By Jenny Richardson BHSAI
Cross country jumping is a test of endurance, skill and agility following a set course through forest and fields. (Arena XC is also popular, although this is a different discipline!) Depending on the XC enue, the horse and rider may be required to negotiate natural obstacles like logs, ditches, banks, hills, and other jumping efforts. Cross country is usually part of a horse trials contest that also includes jumping and dressage – although many people contest hunter trials or other XC events as a stand alone event – and you can often hire a course for practicing.
Now is the time to book you and your horse onto a cross country clinic – many elite riders are currently running courses to help amateurs hone their skills – check out British Eventing’s training page on its website for clinics close to you. In the South East, Munstead Horse Trials’ course in Surrey, and Robin Post Stables in East Sussex, are popular XC venues.
Top tips ahead of your clinic
• Practice your brakes! Use a small grid of fences in the first part of your arena down the long side, and aim to halt by the end of the arena.
• Practice your water jumping skills using puddles and rivers when you are out riding – many areas flood when it rains so utilise such areas if it is safe to do so and you know the ground.
• Don’t forget that you won’t jump every XC fence ‘dead centre’, and they won’t be as symmetrical as show jumps; so utilise obstacles such as cones to put by your fences, and any natural materials like branches and brush as fillers. These additions will help your fences at home look more unusual, and you can also practice jumping them at angles.
• Remember your flatwork – plenty of gymnastic pole work, together with lateral flatwork to free the shoulders and get the quarters working underneath the horse, will encourage mobility and athleticism and help get you ‘clinic-ready’.
• Take your horse on hacks in the open countryside as much as you can, and vary the speed over different terrain, safely of course. Trotting up hills builds stamina.
• Although the season is over, some drag hunts continue into March and April – in the South East for example, the Coakham Bloodhounds still have some meets on their card. This would be a fabulous way to prepare your horse for a clinic at an XC venue.
• If you do not do a great deal of XC riding, you may need to adapt your position with the ethos ‘less is more’ – sometimes, there’s a temptation to ‘over jump’ and lean forward too much as the fences appear more challenging, when in fact, keeping the shoulders back on the approach, and folding gently at the hips at take off is all that’s needed.
If you need XC practice, consider a training break at a leading venue.
Jenny Richardson BHSAI is Equestrian Centre Business Manager at Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate, a venue that offers luxurious equestrian riding holidays and training breaks in the heart of Ireland.