How to nail the cross-country optimum time: 6 tips from the top

If you are going eventing, you will need to ride across country at a certain speed in order to achieve the optimum time. But how do you do it? How can you ensure you and your horse are travelling neither too slow nor too fast?

Here’s some helpful pointers from New Zealand international event rider, Jesse Campbell (pictured), who has several four- and five-star completions to his name:

1. Keep a good rhythm, being smooth on your approaches and riding tight lines is the foundation of achieving the time cross-country.

2. Walking your course effectively is key. Make sure you know where the more intense areas are, so you know whether you need to look to make up time elsewhere on the course.

3. Always know the optimum speed (metres per minute, mpm) of the level of competition you are doing — this will tell you the speed you should be aiming for.

4. Where you can, make sure you wheel the course and take note of where your minute markers are.

5. Wearing a stopwatch can be a helpful tool, but you need to know the rhythm you need to be in first. With our working pupils we practice wearing a watch at home and getting an idea of the pace they need to be at over a set distance.

6. Having good feel and interfering with your horse as little as possible fundamentally allows for the correct balance and rhythm when tackling a cross-country course. If you can achieve this within the correct pace, these are all the key ingredients for getting within the optimum time.

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…

One-day event

Date: 17 March
Venue: Poplar Park Equestrian Centre, Woodbridge
Details: “This Pony Club event is open to all and has classes ranging from 65cm to 1.10m.”
Enter now

Pick a fence

Date: 24 March
Venue: Foresterseat Cross-Country, Perth
Details: “This competition has classes from 50cm to 110cm with adult and junior sections.”
Enter now

Hunter trials

Date: 24 March
Venue: White House Farm Equestrian, Lincoln
Details: “This event has classes ranging from 50cm to 1m with two pairs classes too.”
Enter now

Unaffiliated one-day event

Date: 30 March
Venue: Moreton Equestrian Centre, Dorchester
Details: “Using our updated cross-country course, we welcome competitors for a day of competing using our 80cm, 90cm and 100cm tracks.”
Enter now


Date: 30 March
Venue: Grange Farm EC, Peterborough
Details: “This open event, which features a course of knock-down fences in a cross-country environment, features classes ranging from 2ft up to 3ft3in.”
Enter now

Spring hunter trial

Date: 31 March
Venue: Gleneagles Equestrian School, Auchterarder
Details: “This event features classes for children and adults and is open to all. Class heights vary from 40cm (for under-10 years) and 55cm up to 1m for all other ages. We offer a variety of fences at the various heights including ditches and a water splash all on old turf with many of the fences with prepared take-offs and landings.”
Enter now

Unaffiliated one-day event

Date: 12 May
Venue: Tumpy Green Equestrian Centre, Cam
Details: “This event is open to everyone with class heights ranging between 20cm up to 85cm.”
Enter now

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