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Cross-country is great fun, and it’s even better when you achieve a good, rhythmic round inside of the time. We’ve put together our top tips to help you ensure that you have a competitive cross-country round, every time.

Walk the course carefully and check behind you

This may sound strange but it is good practice to constantly look behind you when you are walking the course. This helps you to see the most direct route between fences, which is sometimes more difficult when you are looking forwards. If you have time you could even try walking the course backwards!

Know your combinations

At lower levels related distances and combinations are fairly open, however it is a good idea to walk the distances carefully so that you can ride them in the correct way. Note the striding and where you may need to take an extra pull, or push your horse forward. This will also prepare you for more technical combinations when you move up the levels.

When walking the course think about how you’ll ride the combinations, properly set your horse up, make the correct turn, take a good line and maintain your rhythm. If something doesn’t go to plan think about how you will react to the next part of the combination in advance – is there an alternative route?

Don’t over think each fence

Try not to worry about each fence. Valuable seconds can be lost by over thinking fences that you don’t have to worry about – if it’s a simple fence don’t over prepare your horse. Single fences are designed to be taken at speed and shouldn’t prove too much of a problem. Save yourself for the more technical fences!

Aim for a good, confident start

If more technical fences occur towards the end of the course, it might be an idea to jump off strongly so that if you get into bother later on in the course you have seconds to spare. Obviously it is important to not tire your horse out, however if he usually goes well at the beginning of the course, try to bank some valuable seconds.

Have a good rhythm

Maintaining good rhythm, balance and control is vital for a successful round. Once you know what works for your horse, stick to it and try to remain consistent. You should always review your round afterwards and look at where you may have picked up time-faults. The best way to work on your rhythm is to get out there and keep competing – the more you do it, the better you will become at riding to the time. Make sure that you also know how to gallop your horse correctly.

Learn to change gears

You will experience a variety of different jumps across country, so you should learn how to ride them effectively. For example, when approaching a simple fence you want to be in a light, forward position so that you don’t waste any time. In comparison, when approaching a more difficult line or technical combination you might want to drop down a gear and slow your horse, so that you’re ready to tackle the fence… but remember to keep your leg on and ride him forwards.

Turn effectively

When you are approaching a turn you could try bending your horse away from the direction of travel to prepare for the turn – this helps you control his outside shoulder. Therefore, when you come round the turn you should be on the correct line, well balanced and ready to jump.

Ride confidently away from a fence

Remember to keep riding when you land after a fence. Many riders waste time thinking about the fence, or picking up their reins again for example. It’s important to kick on and ride confidently away from each fence. If you want to give your horse a pat, do so when you’re well on the move again.

Enter, compete, repeat 

What better way to spend your free time than galloping across country, leaping over hedges and taking in beautiful (even if blurred) scenery? Equo has a wide range of hunter trials, one-day events and cross-country clinics live on the site, ready for you to enter quickly and easily right now.