The Weird, Controlling Shenanigans of the Galop System

It would appear some riders in France are experiencing a difficulty obtaining their Galop 7 Certificate, which has nothing to do with their riding ability. Not fair! Lots of us are really old and want to achieve stuff before we die.

I thought it was just me, but a woman contacted me because she had seen that I had passed said elusive certificate and wanted to know how she could do the same. Incidentally, it was she who coined the phrase “weird, controlling shenanigans”. Love it.

Important note – some riders are not getting their Galop 7 because they are simply not ready yet.

I am not sure, but I might be on the cusp of a theory.

However, this could take a minute as my 17hh Belgian Warmblood has just started scratching his body along my caravan like a bloody bear and I am in danger of being a child in a Jurassic Park movie.

I am aware this is not normal. I am a creative.

That was close! Back to work.

For non-horsey readers, or those not based in France, I should briefly explain that there exists La Federation Francaise d’Equitation. And they control ev-er-y thing. And they have hoops you have to jump through before allowed near the jumps you want to jump over.

You need a little certificate called a Galop. Galop 3 is sufficient for up to Club 2. Or 85cms. If you want to remain on the Club circuit but jump higher, jump through Hoop Number 6. If you want to jump on the Amateur circuit, jump through Hoop 7.

Many moons ago, I set myself the challenge of trying to become an international showjumper before my 50th birthday. I am currently 3 years behind with this goal. C’est la vie.

I looked into what I needed to do to have half a chance and one thing necessary was to pass my Galop 7. I found a club near me and regained the confidence I had just lost after 2 nasty accidents in quick succession. Yes. Fall off and nearly die, so set a challenge for myself. What is it with horsey people?

Prior to my falls, I was regularly jumping 120cms at home. I knew I was capable. I remember doing “Chase me Charlie” classes as a kid where we would jump higher and higher until a refusal or a bar down would eliminate you. We would hoof it off towards a massive jump, which was usually just a single bar upright, on a scruffy pony, with no fear and no concept of danger or style.

A client introduced me to a riding instructor, and I explained I needed to get my confidence back. Then would like to work towards getting my Galop 7 so I could move up to the Amateur circuit. I had been competing at, and sometimes even winning at, Club 2 for over 7 years.

I reckon she mis-filed me.

I think she had it in her head I was a debutante.

We worked on my confidence, which slowly returned. I thank her for that. She was very calm and understanding with me. But each time I broached the subject of working towards doing my Galop 7 I would be poo-pood (is that how you spell that?) and smirked at.

She told me I would need about 2 grand’s worth of lessons before I was a good enough rider to pass a Galop 7.

Because I had little money, I paid for my lessons “in-kind” by teaching English to the kids at her riding school. And riding new ponies. She liked to buy borderline dangerous ponies and school them so the children could compete on them.

But before they were safe, I would ride them. Compete on them. Then when they calmed down and started winning, she could put the children of paying customers on them.


If she thought I was not capable of passing my Galop 7, why was she letting me ride these nutters? She can’t have it both ways.

You get to a point where you just know you are “flogging a dead horse”.

My circumstances were changing, and I booked a lesson with Louise Morley. Changed my life!

I ended up working for her again and getting given Lotus, who you have just seen using my caravan as a scratching post.

This person, who would never be good enough, started getting regular lessons with Louise. And getting positive advice. Positive. Positive-ness-ness. Do you know how important it is to be positive? You must do it. Positively.

I went and asked at a club in Bellac if I could do the Galop 7. “Yes,” they said. (Positively.) “No problem.”

“How much will it cost?” I asked, dreading the answer. “Oh, about 17 euros for an assessment lesson and then about 25 euros for the actual test.” WHAT!!! Seriously?

I booked it for the first available lesson.

Driving there, I was approaching a roundabout when I saw one of my trailer wheels overtake me in the other lane, bouncing merrily along. Boing, boing boing into the side of a lorry. Spun about a bit before falling onto its side. Just what you need on one of the most important days of your life.

