If you are going eventing, you will encounter a cross-country start box. It’s an area with a real buzz of excitement about it, both for you and your horse. So how can you help keep a lid on your nerves and your horse’s excitement? Here’s some helpful advice to help you on your way.

  1. Train

Whether you have a young horse who needs to learn what the start box is about or you have an old campaigner, it is particularly useful to find a cross-country schooling venue with a start box for you to practise in. Many horses associate the start box with the excitement of the cross-country course, and therefore it is common to have a horse who is on his toes. To try and avoid your horse blowing up in the start box, train him to walk calmly through the start box and practise halting and then moving off in walk and circling back into the rear of the box, giving plenty of reassurance. It is also advisable to not go off like a rocket on competition days.

  1. Use the box

On competition day you can walk through the start box as many times as you like — don’t be afraid to do this if your horse is excitable.

  1. Don’t panic when you are given two minutes to go

Most competitions call riders from the warm-up to the start box when they have two minutes until their start time. Without frustrating the start box and collecting ring stewards, don’t rush over to the start box if you are on an excitable horse — two minutes can feel like a very long time if your horse is on his toes! If you can ride your horse in a 20m circle near the start box, all the better, but avoid doing tight circles on a hot horse. When you are given around 10 seconds to go walk into the back of the start box before you are told to go.

  1. Stop watch preparation

If you are wearing a stop watch, it is advisable to start it when you are given 10 seconds to go. This avoids a last-second panic to start your watch, check it’s working and get your horse out of the start box!

  1. Don’t be afraid to use a (knowledgeable) helping hand

Whether they are to help keep you calm, give you moral support or if your horse is excitable and needs someone to put a hand on a rein to keep him calm, a friend who knows their stuff around the start box can be a valuable asset for both you and your horse. 

  1. Focus

There are often only a few strides between the start box and the first fence, so make sure you are focused on the job in hand.

  1. Don’t forget to be polite

The start box steward is likely to be an unpaid volunteer, there to ensure you can compete, so don’t forget to say “thank you” as you leave the start box. 

  1. Remember why you are doing it

You are here because you want to have fun, so most importantly enjoy it!

Equo Events has a range of events to enter quickly and easily online.