Get the best out of your Cross-country warm up
A cross country warm up is a very different experience to that of the Dressage or Showjumping. On a standard one-day event you usually don’t have a whole lot of time between the SJ and the XC, therefore your horse is warm and moving already.
The XC warm up is more about establishing the correct communication between horse and rider and getting your horse listening as you go up and down through the gears.
1. The first thing to remember is that you will not XC in number order. On entering the XC warm up, the steward will write your name on the whiteboard and you will go in the order of that list. The steward will write your number regardless whether you present to them or not so don’t think you can hide from them – this will not guarantee you a longer warm up so you might as well present yourself and find out how many people are to go ahead of you.
2. Plan your warm up in advance based on the things that you need to check are working before you head out on course. For example, it is best to do some speed transitions – moving forward from a collected canter into a gallop and back down again to ensure the breaks and accelerator are working.
3. Use the jumps wisely. Some events will put out an incredible selection of warm up fences, others will not. However, if you only have a standard log to work with then use it to your advantage to test accuracy by jumping it at an angle or choose a specific point on the log and jump that exact marker. If you are lucky to have a good selection, then string a few jumps together and jump them at angles to recreate combinations on the course such as an offset double.
4. Look where you are going! Higher speeds and higher adrenaline can lead to some near-crashes.
5. Troubles with the start box? Find a simple jump in the warm up and stand still about ten strides away from it (making sure you aren’t in anyone’s way), count yourself down from five and practice a halt to canter transition to ensure they are moving forward off your leg.
6. Don’t overdo it - this is a big one! If you’re about to gallop around a 5-6 min XC course, then the last thing you want to do is exhaust them before you’ve even started by cantering for 10 mins then going straight to the start box. I usually try to finish warming up about three riders before me, which gives us six minutes to catch our breath before actually beginning our round.
7. Head to the start box in plenty of time. Don’t do a Tom McEwan (sorry Tom) and find yourself still in the warm up when the starter is counting you down from ten. Get over there and walk through the start box a couple of times (providing your steed isn’t too excited- you don’t want to go barrelling out the front at this stage!). Have a chat with the starter – remember they’ve got a long day – and I always ask if I can be counted down from ten seconds so I can set my watch to countdown at the five second mark.
8. Make sure you are in the box when you get to five seconds - you MUST walk into the box, do not canter through it as you risk penalties by doing this. Look where you are going, start strong with your legs and mean business! I always shout “thank you” to the starter as I’m heading off.
So, there you go – you are warmed up, through the start box and on the course. Remember to SMILE and enjoy, it really is the best part – we promise!