Cross Country Jumping

For event riders, cross country jumping is all too often practised at competitions, instead of perfected! Horse Hero provides training on the basics in the school and offers techniques for riding safely and effectively across county on a course. Top eventers including Emily Llewellyn and Louisa Lockwood share their simulated cross country techniques at home on a variety of horses, and Alex Peternell and Shane Breen demonstrate riding a course. Whether you are perfecting your skills at mastering skinnies, arrowheads, drops, ditches or water, let our experts show you how!

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Shane Breen schools a youngster cross country Shane Breen schools a youngster cross country
Show jumper Shane Breen introduces a 5 year old potential eventer to cross country obstacles at home at the famous Hickstead show ground. The young horse is green but bold and shows a lovely attitude. Shane tells us his aim is for horse to be brave, balanced and straight and to take him to the fence. Starting in the school over a skinny, Shane then jumps in and out of the arena before moving on to a water splash which he links to a hedge. Having allowed the horse to jump freely across country, the next step in his education will be to focus on more technical questions in the school for a while, including bounces, related distances and some trickier skinnies.

Topstar jumps across cross country for the first time Topstar jumps across cross country for the first time
In Topstar's first cross country outing, South African 4* eventer Alex Peternell focuses on the two main 'rider frighteners', ditches and water. The aim is to build Topstar's confidence and Alex demonstrates some useful tips for familiarising the horse to the obstacle before jumping it. He also shows how to make the ditch easy for Topstar, who responds to the challenge! Alex works progressively in the water complex, starting by splashing through it and building up to jumping in and out. He stresses the importance of allowing the horse to learn from his mistakes and enjoy himself, and says the rider must remain relaxed at all times!

Alex Peternell trains Doni in the water jump Alex Peternell trains Doni in the water jump
Four star eventer Alex Peternell takes the 9 year old Intermediate Doni cross country schooling. The aim is to dust off the cobwebs before his first event of the year and build confidence. Starting with a ditch complex, Alex says, "forget the ditch and jump the jump". He moves on to a pair of corners on a related distance and has to remind himself not to over-fiddle on the approach, especially the last 2 strides which are the "golden strides". At the lake, Alex works on rhythm and energy riding through the water . "A jump in water is like any other but jumping into the sun adds complexity due to the way the water shimmers".

Cross country jumping for the more advanced horse Cross country jumping for the more advanced horse
Four star eventer Alex Peternell takes his favourite horse for pre-season cross country schooling. Uprising is a 9 year old advanced eventer who knows his job, so Alex focuses on just a few technical questions to minimise wear and tear. After warming up, he starts with a bank complex to a skinny. Alex offers a clear explanation of the best way to ride this, stressing the importance of rhythm and line. He then adds a coffin and provides feedback on his riding of the whole sequence. Moving on to the water fence, Alex chooses the bounce in followed by a jump in the water. The key to the bounce he says is, "to think forwards without travelling forwards".

Alex Peternell uses show jumps for cross country training Alex Peternell uses show jumps for cross country training
The six year old home-bred stallion has completed his first season eventing and according to 4* eventer Alex Peternell, "is a bit too relaxed and still a little green". Alex uses a show jumping warm-up in preparation for some cross country jumping exercises in the school, ensuring the horse is in front of the leg, the only difference is that the pace is a little quicker and the horse takes off a bit further from the fence. Alex introduces a skinny within a combination, and moves onto angled fences that can be bounced or jumped on one stride. He says, "these exercises surprise the horses a little, just like going cross country, and keep him thinking ahead."

Show jumping for cross country, with Emily Llewellyn Show jumping for cross country, with Emily Llewellyn
Having shown us her warm-up routine in a previous video, Emily Llewellyn (double gold medallist, European Champs' 08) takes us through a session of simulated cross country jumping in her school with 7 year old, Junior. Starting small, Emily 'plays' with an arrangement of fences to establish balance and obedience, including arrow-heads, a coffin, corner, bounce and angled rails. She also explains how to ride them when going cross-country. Emily stresses the importance of building up gradually, particularly with complex fences such as the coffin. She does a terrific job with a spooky Junior and is a star to continue in heavy rain!

Building a horse's confidence in jumping skinny fences Building a horse's confidence in jumping skinny fences

4* eventer Louisa Lockwood creates an exercise to help the Intermediate horse Penultimate Vision build his confidence with arrowheads and skinnies, as he's had a few run-outs cross country. He's a big horse and still a little weak and unbalanced, so he finds it hard to fully engage his hind quarters. He's also sensitive, so keeping him relaxed is vital. Starting with an angled cross pole, Louisa works on the quality of the canter and ensures the rhythm remains the same to the fence. She moves on to two skinnies, which are then angled on a related distance. Finally, Louisa jumps a double on a curving line to a skinny and explains how she adjusts the line and the stride.


Louisa Lockwood demonstrates how to jump an arrowhead Louisa Lockwood demonstrates how to jump an arrowhead
Four star eventer Louisa Lockwood trains her talented Advanced 8 year old to jump a tricky arrowhead. In the warm-up she explains how she deals with over-enthusiasm, gets the horse between hand and leg and focused on the job. "He must be totally on my aids before I attempt to jump anything technical", says Louisa. Starting with one barrel on it's side with jump wings and 'V' poles on the ground, Louisa progresses to jumping a single barrel on it's end. She says, "the horse must understand every step of the exercise and take you to the fence. You must keep him completely channelled. The point is never to let him think he can run out!"

