William Fox-Pitt Clinic Cross Country Report: ‘Don’t Be Wimps!’

In case you missed the first two recaps from William Fox-Pitt’s recent clinic in Ocala, here are the links: dressage and show jumping. Thanks so much for sharing, Laura! Check out Laura’s blog, Tales from a Bad Eventer (editor’s note: Laura is actually quite an GOOD eventer!).

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

William’s introduction to cross country included some similar thoughts he had shared in show jumping.

“The most important thing is for the horse to be thinking on its own. Unless you’re Michael Jung, you make mistakes and things go wrong. You have to teach the horse the stride isn’t always right, the line isn’t always right, and that’s why we start from trot.” He mentioned that invariably every time we fall off it’s jumping from trot! He sent the horses out to trot several fences including a ditch.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

He also mentioned that he rides all his young horses in a full cheek snaffle for cross country. He commented, “What’s going to happen when things get tricky if you’re riding a young horse in a tricky bit? Where do you go from there?”

He wanted the horses thinking about jumping around the fences and stressed it’s important to trot a ditch for the first time so that the horses could look at the ditch, because they don’t even notice it from canter.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Most of the horses had jumped earlier in the show jumping session so he made quick work of the warm up. After everyone managed to stay on trotting a few fences he sent them right out to do a fairly impressive first course of nine jumps including a coffin and trakehner.

All went well and next they picked out another 10 or so fences that included several related distances and a few decent skinnies. All the riders and horses made it look easy so there wasn’t much to comment on.

After that they headed out and did a decent sized corner, an up bank and some steeply angled logs.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Next came the water where the riders spent more time than anything else on the course jumping through the water jump in various patterns.

He stressed that you need a short, bouncy, energetic canter in the water, further explaining that the horses tend to get longer and longer in the water so they get in trouble. He had the riders start out by just cantering through the longest dimension of the water and he told every rider as they cantered through to get an even shorter canter.

Next they did a variety of drops in to wedges out. One horse was doing a fair amount of peeking at the water before jumping in. The rider was puzzled and William said something to the effect of she needed to put her leg on and get on with it. His instructions were always direct and he sure does have a wonderful sense of humor.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Photo courtesy of Laura Szeremi.

Towards the end, he had them do a course of seven or eight fences through the water jump in different combinations and said, “If you don’t like my course feel free to make up your own, but don’t be WIMPS!”

It was a wonderful day, and an absolute privilege to glean secrets from William Fox-Pitt!

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