When Horse & Hound visited Francis Whittington to find out more about his spectacular year, he shared with us some of his top tips for successful cross-country riding

Francis Whittington’s cross-country tips

“My first tip is to have rhythm, balance and control. If you have two of these elements, you will automatically have the third.

“When you’re galloping across-country it is important to maintain a rhythm, to ride in balance — this in itself will give you the control to jump the fence.

“My second tip for riding cross-country is to make sure you remain in focus while riding fast. Riding cross-country quickly is done by maintaining a nice rhythm and coming in balance to the fence.

“When you are working with your horses you need to practise riding up to a fence in a nice rhythm at a lower level and at a slower pace. Once you have achieved this rhythm you can then start to open the stride and make sure you ride up to the fence, using your leg as you get there, rather then riding too early towards a fence, which positions the horse down into the bottom of the fence, resulting in an awkward jump.

“My third tip — a very important — is making sure you jump the first fence of a combination with the same pace of canter that you would like to use to jump the last fence.

“If you come to a combination of fences too quickly, you won’t have the control you need by the time you get to the last fence in that combination. Think ahead, plan how you would like to be riding the last fence and make sure those preparations are in place when you jump the first obstacle.

“My last tip — a basic but equally important one — is that the more upright the fence, the more upright your body should be. For example, if you are jumping a gate, make sure your body is upright, then you are giving the horse room to bring his shoulders up in front of you. If you are jumping a chase fence, allow the horse to keep galloping to the fence. Remember this one — it’s simple but it makes a big difference.”

The footage in this video, which is from Francis’ winning round at Blenheim 2014 on Easy Target, was recorded prior to the ban of helmet cameras.

Read our exclusive interview with Francis Whittington in the issue of H&H out 24 December 2014.