“I have been riding since I was 4 and I am now 14. Riding has always been at the centre of my life. I have never had my own horse, but I have always managed to give most things a try; horseball, show jumping, musical rides, carrige driving. I have recently started eventing and the thrill it gives you is unlike any other sport. I have been an avid follower of you for many years. I was wondering if you would be able to give me any tips for riding cross country, in particular, how to tackle stairs and coffins.”
Oliver answers: Cross country is all about setting the right pace and rhythm, not too fast and not too slow.
Regarding Coffins, it is best to start with something very small and very shallow, so you can push the horse over, even from a stand still – just be ready for when they do jump that you don’t get left behind and hook the horse in the mouth. Keep your leg on and give them confidence – don’t look down, look at a point on the other side. When they do jump, make a big fuss of the horse with patting. And slowly when they get more and more confident, you can get slightly wider. Just don’t rush it or over face either yourself or the horse.
Stair cases are the same, start small, preferably one at a time and just keep a rhythm like any other fence and then let the horse pop up. Don’t close your upper body too quickly in case they don’t pick up, but don’t get left behind either, even if you have to grab some mane.
If you can, always go with an expert when you are cross country schooling and wear the right equipment, including your air jacket. Also if you have a friend on an experienced horse go with them to get a lead over some things – just make sure they are a confident combination otherwise you are better off by yourself.
I hope this helps – good luck with everything.