Whether you are a professional rider or just looking to have a good day out, it is important to think ahead, to make sure you make the most of your time cross-country schooling. Here we share some tips to help you plan the perfect day.
Why do you want to go schooling?
It is important to think about what you want to achieve from a cross-country schooling session. Depending on both your own and your horse’s experience, this may vary greatly. If you have a very green horse, who is going out for the first time, it may be that your aim is to be able to walk, trot and canter around safely, without even jumping any fences. This would be a great confidence building exercise, so that next time you can introduce some small fences.
By knowing what you want to achieve from the session, you can focus more clearly on achieving your goals. It will also limit the temptation to push for more if everything has gone smoothly, allowing you to move on to a new goal in your next session.
More experienced combinations will be aiming to make sure everything is feeling right, the tack is still comfortable, and as far as possible horse and rider are taking off on the right stride. Planning what you want to achieve is just as important at this level, as there is always the risk of wanting to jump one fence more, instead of ending on a positive note. There is nothing worse, than trying to get something right at the end of a long session with a tired horse.
Where to go schooling?
There are 20 cross-country schooling venues listed in our guide shown below, all of which offer a variety of fences for the very novice to experienced horse and rider. If you are going out schooling for the first time this year, it is probably best to return to somewhere you are familiar with, that way you will know what the fences are like, how your horse is likely to react to them and what is achievable in that particular session.
Once you are happy and confident, why not try somewhere new. If you are planning to compete this summer, it will give you the opportunity to introduce your horse to some new and sometimes very outrageous fences. For those of you heading to Badminton for the Grassroots finals, be advised that Comphurst Cross Country in East Sussex has a number of Grassroots style fences.
Take a look at the guide below (you may wish to flip through the other pages too), it includes a brand new course at Slades Farm, near Guilford, plus lots of the southern BE courses are open for schooling at times when they are not running competitions.
Where you choose to go, may also be influenced by what you enjoy doing. Some riders will be focused on the fences and the number of different and technical options available, while others might enjoy the opportunity to hack around acres of land, popping a fence en route, as is offered by venues such as Chilham Park in Kent and Woolgars Farm in Surrey.
Cross Country Schooling Guide
You should always ring to check that the venue is open for schooling, as sometimes the course will be closed for private events and clinics. Most cross-country courses take bookings via phone or email and it is wise to let them know how many horses you are planning to take.
What to do on arrival?
Most places will ask you to pay and complete a disclaimer before you start. Some courses have a person in an office, whilst many have an ‘honesty box’, where you put your money. Once you have paid, signed a disclaimer, tacked-up and mounted, you are ready to go.
Most horses, no matter how experienced they are, will probably be excited the first time they go cross-country schooling again. So, before you jump any fences make sure your horse is listening to you. Go up and down through your paces and once you are happy your horse is listening, start with a simple fence, always remembering your plan, and go from there.
Most of the venues featured in the guide run regular clinics with event riders and trainers, so if you feel in need of help, or are not confident going schooling straight off, then clinics are a great way to start. If there is something in particular you are wanting to work on, it is worth asking if private sessions are available, often a trainer will be happy to fit in a lesson either before or after their clinics.
We hope that you all have a great season and enjoy visiting lots of new cross-country schooling venues this season.