Sally Cousins’ Weekly Training Tip: Cross Country Strategy

We are delighted to host Sally Cousins as our newest guest blogger, as she shares her wealth of knowledge with us in the form of weekly training tips. We hope these nuggets of information can be integrated directly into your program at home and can influence the way you ride and train your horses. Be sure to check out both the Sally Cousins Eventing website and keep up with her on Facebook.

Photo by Kasey Mueller

Photo by Kasey Mueller

From Sally:

When I first get ready to walk the cross country course, I try to keep in mind what my goals are for that event. If the horse is green at that level, I would likely be pleased with a confident ride.
If I need a clear round for qualification purposes, I might play it a little “safe” even if that means I might not place well. If I have had some troubles in my training, this might cause me to change my plan and possibly take an option.
For me, cross country riding is about risk management. For example, if I cut this corner I may save three seconds, but I could risk a run out. This is where it is important to evaluate your horses’ strengths and weaknesses. If my horse tends to run out to the left, I would not trim a right turn but would make a larger turn so I could protect the horse possibly popping the left shoulder and running out.
As a rule of thumb, if I have a combination, skinny or corner, I will give myself four straight strides in the approach. That gives you enough time if the horse starts to waiver to do something about straightening him again. I also keep in mind how long it takes for me to get the horse to the canter speed and balance I will need for the jump.
The harder the horses pull the longer it takes to rebalance or slow them down. The fastest horses on course are not necessarily the fastest gallopers but the ones that are easy to set up. On galloping type jumps I evaluate when I need to set up based on the “face” of the jump.
Some galloping jumps have a good ground lines, and that type of jump would require less organization than a jump with a more vertical  face.  The more vertical the jump the more balanced you would have to be. It is better to set up too soon than to find out the horse has become “hard of hearing” and is ignoring repeated requests to organize.
When I am on course I may find that my horse isn’t going the way I hoped. I may then change my ride, slow down, or maybe take an option. When I walk I find out where the options are on any of the jumps in case I end up having to take them.
Even on a good horse mistakes happen, and knowing the way out can make the difference of finishing or not. If it is really not going well, I will just pull the horse up. Good coaching and experience can help us make smart decisions.


Leave a Reply