If you routinely end up going slower than the optimum time around a cross-country course, just how can you train yourself and your horse to go faster safely?

BE coach Helen Bell explains, “I find the best way to coach riders about judging pace is to train using a stopwatch, but with no fences to begin with.”

First, measure out a distance of whatever ground needs to be covered in one minute (as specified in the competition rules or entry information).

Then take the stopwatch and go at the speed you feel is correct for the class, checking your watch a couple of times during the minute.

You should aim to come in around 6-8 seconds under the time to account for jumping a couple of fences within that minute.

Judging pace

Next, repeat the exercise, but this time without checking your stopwatch until the end. By doing this, you start to judge pace more effectively for yourself.

You may need a few tries to master this, especially if you often feel as if you’re going faster than you actually are!

Save on the landing stride

Another way of speeding up is to work on the power in your horse’s landing stride, which will help you to accelerate away from the jump.

This can save around a second on landing per fence. Over 20 fences, that 20 seconds equals around 10 time penalties saved.

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