I drove round to my exit. Jumped out. Ran into the traffic waving my arms about madly. Rolled the wheel over to my car, double-checking it was actually off of my trailer and I wasn’t nicking some other poor bugger’s wheel. Shoved it onto the passenger seat. Got back in. Screamed.

Because a face was now in my window. Explained my destination was, literally, just around the corner. Drove off very slowly. Tacked up. Got assessed.

She got me to canter circles around her. Starting with about a 15m circle, then riding a larger circle in extended canter, then collecting the canter while spiralling down to a 10m circle, then extending back out again.

She then got me to do leg yields. I never do leg yields or shoulder-in and neither does my horse. We tried. We failed. But we were doing them in walk and I have since discovered that it is much easier in a trot.

Then she put up a bounce, a small cross, a slightly larger upright, and an oxer and we popped over each of those twice before she put up a course of about 10 obstacles, including a double, all of about a metre in height. We popped over those too.

Actually, Lotus does not “pop”. He goes: buh doomf, buh doomf, buh – – – – DOOMFF, buh doomf …

She said the jumping side of things was great and definitely Galop 7 level.

My aids, transitions, seat, etc in all gaits were good. But the leg yield was shit. She told me to download a Galop 7 dressage test and learn it.

Because Lotus is a sensitive little flower, I did not think it a good idea for a dressage virgin to teach a youngster dressage so I booked 2 lessons on a club horse for me to learn how to leg yield and shoulder-in and then rode the same horse for the dressage test part of the exam.

G7 Dressage Test

I got a big black marker pen, 12 sheets of A4 paper, 12 plastic covers, also A4, and some fence poles and wrote out the letters and measured out a dressage arena. Test in hand, I learned it on foot. I had great fun. I should have videoed it.

I ‘trotted’ and ‘cantered’ my circles and half circles and crossed my legs over and under themselves whilst looking in the right direction and I ‘held’ my ‘reins’ as if I really were riding an invisible horse.

Come the day of the test, I was absolutely shitting myself. I didn’t use my trailer. I used Louise’s. I can’t think why?

The instructor, fag in gob whilst singing something jazz-like, told me to warm up the mare I was riding, and when I was ready just to yell and she and another instructor would come to observe.

I got all the way to my second shoulder-in, then 20m circle in canter, then counter canter, and canter, canter, um, canter a bit more, um …

J’AI OUBLIE LE TEST! canter, canter …

She prompted me and I carried on. On the wrong leg. But I knew I was to be going back to trot soon, so left the mare to it because I was now convinced I had failed this part.

But there was a part of the exam that I did not know about. The Self Assessment. So I was extremely honest in my critique. Lorraine et Laurent agreed with everything I pointed out. The only thing they commented on that I had not mentioned was that I have a very good seat. YEY!

Untack mare. Tack up Lotus. Jumpy Jump Time! Clear round! We are fab!!


“You’ve passed!”

Whoo hoooo!!

Bite Me! Previous Instructor.

This brings me back to THE THEORY I mentioned before Lotus’ scratching nearly caused the caravan version of the game we played as kids. Rolling down a hill in an oil drum. Usually with a Jack Russell in it with you for good measure.

Crab Bucket Mentality.

“She reached down and picked a crab out of a bucket. As it came up, it turned out that three more were hanging on to it. ‘A crab necklace’ giggled Juliet. ‘Oh, that’s crabs for you,’ said Verity, disentangling the ones who had hitched a ride … ‘that’s why you can keep them in a bucket without a lid. Any that tries to get out gets pulled back.'”

Terry Pratchett, Unseen Academicals

3 thoughts on “The Weird, Controlling Shenanigans of the Galop System”

  1. Pingback: Hands up who swears and/or laughs out loud whilst competing? – how to become an international show jumper before you are 50

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