Learning Cross Country Pace

  • 2 min read

horse galloping across big grass field

Of course, I left my meter wheel at home, so today I bought a "feet" wheel at the farm supply, and we did the math so that Landry could work on pace. She will not be allowed to wear a watch in competition, so she is going to have to learn how to find her pace through practice.  I first did this exercise ages ago in a clinic with Ralph Hill and practiced it every time I moved up a level.  Edgar was a complete jackass about the start box and I almost never got my watch started.  I would try to find a song I could sing around course that matched the tempo. 

Steeplechase speed (640mpm) at a CCI* was Proud Mary by CCR.  Turned out, steeplechase speed at a CCI** (670mpm) was also Proud Mary, but the Tina and Ike version.

Landry set a start flag and measured 400 and 450 meters as finish flags.  I would time Landry and DJ as they cantered between the flags. She was instructed to adjust before the fences in her path as though she were about to jump them. The goal was to achieve a speed slightly faster than 400mpm (Optimum Time at Novice) and start to tune in to that rhythm.

DJ’s antennae went up immediately.  Gallop?  Because of his huge stride, he can appear deceptively slow.  So when I tell you he was going 520, I am confident he was going at least that fast.  This mama was a bit concerned as I stood on the ground holding Grail and my watch.  My little girl took a couple of strong tugs and DJ became a porpoise, but Landry sat up, bridged her reins and put him on his butt.  Big bits can be your friend.

It was a great lesson for DJ that his rider is growing into her position as the one in charge of pace and line.  It might sound strange, but I was glad to see my kid laughing about getting run off with.  It was not a foregone conclusion in January and is a sign of good things to come.

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