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As courses become more technical, could some insider knowledge help you improve your preparation and boost your clear-round rate?

  • Get out and about in different terrains and types of going, so horses learn to find their feet. “There will come the day when you get in a pickle and need the horse to take over. A horse that has been hunted, or properly schooled, is much better prepared for challenging terrain or going on a course,” says Mike Etherington-Smith.
  • Ride according to your horse. “If you’re on a short-striding horse and going into a line which has a long stride in it, prepare for that as soon as you land. Take the extra stride immediately, don’t suddenly decide to make it up halfway down,” advises Mark McGowan.
  • Walk the course properly. “How often do I see groups of younger competitors wandering round the course chatting about what they were up to last night instead of focusing on the course? Walk it alone or with your trainer and mentally prepare for how it will ride for your horse,” says David Cole.
  • Choose horses for courses. “If you know your horse doesn’t respond well to a tight, twisty track, avoid shows known for that sort of thing,” says Rachel Turner. “Don’t be afraid to get to a show, walk the course then pull out for another day. Better to waste entry fees and diesel money than have a disaster in the ring that sets you back weeks or more.”

For the full feature on course-design and jumping clear, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (12 May, 2011)

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