The first level of the ASJL league is Groundpoles. Single poles are set in a standard course pattern. Trotting is preferred but not mandatory. The basic rules of jumping competition apply: controlled entry, halt and salute, preliminary circle, completing the round without assistance, and walking out. It is an early goal that most horse/rider combinations can learn to perform.

Pierre Terre / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0It may seem too basic as a test to more experienced horsemen/women. Such a competition would make little sense in world where basic riding ability was as common as driving is now.

Today’s grassroots rider includes folks who may only be able to ride for an hour a week, and sporadically at that–hardly conditions that existed when the fundamentals of horse shows were first formed. It is no longer commonly possible to take your family’s old carriage horse or one of your uncle’s sale mounts to the back 40 to get your seat. It is time to re-evaluate a system created by a world which has fundamentally changed.

What is needed is a league structure that aids instruction and training, and fosters a nurturing, enjoyable environment of quality care and community.

Alessandro Brollo / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The person with the whip isn’t needed.

Seasoned horsemen/women may easily forget how much is going on when first learning to ride. The skills needed to steer a horse toward a specific target, while balancing and navigating and keeping the semblance of basic position—executing the entry and salute, making a preliminary circle, focusing and remembering the plan all the way to the walk out—is already the product of hours in the saddle. Performing in front of others, alone in an empty arena, is in itself an excellent training tool for building focus, confidence, and the horse/rider partnership.

Also, though the league is open to anyone who wishes to participate, it is being specifically created to include rescued horses and ‘unwanted’ horses. The Groundpoles level aligns with the goal to offer a place for older or otherwise misfit-but-willing horses who are unable to perform more strenuous action at this time.

Finally, the Groundpoles level has solid formative value for a rider who wishes to advance into sanctioned competition: they will have started, literally from the ground up, with good habits and experience in the basics of equestrian competition.