Cross country enthusiasts – are you planning your spring Hunter Trial? By Jenny Richardson BHSAI

Hunter trial

Sacha Hourigan riding Ibanito 

Spring is ‘prime time’ to tackle a hunter trial; pure cross country events whereby riders can compete as pairs or individuals, and are timed to either achieve an optimum time, or the fastest time. Coming up at the time of writing across the UK we have the Burghley Pony Club Branch Hunter Trials, the Grove & Rufford Hunt Supporters’ Open Hunter Trials and the Burton Hunt Pony Club Branch Spring Hunter Trials. Check out your hard copy of Pegasus magazine to see if there are any local events within the South-East region, if this is area applicable to you, or click on our events listings, on this site. There’s Coombelands Farm, Arundel Park, Pachesham E.C and Munstead Hunter Trials all coming up in Spring 2018!

Firstly, when planning for your hunter trial, you need to be prepared by having a fit horse and rider for your upcoming event – and ideally you need to have practised many different types of obstacles you are likely to meet, together with normal flat and jumping exercises. Road work is an essential part of your routine, and perhaps you will have also been out with hounds!

Ideally you will have given yourself as much time as possible by choosing your event well in advance, so you and your horse to be at peak performance, producing your best for the competition; speak to your farrier in good time about adding stud holes.

Query the fences, the going, and any sharp turns or variations of terrain that may test the competitors...

Query the fences, the going, and any sharp turns or variations of terrain that may test the competitors…

If your chosen course is local and you know it, you will be aware of any possible difficulties that your combination may face. If your XC course is unknown or further afield, do a little research, ask questions of riders who know it. Query the fences, the going, and any sharp turns or variations of terrain that may test the competitors. (Try to hire the course to practice, if you can!)

As each horse is an individual, you will have an idea what is the best exercise plan for your own partnership ahead of the hunter trials. Most horses will need a steadily increasing regime in the weeks leading to the event, to tone muscles, legs and cardiovascular fitness. Either a rest day, or light exercise the day before is recommended so that the horse is fresh and ready for hunter trial itself.

Make your entries well in advance, and plan your clothes, tack and the route to the event, allowing plenty of time before your class.



It is usually possible to walk the course the day before and you may wish to do this twice, and even again on the day. Do all you can the day before, including packing your vehicle and cleaning your horse, thus leaving yourself the least amount of work before you leave. Depending on ground conditions, consider whether to add studs.

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. Visit for info. A training break is the ideal way to prepare yourself ahead of your hunter trial or a horse trials event.

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