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

Here’s some helpful pointers from five-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…

Indoor eventer trial

Date: 27 April
Venue: Forest Edge Arena, Swaffham
Details: “This competition has classes from clear round and 50cm to 1m.”
Enter now

One-day event

Date: 27 April
Venue: Brechin Castle Showground, Scotland
Details: “Brechin Castle Equestrian Centre Ltd is hosting its first one day event with classes ranging from 45cm to 90cm.”
Enter now

Unaffiliated one-day event

Date: 6 May
Venue: Taunton District Riding Club, Pontispool
Details: “This event is open to everyone with classes ranging between 70 and 90cm.”
Enter now

Unaffiliated one-day event

Date: 19 May
Venue: Tenantry Farm, Fordingbridge
Details: “This event is open to everyone and features 80, 90 and 100cm classes.”
Enter now

H&H Festival of Eventing: unaffiliated three-day event

Date: 25-27 May
Venue: Keysoe, Bedfordshire
Details: “This competition is an absolute must for anyone keen on eventing. There are classes to suit all, from 70cm up to 1m with some fabulous prizes on offer.”
Enter now

Arena eventing

Date: 9 June
Venue: Bramham International Horse Trials, Wetherby
Details: “This competition on the Sunday afternoon of this international horse trials has two classes; 90cm and 1m.”
Enter now

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