Having 20 penalties after your cross-country round abolishes any chance of winning and is very frustrating. There are many reasons for occurring these penalties and if this happens you should try and decrease the chances of it happing again in the future. Here are a few reasons why problems may occur across country and some suggestions to try and help you not let it happen again:

Rider error

Normally is it quite obvious when you have made a mistake as a rider and given your horse an impossible task. Try not to beat yourself up over it, as we are only human. Go cross-country schooling and make sure that you haven’t caused any lasting effects. Work on your reaction time, so that the next time you know you’re in trouble you can make a good decision. If you keep making mistakes as a rider, it might be worth stepping down a level or attending some cross-country clinics.


Both horses and riders suffer from nerves. Although you might be very confident at home, the pressure of competition can get to you and consequently cause mistakes. Try to channel your nerves into a more focused mind-set. Don’t be afraid to really psych yourself up and build on your adrenaline – this will all transmit to your horse.


Confidence plays a huge part in successful riding. You must be confident in your horse and your horse must be confident in you. A lack of confidence can mean that when you’re faced with a situation such as a bad stride, a variation of your line, or a spooky fence, instead of saying ‘NO’ you reaction can be ‘GO’. To try and remedy this think about stepping down a level, attending a clinic or training session and focusing on just having fun with your horse. Perhaps go for some fun rides, do a pairs hunter trials or go team chasing.


Sometimes you do your job right and your partner lets you down. A cheeky run-out, napping or just being stubborn all are common reasons for cross-country penalties. If this is completely out of character for your horse, it is worth checking that he is not suffering in any way (for example a sore back, tied-up, virus etc). It is imperative to act fast before it becomes an endemic problem. Go cross-country schooling (ideally at the same venue) as soon as you can. Challenge your horse head on and don’t shy away from a fight. If you feel that you are not strong enough, or you’re not winning, perhaps ask someone else to do it. When you win make sure that you then relax and make friends again.


This happens to both horse and rider, lessening reaction times and causing mistakes. Tiring is mainly due to lack of fitness, although sometimes a hot day or underling health problem can affect energy levels. The former can be solved by more fitness work. Introduce some added hill-work and hacking into your routine and jump more often – this will improve top line and stamina. For you, fitness is improved by riding more or doing exercise that are specific to horse riders.

Lack of Balance

If your horse isn’t well balanced, or is on the forehand, all of the above can happen. Balance is crucial for successful competition riding. Balance is achieved by correct flat work, good muscle structure and fitness. Other than the above reasons, lack of balance can cause your horse to be strong, not to jump well and find everything a struggle. These can all lead to problems across country. To achieve greater balance do more flatwork, attend more dressage and jumping lessons or clinics and build more top-line and correct muscle structure. You should work on balance all the time you are on your horse, no matter what you are doing with him.

Now that you’re ready to go out and practice the perfect clear round, don’t miss the upcoming events listed on www.equoevents.co.uk.