Walking the Cross Country Course
Riders should always walk your course several times before your actual competition. The day before competition is when you will first walk the course and plan your ride. Remember, preperation is the key to a successful event. Try to walk the first round with your trainer so that you can discuss all approaches and options. Sometimes if this is not possible, follow behind another professional and listen to their tips taking into consideration your horses strengths and weaknesses. Find some time to walk the course at least 2 more times on your own to mentally prepare for your ride. If possible, watch several riders on course to see how the horses are handling the obstacles. The more you prepare and focus on your ride, the more successful you will be.
Always consider the footing, the terrain and the light on the fences. Remember, the day of the competition will be much more electric with spectators walking around the course, banners on jumps, and the loudspeaker bellowing while you are galloping around the course.
When the approach to an obstacle is at the bottom of a hill, keep your eyes up while riding down the hill with a balanced canter which will naturally be collected as a result of the terrain. Many riders slow down too much or look down creating problems at the obstacle. When galloping up a hill to approach a fence, maintain your rhythm with your horse in front of your leg. The danger here is to slow down too much and stall before the jump.
Consider the footing, mentally note where the ground is hard, muddy or rocky. Walking the course several times will give you an excellent mental picture of your ride. Also take note of the jump if it is hidden in a treeline creating a darker fence. Some horses are sensitive to jumping from light to dark and may back off the jump as a result. Prepare your approach by over riding just in case your horse wants to duck out.
Most importantly, do not take any fence for granted. It is often the most simple obstacle that creates a problem. Approach every obstacle with confidence and determination to succeed. There is nothing more exciting than galloping around a cross country course clean within the time allotted. Go out and have fun!