Here are a few top tips to help you with your cross-country warm-up. 

  • Give yourself a good amount of time to walk the course thoroughly. Don’t cut any corners (literally) and walk the exact line you are going to ride. Take note of any branches, rough ground etc. that you will want to avoid. Also if you are jumping in and out of woods (from light to dark) remember to ride a bit stronger.
  • Be very clear with yourself about which lines you are going to take and use sensible landmarks to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask the opinion of other competitors.
  • Look at where the start is in relation to the warm-up area and how the course runs in relation to the lorry park. If you are riding a young horse or a nappy horse this will allow you to predict where you might have ride stronger.
  • Check how the starter is taking the competitors (number order or by time) so that you can plan what time to get on.
  • It is very important to check all of your tack before you mount. It might be worth tying a knot in your reins and practice how to pick them up quickly if you drop them.
  • If you have done a dressage test and showjumping round beforehand, do not over do the warm-up. If you haven’t it’s a good idea to warm-up at least a 10 minute walk away from the cross-country course. Resist the temptation to jump too early and try to think of something other than cross-country.
  • Before you start jumping, go through the gears of your canter and get your horse sharp off your aids and listening to you. Start jumping the smaller fence and focus on getting a good cross-country rhythm with a light seat. Angle some fences and connect a few together, this helps your horse remain focused and alert. Do not jump lots of fences – about 8 is plenty.
  • Give you horse a good canter at the pace you are planning on going to really open his lungs. Get yourself out of the saddle and into your cross-country position, making sure that you are comfortable with the length of your stirrups.
  • Make sure that your horse then has a rest to get his breath back. This is a good time to go through the course in your head. Don’t just go through the jumps by number, but think about how you are going to get from fence to fence, which pace you need for each fence and which lines and striding you are going to take.
  • When you are called to the start box try your best to think about something else and force yourself not to get wound up – it will transmit to the horse. Walk through the box so you know that your horse doesn’t have problem with it.
  • When you are being counted down, don’t ‘park’ yourself in the box for too long, entering at five seconds gives you plenty of time.
  • When the starter says ‘GO’, just keep focused and enjoy it!

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