Q&A with Alan Lohman, the 2018 WIHS Hunter Course Designer


By Carley Gray, Intern, August 6, 2018

Alan Lohman, the official hunter course designer for WIHS 2018, is a part of many aspects of the horse industry. In 2004 he opened Loham Stables Inc. in Poolesville, Md. with the goal to make a hunter/ jumper barn designed to help riders and horses of all ages excel in the show ring. He has a Big R in course design, and an R-judging card in hunters and equitation. He also is a past president of the Maryland Horse Shows Association.

Alan Lohman while at work designing a course. ©Tricia Booker Photography 

Originally from Waynesboro, Pa., he became interested in riding through his grandfather, Tuttie Chadwell. He rode as a junior with Carolyn Krome and Ken Krome at Persimmon Tree Farm in Westminster, Md., and became their assistant trainer. The training and industry involvement he received from the Kromes prepared him to start his own training, showing, and sales business. In addition to designing for WIHS, Alan has designed courses for Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, Pennsylvania National Horse Show, Duke Childrens Benefit Horse Show, Keswick Hunt Club Horse Show, Maryland Horse and Pony Show, Vermont Summer Festival, and The Devon Horse Show, among others.

Alan not only designs courses, but he’s also a competitor and trainer. Here he is aboard Providence at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. ©Al Cook Photography.

We look forward to seeing Alan’s hunter course designs at The 60th annual Washington International Horse Show in October.

Q&A with Alan Lohman

Q: What inspired you to be a course designer?
A: I am an analytical thinker, and I have always enjoyed the process that goes into bringing out the best in horse and rider combinations as they navigate around a course of jumps.

Q: How many times a year do you design courses?
A: I course design an average of 15 times a year.

Q: How long does it take you to design a course?
A: It depends on the level of the competition. For most shows, I start working on the courses one to two weeks before the competition. For an event like derby finals or indoors, like WIHS I will begin months in advance.

Q: What’s most important in creating a course?
A: There are quite a few important aspects that go into creating a course, they include; Level of competition, for example if I’m designing at a local show vs. medal finals vs. an indoor show. I consider ability of horses and riders for the specified class for example designing for short stirrup will differ from 3 ft. Green and that will differ from designing for a performance hunter class. Other aspects that go into account are footing, weather, the schedule, jump materials available, and how many rounds have to go into a particular ring on a certain day. There are many aspects that I look at when designing but there is no set “criteria” that I uphold to when designing courses.

Q: What makes your courses unique?
A: I think what makes my courses unique is the fact that I am a rider and trainer who shows. This helps me lay out courses that people will genuinely enjoy cantering around. I know in what parts of a course there might be issues, I try to make those parts inviting for horses so that riders can get a good performance out of them.

Q: How does jump design play a role?
A: Obviously a jump with more fill/flowers/brush/etc. will bring out a better jump in a horse. That’s what judges want to see – good jumping horses. I like to always have the first jump be inviting so that everyone can have a positive start to their round.

Q: What is the hardest part about designing a course?
A: The hardest part about designing is making everyone happy.

Q: What’s different about designing at WIHS?
A: The ring dimensions, the show atmosphere, and the schedule all make WIHS a unique experience.

Q: This year is WIHS’ 60th anniversary, how do you believe hunter courses have evolved over the years?
A: Hunter courses have generally stayed the same over the years. Jump materials have evolved, but the premise has remained the same.

Q: How do you keep hunter courses fresh for horses and riders?
A: Making the jumps big and beautiful, and having flowing, open lines can help keep riders on their toes and horses jump well round after round.

Q:  When designing a course, what do you keep in mind that helps judges score a round?
A: Riders want to get a good jump out of their horses, and judges want to reward superior jumping style. That’s my goal. It’s a jumping contest. I have no interest in setting courses that have traps, bogey jumps or are impossible to compete over. I want to build a course which when ridden well, can reward horse and rider combinations with legitimate big scores.

Alan with his wife, Jessica Lohman at the Maryland Horse Show Association’s awards banquet. Jessica won the WIHS Adult Amateur Hunter Championship in 2015. Photo courtesy of Alan Lohman.

Alan competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival in the 3′ Green Hunter division. ©SportFot.

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WIHS is an official USEF Heritage Competition, and holds the highest rating,  CSI5*-W, awarded by the Fédération Equestre Internationale, as well as a US Equestrian 6* Jumpers and  Premier Hunters. It is recognized by the US Hunter Jumper Association, Maryland Horse Show Association, and Virginia Horse Show Association. WIHS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization.