XC is an excellent foundation for a horse’s general education, encouraging a trusting partnership. Most horses thoroughly enjoy the experience and the riders more so! Horse and rider should be comfortable with cantering in open spaces, and need to be fit and ready, before tacking a horse trials event. Why not use the downtime of the end of the season to practice at a local facility, or travel further afield to a cross-country specialist training venue? Autumn and winter’s a great time to hone your skills, develop confidence and trust with your horse, and set goals for next season. In the meantime, here are some ‘XC facts’:
Cross country originated as a training exercise for the mounted cavalry, and has progressed to its present form over the last 70-80 years.
XC consists of jumping natural fixed obstacles over a set course designed to test ability and bravery of horse and rider, and usually consists of 16 -22 fences on grass that may include ditches, water, banks, hedges, walls, logs, tyres, barrels, etc.
Flags are placed either side of each obstacle; red (right) and white (left) – which must be passed through.
At a XC or horse trials event there is usually an optimum time, after which penalties are added, or else there can be a timed section, or sometimes the whole course.
Rules can vary, and are posted on the day of the competition at the secretary’s office.
Often there is a Clear Round class at the start of the day, which can be used for practise. Sometimes a Pairs Competition is included, which is excellent for a younger or novice combination to follow a more experienced partnership around. Courses are usually open for walking the day before, and pre-entries are often required.
It is important to be properly dressed for XC – riding hats to current safety standards, level three body protectors, stock tie and pin, cross country colours of your choice (arms must be covered), white or beige breeches, and long boots. Whips may be no longer than 120cm, and spurs are optional; gloves are recommended. Your horse needs his usual tack. Boots or protective leg wear are strongly advised, and studs may be considered.
The XC Season runs from March until October. Unaffiliated fixtures are held countrywide by various Pony and Riding Clubs, and can be found locally advertised or on websites such as this one. Other competitions can include Eventer Trials, which have a show jumping phase before setting off across country. Some Show Centres run an entire event on a surface in an enclosed arena and these events can appear all year round. Unaffiliated XC heights can vary from 60cm up to about 1m. Courses can often be hired prior to events where riders can practise, and clinics with instructors are organised through clubs, centres and BE.
Affiliated competitions are run by British Eventing – these include dressage, show jumping and cross country elements, and are run over one or three days. (ODE and 3DE). Heights are from Introductory (80cm) through to Advanced (1.20cm). Day tickets can be bought as a taster before deciding to become a BE member. Further information can be found on The British Eventing website – www.britisheventing.com
Emma Hobson 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.
Emma is a Dressage Ireland List Six Judge, Para-Dressage judge, working Mum, and holder of three degrees of higher education.
Her team welcomes riders of all abilities and age groups and offers expert tuition, gentle hacks and exhilarating cross-country rides over an extensive XC course.