Sam Watson builds Horseware Bowman's confidence cross country Sam Watson builds Horseware Bowman's confidence cross country
Irish team eventer Sam Watson takes 8 year old Horseware Bowman cross country schooling to find out how he feels for the coming season. Will he be the positive 2* horse that ended the previous year, or the cautious one that started it? Stringing some combination jumps together, Sam stresses the importance of positive riding to ensure Bowman thinks forwards and approaches his fences out of a proper cross country canter, staying straight and in good rhythm. Moving on to the water which has been a problem in the past, Sam builds difficulty jumping in and out. He says, "the approach requires power but not too much speed!"

Sam Watson & Horseware Bushman prepare for a 4* eventing season Sam Watson & Horseware Bushman prepare for a 4* eventing season
Sam Watson's top horse, the 14 year old Horseware Bushman, is experienced at 4* and European Champs'. In this pre-season cross country outing, Irish Olympic hopeful Sam focuses on the basics and ensuring the partnership is 100%. He approaches a sunken road and bank complex at a proper cross country pace and looks for the forwards shot at the base of the fence. To add more jump and impulsion Sam says "when I see the forwards shot, I keep my leg on and add a stride". Saving the most difficult to last (also Bushman's achilles heel in the past) the water tests their positive frame of mind and ends the session on a high note!

Sam Watson prepares Lukeswell for Intermediate level cross-country Sam Watson prepares Lukeswell for Intermediate level cross-country
Irish eventing team member Sam Watson schools the 7 year old Horseware Lukeswell across country in preparation for stepping up to Intermediate in the coming season. Having jumped some hedges and ditches at home to establish a forwards rhythm, Sam now asks Lukeswell to jump more technical fences. He says it's important to jump from a 'match canter' so it doesn't feel like schooling. In less than perfect going, Lukeswell begins with a coffin and progresses to a water complex. Sam says "you need to set up rhythm and balance but still cover the ground and not use too much hand, to make the time at Intermediate".

Flora Harris retrains show jumper Harry for cross country jumping Flora Harris retrains show jumper Harry for cross country jumping
Harry has come from a show jumping background and is relatively inexperienced at cross country jumping for his age. He's also spooky and a little cheeky! Four star eventer Flora Harris focuses on creating a balanced and forwards rhythm in the warm-up and ensuring Harrry moves on and back obediently. She uses more technical fences on undulating ground to test the rhythm, and a bank complex to iron out any spookiness. Having been trained to be very careful as a show jumper, Flora explains that building Harry's confidence and bravery in jumping fixed fences on varying terrain has been a careful process.

Flora Harris uses technical cross country fences to get to know Jaspar Flora Harris uses technical cross country fences to get to know Jaspar
4* eventer Flora Harris gets to know the 8 year old Jaspar by jumping technical cross country fences. Starting with a bank complex, Flora jumps steps up and down and then adds a skinny. The right rhythm and energy to the fence is vital and when jumping down, re-balancing to the skinny is key, as well as the rider's position. Moving on to a corner complex which demands accuracy, Flora says "though the fence is technical, you still need to attack it". Linking corners on a curving line, Flora explains which part of the the fence to jump. Finally, she decreases the width and increases the angle, to find out if she has worked out all Jaspar's buttons!

Flora Harris takes Barney cross country schooling for the first time Flora Harris takes Barney cross country schooling for the first time
4* eventer Flora Harris takes 6 year old Barney cross country schooling for the first time. In the warm-up, the emphasis is on Barney thinking forwards. Flora works around the jumps, then approaches in trot to allow Barney time to read each fence. Repetition builds confidence. Flora says, "the rider must be secure in the leg and soft in the contact, to remain in balance whatever happens". To jump a small ditch, Flora approaches in walk. As Barney is brave, she moves on to slightly bigger ditches in trot and canter. When he over-jumps, Flora uses her neckstrap to stay with the movement. Barney finishes with a bank and looks very pleased with himself!

Fiona Price goes hunt-training with the Cottesmore Fiona Price goes hunt-training with the Cottesmore
Horse Hero's Fiona Price visits the Cottesmore Hunt to take part in a pre-season training day. Trainer Richard Walker explains how to jump safely in a group and demonstrates the correct jumping position. The group get their 'eye in' over a variety of simulated hunting fences in the school and Fiona gets to know Chewy! Members of the group talk about the thrills of hunting and the variety of horses. Huntsman and master Andrew Osborne explains the characteristics of bitches and dogs and how he chooses the pack for a meet. Despite rain, the group set off across country and Fiona has a ball! She returns to film a real hunting day shortly.

Fiona Price enjoys the thrills and spills of hunting with the Cottesmore Fiona Price enjoys the thrills and spills of hunting with the Cottesmore

After doing a training day with the Cottesmore Hunt, Horse Hero founder Fiona Price takes another trip to Leicestershire to try 'the real thing'. With sub-zero temperatures and freezing fog, conditions are not ideal but this doesn't dampen the enthusiasm of the large field. At the meet, Fiona talks to field master Nick Leeming about the job of a master. Huntsman Andrew Osborne tells her it's a bitches' day, and describes the type of horse that jumps up-front with the hounds. She meets her mount Billy and the hunt disappears into the fog. Hedges, rails and mud characterise the day and Fiona is reminded of the thrills and spills of hunting!

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