The competition season is starting, but with so much rain calling off many events, it can be tricky to even get out to practise cross-country.

According to six-time Badminton winner Lucinda Green, there’s plenty you can practise within your arena fence to prepare for cross country and keep sessions interesting. These two exercises will definitely ensure that both you and your horse keep your hand (and hoof) in.

These exercises continue from a previous article. You can find the first three exercises here.

Exercise 4: Trickier angles

Exercise 4

Many fences on a cross country course involve difficult angles meant to test both rider and horse. In eventing, you need to be prepared for the unexpected.

Set it up: Use two uprights on a line. Place two fillers on a diagonal away to the left of the uprights to make a trickier angle.

How to ride it:

  1. Ride over the first upright. Your horse will be expecting to jump the second upright, but instead ask them to come at the fence from the opposite direction. Then turn to the left over the two filler fences.
  2. Consider your approach carefully so that you can help your horse to understand where you want them to go next.
  3. Think about your legs as you come into a fence. Are you cuddling them with your legs to create a ‘tube’ to steer them?
  4. Sit up straight with your legs around your horse after each fence. This helps them to collect themselves ready for the next jump.

Exercise 5: Houses and skinnies

Exercise 5

Practising for jumps such as logs and houses can be difficult to do in an arena, but all it requires is a bit of creativity. Using oxers mimics the wider reach of the house fences. You could put a rug over the oxer or employ a filled upright. The key is to make the fence look and feel different for your horse. It also helps to add variety to your schooling sessions.

Skinnies and angles are other important fences to practise as they’re harder for your horse to focus on. They need to learn to jump between the flags and trust your direction.

Set it up: Place the first jump on the bottom short side of your arena so your horse doesn’t get a long approach to it. Place a skinny fence on an angle to the right. Place another oxer halfway along on the right long side of the arena, and a final oxer on the short side at the top of the arena on the right of the centre line.

How to ride it:

  1. Remember what you’ve been practising – be aware of when they’ve seen the fence.
  2. You’re there for direction and encouragement if needed.
  3. If they seem unsure, sit back and use more leg. Avoid tightening your reins – it makes it harder for them to see the jump.
  4. After the first jump you want to swing round to the left after the skinny. Have this in mind as you jump the skinny.
  5. Don’t rush your horse on, but ensure that they are ‘desiring’ each fence.
  6. Jump the first fence again, this time in the opposite direction, following by the next fence that is at a right angle to the first.
  7. You then have a longer stretch before the final jump. Try not to let your horse speed up in this section.
  8. As you come back to the track, pick a point on the fence line and stop there.

Meet the expert: Legendary event rider Lucinda Green MBE is a six-time winner of Badminton. She is a former World Champion, two-times European gold medalist and was a team silver medalist at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

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