Hard going: how to cross-country school effectively without running on hard ground

Here’s some helpful pointers from four-star international event rider, Kate Honey (pictured), about how you can make the most of a cross-country schooling session in an arena

With the recent lack of rain, creating cross-country questions in an arena can be a great solution for practising on good going. To get the most out of your session, remember to work with the arena you have and at the level your horse is comfortable at. I will try to always have someone on the ground to help me, so we can build up obstacles as required.

1. Incorporate gear changes into your warm-up

This is a really easy thing to practice in an arena and something you always need out on a cross-country course. Use the long side to open up your canter and then bring the canter back before the corner, so you are in balance when you turn.

2. Use a more forward rhythm

When warming up over fences, replicate a cross-country warm-up where you would be jumping out of a more forward rhythm.

3. Build up confidence

Depending on the level of your horse, remember to always introduce questions in a straightforward way so they are not over-faced. For example, if practising a skinny obstacle, you can start with poles on either side to make the question more obvious and then take these guide rails away or make the fence narrower as and when you are ready.

4. Create cross-country questions

For example, a rail-ditch-rail combination can be created by using two uprights and a water tray in the middle. This is also a good time to practice your ‘coffin’ canter. If this is a new question for your horse, remember you can start with one element and then add in more.

5. Be creative

You can create brush fences with garden cuttings and use barrels to make different obstacles.

6. Link obstacles together

A good way to finish off the session is to link the different fences together. Remembering to come off both reins and practising effective turns. This is also a good time to use your different cross-country canters. For example, you could you could create a coffin canter and then take the brush fence on a more forward rhythm.

Now you’ve got that advice in mind, take a look at these eventing competitions available to enter where you can put this advice into practice…

Unaffiliated one-day event

Date: 18 August
Venue: Ayrshire Equitation Centre, Ayr
Details: “This is a fun event to suit all levels with a happy, chilled out atmosphere. A great starter for novices and also young horses or ponies. Classes range from 50cm to 90cm with a variety of sections.”
Enter now

Mini one-day event

Date: 19 August
Venue: Forest Edge Arena, Swaffham
Details: “This competition has classes from 50cm to 80cm and also has the option for competitors to do just dressage, just showjumping and just cross-country too.”
Enter now

Unaffiliated one-day event

Date: 25 August
Venue: Moreton Equestrian Centre, Dorchester
Details: “Using our updated cross-country course, we welcome competitors for a day of competing using our 60cm, 70cm, 80cm and 90cm tracks.”
Enter now

Unaffiliated one-day event

Date: 27 August
Venue: Rectory Farm Arena, Cirencester
Details: “This event is open to everyone and features an 80cm class and 90cm class.”
Enter now

Unaffiliated one-day event

Date: 30 August
Venue: Tumpy Green Equestrian Centre, Cam
Details: “This is an open event, where a warm welcome awaits you. Classes range from lead-rein and mini assisted and mini adults and more with fence heights between 50cm, up to 85cm with junior and senior sections.”
Enter now

One-day event

Date: 9 September
Venue: Lea Close Farm, Stockton-on-Tees
Details: “Classes from 50cm to 80cm — they will be split into junior and senior sections if there are sufficient entries.”
Enter now

Visit equo.co.uk for full competition and training listings