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Cross Country Prerequisites

By Holly Werner | July 2010 Extra

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Horse Illustrated MagazineBefore tackling true cross-country schooling or competition out in the open, your horse will need some mental preparation in order to proceed safely. Many horses have only been ridden in an arena and become frightened or overly excited and difficult to control when ridden in the open.

First, find a place to ride outdoors with a buddy horse. The horse should not be spooky—he needs to be calm and reassuring to your horse. Make sure to go somewhere safe, such as a large pasture that is not near a busy road. Keep your horse at a walk until he understands that being out in the open is no big deal. After he becomes relaxed, try some trotting.

Do not proceed to cantering until your horse is confident and calm while trotting. Keep in mind that a cantering horse can quickly become a galloping or bolting horse. This is where the buddy system is especially important! Your horse is unlikely to want to leave his friend behind, s keep at a pace where you can easily stay together.

If your horse has passed all these tests with flying colors, make a practice of hacking out as much as possible—even if that just means around the farm. Any place he can see new sights and understand that the world outside the arena isn’t a scary place will benefit his frame of mind on the cross-country course. Take every opportunity to trail ride with a group or go somewhere new to ride, since exposure and desensitization are important parts of your cross-country training.

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