It doesn’t matter what level you event at, being effective in the saddle is crucial. Ben Hobday, who has Sallie Ryle’s Mulrys Error on the waitlist for Badminton this year, reveals his top tips for successful cross-country riding
1 Warm up effectively
“This is the time to make sure the horse is in front of the leg,” says Ben. “I call it running through the gears — sending the canter forward and forward again, but also dropping back and shortening just as easily. Don’t interrupt the flow and rhythm by making tight turns. It should be smooth, like a driving test.”
2 Have plenty of power in the canter
“You can give any horse the power to jump better by choosing the right gear and putting more quality into the canter,” adds Ben. “It’s not about going faster, but having rhythm and the feeling that the horse is taking you to a fence.
“You can see a stride 100 times better if your horse is travelling forward. If he’s behind the leg you’re leaving it to hope — and you should never leave jumping to hope.”
3 Get the power earlier so that you have less to do in front of the fence
“You know when a rider hasn’t seen a good shot because four strides out they suddenly say ‘go, go, go’ with their legs, essentially asking the horse to be quicker. But logically that makes no sense — if you can’t see the stride you’ve got to allow time to see it by sitting into the horse and waiting for the fence.”
4 Work out the best take-off spot for your horse
Ben’s CCI4* contender Grub’s Ramilo, who features in the above video, likes to be close to a fence.
“It means he can tuck his hindleg underneath, push off and go higher, which takes less effort. When you get to a fence on a long stride, the hindleg is further back and the jump is flat.”
5 Having a confident cross-country horse is like a bank account
“Every time a rider puts their leg on they are topping up the account, but if you’re constantly spending confidence — with a poor canter, lack of power, bad line etcetera — the bank manager will be after you,” explains Ben. “Keep topping up the account. If it’s empty you risk problems, such as refusals and run outs, creeping in and it takes time to save up.”
Read more of Ben Hobday’s cross-country advice in the April issue of Eventing magazine, on sale now