A Cross-Country Clinic with Christopher Bartle: Part IV

Most of us have a jump arena or even some sort of dressage arena to school in, but not everybody has the luxury of a cross-country course connected to their stable yard. Even top riders have to haul their horses to school over cross-country course. But there are ways to work around this. In this section, Christopher talks about how to duplicate the cross-country experience in your arena.Most of us have a jump arena or even some sort of dressage arena to school in, but not everybody has the luxury of a cross-country course connected to their stable yard. Even top riders have to haul their horses to school over cross-country course. But there are ways to work around this. In this section, Christopher talks about how to duplicate the cross-country experience in your arena.

Story originally posted by: Sharon Biggs

Most of us have a jump arena or even some sort of dressage arena to school in, but not everybody has the luxury of a cross-country course connected to their stable yard. Even top riders have to haul their horses to school over cross-country course. But there are ways to work around this. In this section, Christopher talks about how to duplicate the cross-country experience in your arena.

There is a limit to what you can do at home in the arena. The particularly difficult thing about cross-country riding is the surprise element and that is hard to duplicate. The horse has to develop the confidence in the rider, the confidence in their own ability, the confidence in their surroundings so that when they go to a strange place, and they gallop over the hill and come to a fence, they’ve got to trust the rider and their own judgment that there is going to be a safe landing on the other side. Often they can’t see where they are going to land.

Although that development in the horse’s cross-country education can only be done by taking them to small competitions and building up their confidence, you can do some of that at home. What you can do is to simulate things like the coffin (a rail ditch rail combination), the arrowheads (where you’re jumping a very narrow portion of a fence) and the corner fences. These jump techniques can be taught at home with your own jump poles and standards.

Corners are all about the horse maintaining the line instead of taking the easy option, which is to duck out to the side, particularly if you are jumping at the extreme end of the fence. Set up a small vertical fence and begin to jump it from different angles rather than straight on. This will teach him to hold his line and not to run out. Your horse must be very balanced to jump an angle, lifting both knees equally. Once your horse is very comfortable with this then add another set of standards to create the angle. Place one of the standards in front of another, almost as though you were making an oxer. Do the same on the other set, but increase the width a bit. Once you add your poles this will create a corner. Increase the angle and height as your horse gains confidence.

To create the arrowhead, make a panel that is half the usual width and place it between two standards. Set up another fence on the landing side to make your combination. You can set up jumps on either side of the arrowhead to discourage your horse from running out. Coffins can be duplicated by schooling over 2 parallels with a object representing a ditch between.

How much cross-country schooling they need depends on the horse. Some horses will jump into space if pointed that way and others are more cautious. But good training will lead to the horse offering what you want as opposed to the rider having to hold the whole thing together.

Review:
Cross Country Clinic Part 1.

Cross Country Clinic Part 2.

Cross Country Clinic Part 3.