There is NOTHING more frustrating than being up there on the leader-board before Cross Country, jump a clear round the course… to then cross the finish line and find you have accumulated time faults!!! I’ve been there!!!
Time faults can be costly and when you have done all the preparation, it can very disappointing to look back and think “maybe I went a little wide there” or “maybe I took too much of a check at that combination”.
Here are 5 of my TOP TIPS to help you come home inside the time at your next event!
1) The first thing that you need on the Cross Country course is gears! If you don’t have gears, you won’t be able to take the handbrake off! And often, the most enthusiastic or strongest horse cross country will come home with time faults for this reason. The good thing is that we can practice our gears everyday while we school our horses, transitions, transitions and more transitions! The horse must learn to stay in front of the rider’s leg and stay connected to the rein without pulling through it. Exercise: Use two Canter poles to practice… 6 strides apart, practice adding strides & taking away strides in between to practice those gears.
2) Know what the XC speed is and practice it! So let’s do the maths – if one lap of my gallops is 800m and the XC speed for my competition is 520mpm (metres per minute), then I would need to complete 1 lap of my gallops in 1min36s.
This can be practiced anywhere that you can have 2 markers making up the distance…
Distance : Time
520m = 60s
260m = 30s
130m = 15s
It is really important to note that jumping efforts are not taken into account when the distance and speed is calculated. As a result, between the fences, you will actually have to travel faster than the 520mpm (or assigned speed for your class). Again, this can be practiced with the markers. Once you have established the correct speed, keep practicing it. It may seem too fast at first but with practice, it will start to feel normal. (I often find that after a winter of training in the school, my feeling of what is fast has changed and I will need to practice my speeds again before the season starts.
3) How you Walk the XC Course. For a National one day event, you may only have the time to walk the course once so you want to make the most of it. Visualize and walk the lines that you will ride. Learn the most direct route from one fence to the next as it may not be obvious (especially over undulating ground) and make note of any markers that help you to do this. As you walk your course, between fences, look back regularly to be sure that you have taken the most direct route as it’s very easy to drift. For International events, walk the course several times and definitely once alone. The course will eventually flow in your mind without too much thought. Knowing the distance & mpm of your course, you will be able to work out the minute markers. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow competitors to confirm these minute markers, the majority are happy to help!
4) Look at the XC course as a whole. After walking the course, you should take an overview look and identify which areas have a high jumping intensity (costly on seconds) and which areas you can gallop and gain those seconds back. For example, after an intense part of the course, you may predict that at the next minute marker, you will be down a few seconds. However, you know that there is a galloping stretch later where you can gain those seconds back. Thinking about this in advance will ensure that panic does not ensue if you find yourself a few seconds down on a minute marker.
5) Be an economical rider. This may seem like an obvious one but it is so important. A rider that is fit and has good core strength will be much easier for the horse to carry and will directly affect speed and efficiency. The rider should strive to be able to move the horse up and down the gears using their body position as smoothly & effectively as possible, while maintaining balance. Again, this is one that can be easily be improved at home by practicing altering your riding position from sitting-light seat- jumping smoothly and without losing balance.
I hope these tips help you to come home clear & INSIDE THE TIME!
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