Frustrated by cross-country time faults but unsure what to do in order to make the optimum time?

Whether you ride a thoroughbred or a part-bred, there are ways to make your round more efficient without increasing your horse’s galloping speed. Training your eye to see a stride is just one of them, as Australian Olympian and Adelaide CCI4* winner Chris Burton explains.

1 Use the gears

“Cross-country is like Formula One. A fast round looks slow because it is smooth. The driver never hits the brakes hard or accelerates abruptly,” says Chris.

2 More speed isn’t necessarily the answer

“Think forward rather than fast. A quicker gallop won’t make you faster overall, because if you bowl on too strongly and can’t regain control after a big jump, you’ll waste time preparing for the next one.”

Exercise:

Test your horse’s manoeuvrability by riding a large oval shape in gallop, then returning to walk as quickly and smoothly as you can. Your horse needs to open his stride and speed up, then condense it to slow down, without making a fuss.

3 Recognise a stride

Seeing the distance early prevents chipping in a stride or altering the horse’s rhythm.

“If you add a stride or two that’s a second lost at every fence, which is nearly a minute wasted,” explains Chris.

Exercise:

Train your eye to see a stride.

• Set up an upright and, as you approach, count the strides out loud, beginning with the last.
• So the first time, say “one” on the final stride, the next time say “two, one” for the last two strides. Then count back further from three, four, five and six strides. If you get it wrong, repeat that distance again..
• This can also be practised using a pole on the ground.
• “The rider’s job is to put the fence [or pole] in the middle of the horse’s stride, which will become easier as you get to know their movement and will make you quicker overall,” says Chris.

For more training advice from Chris, plus many other leading names – including Tina Cook, Andrew Gould and Katie Jerram – don’t miss the current issue of H&H Ask The Trainer, on sale now.