Cross-Country Horse Riding

Cross Country Horse Jumping!

Cross country equestrian jumping is a training form that is actually one of the three disciplines that make up the sport of Eventing; However, riders often train and compete in this practice as a stand-alone discipline. The object being, to demonstrate the speed, endurance and the jumping ability of a highly-trained cross-country horse. As well as, exhibit a rider’s skill and knowledge of how to pace and navigate obsticles within the designed course.
Cross-Country riding is not for the demure or typically novice rider. This is high-risk and dangerous event. In fact, the only high-risk Olympic sport that permits men and women to compete as equals. The goal is to negotiate natural obstacles like logs, streams, banks, hills, and fences over what could be a 2-mile course, which one would need to clear with no penalties.

What tack is required to ride?

It required that you have the following in order to train and all equipment must be in excellent condition!

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  1. ASTM Helmet. (Skull Caps preferred--no brim.)
  2. Crash vest
  3. Medical arm band.
  4. A shirt with sleeves.
  5. Tall boots or all leather half chaps and boots--local rules vary.
  6. Watch with large face or readout. (Check local rules for restrictions)
  7. Leg protection for the horse.
  8. Forward seat or all-purpose (preferably close contact) English saddle.

Is there a prerequisite to schooling in this discipline?

There is no prerequisite to training except it is strongly advised that you are highly conditioned and have complete confidence and trust in your mount. The horse must be in excellent shape, not spooky (obviously) and well in hand when it comes to conformity. In order navigate these courses you will want to be sure your horse is going to be absolutely obedient. It important that the rider be comfortable performing on the flat and over fences as well as physically be in the best fitness condition one can be, as a tired body and mind can lead to bad decision making, falls due to tired muscle and poor obstacle navigation, and poor pacing.

What horse should I choose as my Cross-Country mount?

If your competing at the lower levels most horses can be trained for a cross-country course. As a rider moves up in levels; however, the sport requires a horse be very quick-thinking, agile, and able to get out of a rough spot should a mistake occur. Quarter horses, Warmbloods, and Throughbreds are typically seen on the field. A good idea for a first Cross-Country horse might be to find an experienced older eventing horse with some experience under its belt. There may be a bit more of a cost when it comes to vet bills, but you wont be teaching him…. He will be teaching you.

How is the event scored?

In this sport the lowest score wins! So the idea is to clear the course with as few penalties as possible. I have listed the five main objectives that horse and rider must avoid in order to achieve lowest score. Riders are deducted points from the ride for the following.

Disobediences from the horse

  • First refusal or crossing tracks (circling) in front of an obstacle: 20 penalties per obstacle
  • 2nd refusal or crossed tracks at the same obstacle: 40 additional penalties
  • 3rd refusal or crossed tracks at the same obstacle (an "obstacle" includes all its elements): elimination
  • 4th cumulative refusal or crossed tracks on the entire course: elimination

Errors on course

  • Jumping obstacles in the wrong order (#5 before #4, or element B before A): elimination
  • Jumping a fence in a direction which is not flagged: elimination
  • Omission of a jump or compulsory passage: elimination
  • Note: horses are allowed to step sideways, but any step back is considered a refusal.


  • The Fall of a rider results in automatic elimination.
  • Fall of horse (quarters and shoulder touches ground): Mandatory retirement
  • Note: riders may dismount at any time on course without penalty, but the dismount must not be related to an obstacle

Time faults

  • Every second commenced above the target time, rounded up to the nearest second: 0.4 penalties/sec
  • Exceeding the allowed time (2× the target time): elimination
  • "Speed Faults": 0.4 penalties/sec for every second under the Speed fault time (check local rules and regulations)
  • Trying to increase one's time, or "willful delay," to avoid speed faults (circling, serpentining, walking, or halting between the final fence and the finish): 20 penalties

Miscellaneous reasons for disqualification

  • Rider without headgear or a fastened harness strap
  • Improper saddlery (for example, riding with a running martingale and no rein stops)
  • Overtaking another rider on course in a dangerous manner (for example, jumping a fence at the same time as the other rider)
  • Willful obstruction of an overtaking competitor
  • Failure to stop on course when signaled
  • Horses head and front shoulder outside of the flags
  • In lower level cross country competitions, failure to wear medical armband (check local rules and regulations)
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