“I’m Lucinda Green. I’m a has-been.”
That was how the great Lucinda Green started off her recent XC Mastermind Course, which featured Great Britain’s Piggy March, William Fox-Pitt, and Pippa Funnell, Australia’s Shane Rose, and the USA’s Boyd Martin. This team of household name riders covered everything from how to deal with fear, to where they get their income, to talking about the biggest eventing controversies of the day -– frangible pins to yellow cards to ground juries.
While I’d love to dive right into the deep end and ruffle some feathers, we have to leave some excitement and suspense to Lucinda and the team. Instead, I’m going to focus on my four biggest takeaways from one hour with the greats.
The Dream Team on…
Dealing with Fear
They get scared, too! Yes, folks. Even those badass 5* cross country machines need a little extra encouragement to get around the course sometimes. Or, as Shane Rose says, “If you don’t have fear in some fashion, you’re probably stupid.”
All six riders agreed that while they do get nerves and feel fear, it’s not so much the fear of falling, as it is the fear of letting down your horse, messing up on course, or losing. Each rider had their own way of dealing with these pre-ride nerves.
Pippa Funnell, who describes herself as an overthinker until she gets in the saddle, consciously focuses on the positive. She used a great quote that has become her motto for dealing with fear: “Don’t let the fear of failure outweigh the excitement of winning.”
One clear thread was present throughout the entire class, and especially in this particular discussion: these upper level riders support each other through the ups and downs of this sport. Piggy March told a moving story about being genuinely scared at her first ever big event (Burghley in 2002). She was sitting on her trailer ramp, terrified, when Pippa Funnell came along, supported her, and got her out on course.
Keeping Horses Happy
Next, the team tackled the question: What keeps your horses happy? The answer boiled down to varying the horse’s work and choosing the right horse for the job.
Piggy March’s horses do an intense school two to three times per week and then go hacking or do other forms of varied work. Pippa Funnell focuses on riding with empathy and compassion, while still kindly enforcing rules and boundaries. She believes that a horse that knows the rules is a happier horse.
Shane and Lucinda had a slightly different take and focused on working with horses that enjoy their job. Shane believes that his horses truly enjoy doing well in competition and being good at their jobs — they simply want to please their rider.
Similarly, Lucinda believes that while a horse doesn’t care what color ribbon they bring home, they do know and share in our aura, our happiness, when we do well.
William Fox-Pitt put it simply: focus on education without pressure and don’t overburden your horse.
Going Fast on Cross Country
One question the team tackled was how you train to go fast on cross country. The surprising answer was that they don’t. At least, not in the way you might expect.
The overall consensus was that in order to go fast on course, you have to practice slow. Piggy March focused on knowing your horse and building trust so when you kick it into fifth gear on cross country, your movements, your relationship, and your trust will be rock solid.
Boyd Martin and Pippa Funnell focused on rideability and lightness. According to these two, the fastest horses are the lightest horses. Pippa especially emphasized safety first and prioritizing balance over speed.
Shane said that he gains the most time not by going flat out between fences, but by having a tight line and being economical at the fence. This does not necessarily mean leaving out strides. He and Lucinda both emphasized that sometimes adding a stride is faster than leaving one out. The goal is to be efficient when setting up your line.
Riding Smaller Fences
As the sport of eventing explores the possibility of using smaller fences (Pratoni was mentioned here), Lucinda brought up a question about how to get your horse to back off of a smaller fence and take it just as seriously as a larger jump.
Shane had a personal story for this discussion. One of his worst crashes in his career was over a small fence because he didn’t take it seriously. His end takeaway was that as the rider, you cannot let your guard down just because it’s a smaller fence. Every fence has to be ridden with respect.
William Fox-Pitt, in his concise and to-the-point manner, advised viewers to “imagine they’re bigger than they are.” If you visualize the fence as quite massive and give it the respect it deserves, your horse is more likely to as well.
Altogether, the #dreamteam’s biggest piece of advice for getting your horse to respect every fence on the cross country field was to really rebalance your horse and remind them to pay attention.
At one point in the meeting, Boyd Martin quips, “We’re pretty lucky we found horses, cause we’d be bloody useless at anything else.”
Well, Boyd, we’re bloody lucky we have you and the rest of the team available in Lucinda Green’s XC Mastermind. From one student of the sport to another, this masterclass is worth the price tag for serious riders.
Get to know the Dream Team on Lucinda Green’s introduction to her XC Mastermind here, and if you’re not a current XC Academy member, the wait list will be opening soon! Sign up here to be added to the list. In the meantime, Lucinda’s hosting a few more free events to kick off 2023 in strong fashion. You can find links to each of the upcoming webinars below.
Pre-Season XC Webinar with Tim & Jonelle Price – February 4, 8 p.m. GMT / 3 p.m. EST / 12 p.m. PST
Pre-Season XC Webinar with Chris Bartle & Dickie Waygood – February 2, 8 p.m. GMT / 3 p.m. EST / 12 p.m. PST