Francis Whittington: how to improve your cross-country round [VIDEO]

  • Winner of the Saracen/H&H eventing bursary Laura Durkan is keen to save time and conserve energy going cross-country with her 15.1hh novice event horse Jing Mai.

    “She’s not the biggest horse so I need to conserve energy where I can, and I really want to get her going forward,” says Laura.

    Four-star eventer Francis Whittington watches Laura warm-up on the flat and then tackle some fences, before explaining ways that Laura can improve her cross-country.

    Francis’s top tips for improving your cross-country:

    1. Focus on flatwork: to improve your cross-country, work on your flatwork first — you need to master rhythm, balance and control.
    2. Transitions are crucial: to have control the horse needs to be off your leg, which means working on your transitions.
    3. Get your horse off the forehand: save time going cross-country by saving seconds in the lead up to each fence by making sure the horse is not heavy on the forehand — not just by going faster around the track.
    4. Dealing with water: take a relaxed approach to water when you’re schooling and let your horse walk through it steadily. “They need to think about where they put their feet — or otherwise when they get to the bigger fences they can crash and burn,” says Francis.
    5. Maximise your competition warm-up: focus on your transitions, moving your horse forward and then bringing it back to you.

    Since Laura’s last session with Saracen’s senior nutritionist Lizzie Drury, she has been happy with the way Jing has been going but still feels the mare lacks energy going cross-country.

    Lizzie suggests that Jing’s ration is tweaked to accommodate this, introducing 2kg of Enduro 100 — which will give the horse more power and acceleration — and 1kg of Stamm 30, which will give greater control of Jing’s condition score and won’t allow her to grow too fat.

    Last time Lizzie assessed Jing, her condition score was deemed a little too high at six. Six weeks on it is now the ideal five-and-a-half for an eventer. “Feeding is now about maintaining that condition,” says Lizzie.

    Don’t miss the next Saracen/H&H training feature, showjumping with Laura Renwick, in the 9 October 2014 issue of Horse & Hound magazine

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