can do with jumps in the ring. I even made my own little jumps and courses. Course designing is my passion.”

As a rider, he has over 15 years of experience in show jumping, from junior to international competitions, and has successfully competed in up to 1.40 classes in both national and international competitions.

“Course design is a never ending learning experience that will always bring you great satisfaction, but also great challenges. My job is to work with the riders, not against them. I dream the best horses perform in top form, and the average and youngsters gain valuable confidence.”

He has learned from some world-renowned course designers: Olaf Peterson, Leopoldo Palacios Jugo, Arno Grego, and the Aachen School of Course Design in Germany.

Soberón’scompany isWorldwide Equestrian Solutions. View his course designs and read some of his articles about course design on his website:

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