Your horse needs to have a range canters and gallops that you can use during your cross country round or schooling session. These are key to speed, safety and having a smooth ride so that you can meet each fence at an appropriate pace.
Top eventing coach Caroline Moore recommends that you have five gears to have a successful cross country ride. Here’s what they are, when you need them and how to ride them.
First gear: trot
You’ll rarely use this gear; it’s reserved for specific jumping efforts or for when the horse is unsure.
Use: jumping off a big step, or over a ditch or into water with a young horse
Ride it: have the horse between your leg and hand, with your leg aids encouraging him to be well connected into the rein
Second gear: coffin canter
The shortest canter, which is high-powered with a short base.
Use: fences with a surprise on landing (such as a coffin), and anything especially upright
Ride it: tighten your core and shift your balance back to encourage the horse’s shoulder up. You’ll feel the power coming from his hindlegs but don’t allow it to escape out the front – keep his frame short and his neck soft
Third gear: related distance canter
A big showjumping canter combining a high degree of power and control with a more positive stride.
Use: upright fences, skinnies and related distances
Ride it: maintain power in the hindquarters and shoulder control but allow your horse’s frame to lengthen into a more purposeful stride
Fourth gear: gallop
A ground-covering pace for wide, single soft profile fences and sub-optimal ground conditions.
Use: logs, rolltops, hedges and deep or ridgey ground
Ride it: with a light seat, secure lower leg and a rein contact you’re happy to jump from. Allow your horse to come in front of the vertical as he lengthens his body and gait
Fifth gear: top speed
Your fastest pace on course to help you make up time and avoid penalties.
Use: in between questions
Ride it: in a two-point seat with your leg secure, following the horse’s stretched neck with your hand
Don’t miss the full cross-country feature with Caroline in the September issue of Your Horse
About the expert: Caroline Moore coaches some of eventing’s brightest stars; she has produced and competed up to 5* level, and co-owns Allstar B, who carried Ros Canter to gold at the 2018 World Equestrian Games.