The bridle-less cross country course

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Instead, identify intermediate markers and ride a few straight lines between them en route to your end point. Make shallow turns between points to stop your horse from simply drifting about and falling through his shoulder.

The key is to introduce your horse to steps and drops in walk and allow him to think about where he has to put his feet. Walk through the water, step up and down small steps, then ask him to walk up to a bigger step and jump up. To jump a step out of walk, your horse needs to be in front of your leg and you need to sit behind the movement with loose reins.

The loose reins are absolutely essential — too often horses are punished for doing the right thing by not being allowed enough rein to do the job.

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The bridle-less cross country course

This teaches him to stop, chip in an extra stride or even run out. But if he has free use of his head and neck, he can place his feet safely on landing. There is little point in spending most of your cross-country schooling session charging around jumping logs and rolltops, because you should be coming into the session having mastered straightforward fences in the arena in your showjumping training. Instead, focus on true cross-country type questions that will help your horse to become brave across country.

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Seek out ditches, steps, banks, water and owl holes to allow you to make the most out of your schooling session. By introducing these questions in cold blood, on a loose rein, you will allow your horse to think about them and become familiar with them. Generally, if you feel comfortable warming up then your stirrups are the wrong length for cross-country. As a rider, you must be able to analyse your horse and work out what will help or hinder him.

By learning to be an economical rider, you can more efficiently transition between asking your horse to go forward and bringing him back to a shorter stride. Learning to use, and teaching your horse to respond to, a light, artificial aid will sharpen his senses and get him listening to you, which will make it easier to bring him back to you. By teaching your horse to respond to a light aid, you can ride more quietly and effectively. Quiet riding is a real skill.

They want to hit it twice as far, so logic says they need to do everything twice as much. This means they exaggerate their bad technique twice as much, as well as the good elements. The ball goes less far because they exaggerated their faults so much. If you ride strongly by moving around loads, that has a negative effect on your horse.

Cross-country Fun in a Nurtural Bitless Bridle

Anything you do with your hand, seat or shoulders is more of a hindrance. Good riding is all about stripping it down to being as efficient as possible. You can be really effective without any unnecessary movement — learn how to settle him down, then when you want to zip him up, just use your heel. In time, your horse will become tuned to being able to quieten and lighten from quiet aids, not loud ones.

Developing this skill means that rather than slowing your horse to create energy, you can add energy into a long gallop. This helps your horse stay relaxed and uses less energy, which makes him less tired and means his speed stays high the whole way around the course, helping you avoid time faults.

Cross-Country Speed Magnifies Mistakes

My ethos of quiet riding uses two key pieces of kit. I strongly believe in the benefit of spurs and a schooling whip when cross-country schooling and training. Spurs allow you to rev up your horse by using your heel to zip up his engine, while a schooling whip helps him remain forward without a big aid or having to take your hand off the rein to use a short whip.

These artificial aids help you to do that and mean that between helping him, you can be as quiet as possible.

Horse & Pony Dream Lesson – Cross Country Training - Kirstin Kelly Equestrian

I advocate the use of spurs on every horse for cross-country riding. Many riders with hot horses think that because their horse is generally trying to accelerate and is perhaps struggling with tension, they should be focusing on trying to diffuse that tension and slow him down. However, with a spur as back-up, you can be there to support and encourage your horse. I like to cross-country school with a schooling whip, rather than a jumping stick. The sequence caused several horses and riders to come to grief, glancing off the skinny after jumping down a bank.

Now what? It could be five or six. For me, the line is more important than the number. I would react to what I was feeling from my horse. The best advice I ever got was that you can walk the course and have a plan, but you have to be able to ride the moment. Moving on to a sprawling coffin combination, Law asked riders to canter two strides across the bottom on the first pass, but then on the second approach to come over a rolltop, bounce down the bank, and make one stride across to jump up the opposite bank and out.

Remember, a collected canter is a still a forward canter, just with a shorter stride.


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  • So this is where we have to do more homework. Remember, you want to be at the point where when schooling cross-country that you can have a conversation with your horse, not an argument. If he gets crooked, try using bridged reins to help keep his shoulders straight to the fence. A lot of race horses are galloped with bridged reins because it works to help keep them straight too. Make him rounder.

    Think about that super-connected canter coming into a question like this. That is what your warm-up is for—to make sure their head is in the right place. Fulton said the gelding has just started his career with beginner novice and novice outings and will move up to training this year. Do they move up?

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    Do they back off? I create the situation and give them the responsibility. If they make a little mistake, I let them understand what happened and grow from it.