How to Walk Your Cross-country Course

When you walk your cross-country course, do you have a strategy? Lila Gendal offers some tips for getting the most out of your walk.

Top photo: The Beast, a.k.a. Valonia at the Green Mountain Horse Association Horse Trials in Vermont.

From Lila:

1)      Walk with someone who looks like they know what the heck they’re doing!

If you are relatively new to this sport called eventing, it’s best to walk your cross-country course with your trainer, coach, or someone who has experience as an event rider. Even if you have been competing for years, it helps having fresh eyes and alternative input when first examining your course. I am 27 years old and have been eventing since I was a little girl and I still walk with professionals on occasion. Or, if I don’t have someone walk the entire course with me, I most certainly will ask someone if they will either go out and walk a certain line or look at a certain question on cross-country that I am unsure about. There’s nothing to be ashamed of when asking for advice from those who have done it all!

some more fun at GMHA

Some more fun at GMHA

2)      Walk how you want to ride.

In other words walk your course EXACTLY how you intend on riding your course. I was told long ago that you should start in the start box and finish through the finish flags because this is precisely where you are beginning and ending. Not everyone does this, but I actually start inside the box so I know my surroundings and nothing is a surprise. If you don’t walk through the finish flags, it’s not terribly uncommon for competitors to miss the flags which is embarrassing. Also, don’t be lazy: If you know you need to take a certain approach to a jump, walk that exact line. Don’t half walk your course, or sort-of walk your course. Walk exactly how you are going to ride. This only helps you know your course more intimately.

3)      Walk several times.

The first time you walk your course you are basically trying to figure out where exactly you are going. The second time you walk your course, you should be more familiar with everything and can walk certain jumps, lines, or questions more closely. The third (or even forth!) time you walk your course you should feel very positive about where you’re going and how you are going to execute your ride. Whether I am going beginner novice or training, I like to walk my cross-country course a minimum of three times. There are a lot of riders who walk only two times, or less, but that’s not for me. Do what you feel comfortable with, but don’t go crying to someone afterwards if you went off course and you only walked your course once!

waiting to go...

Waiting to go…

I thought I would leave you all with a short but awesome video from this weekend of my friend Andrea Waldo and her amazing gelding Serendipity Traveller. This was their first intermediate together as a team! (Video credit to The Horse Pesterer.)

About the Author

My name is Lila Gendal and I am 27 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 7 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I currently have a 2005 Holsteiner mare, “Valonia” (Contester X Parlona), who is currently going training level, and I am riding one of Denny Emerson’s horses, a 2005 Selle Luxemburg gelding, “Beaulieu’s Cool Skybreaker” (Beaulieu’s Coolman X Une Beaute by Heartbreaker) who will be moving up to training soon! When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media… or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.


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