Eventers – why pace adjustability helps with safe cross country riding

By Ryan Wood, for Royal Rider Stirrups

Australian eventer Ryan Wood is one of the world’s leading eventers, recently winning the Lexington Virginia CCI1* riding Ruby, and placing top ten with at Pau in the CCI4*, riding Woodstock Bennet. A reserve rider for the World Equestrian Games last year, he also scored top ten placings at several other three star events in 2018. Ryan runs his business Woodstock Eventing out of fellow Australian Phillip Dutton’s True Prospect Farm in America. He’s a renowned horse producer and riding coach.

Here, he shares his tips with Eventing Worldwide on developing the skill of adjusting the horse’s pace.

Adjusting the length of the horse’s stride
Ideally when you’re riding safely across country, your rhythm stays very much the same, and only the length of the horse’s stride changes, to adapt your speed. As a rider and coach, I find that one of the single, most important elements of successful riding is the ability to adjust your horse’s pace, or the length of the horse’s stride. It keeps you both safe, especially when the horse is in the early stages of his education.

For example, my ride Billy McClusky contests Preliminary level events in America; at this level, I am looking for good agility, but also control and responsiveness. At Preliminary level, we’re tackling fences of around 3’7″ in height, before preparing for International 1* events. He’s seven; so bold, but still learning – but we are contesting courses that include jumping efforts with angled lines, corners, simple bounces and water combinations or narrow fences. So, the horse does need to be fairly skilled at lengthening and shortening the stride to tackle these fences, without losing some confidence.

Transitions within a pace
A good example of adjusting your horse’s pace is a transition within a pace; e.g. slowing an ongoing canter to something more bouncy and collected. This helps you approach an obstacle in control, and in a good rhythm. Even though you may be aiming to use these skills when riding across country, basic pace adjustment must first be established in the manege or arena.

Your horse should be responsive in both upward and downward transitions in an enclosed area, before venturing onto an XC course. So why not practise working on establishing your upward and downward transitions in the arena; it’s a good use of time while the late-winter weather in Europe is temperamental!

An example of this adaptability is going from a slow, contained, bouncy showjumping-style canter along your arena short side in the arena at A, to a faster canter along the long side, and then back again at C, to a slower pace. When you want to slow down, sit back and a little deeper in the saddle.

Lift your shoulders backwards – this subtle difference in bodyweight distribution is usually enough to help slow the pace. Use your reins and voice as well if required. When you want to move up the gears, move your upper body and shoulders forward a little, and encourage a faster, more ongoing pace with your seat (and leg aids if required). Next, add in a circle at the A and C markers in your slower, bouncy canter. Use different sized circles, creative school movements and even ground poles to help you slow down, and then safely accelerate, in the school.

The perfect stirrups
If you’re serious about eventing, then you will want to choose stirrups that optimise performance. That’s why I use Royal Rider Stirrups. A highly engineered stirrup like these actually helps aid rider balance. It helps the rider keep their stirrup iron on the approach, take off, jump, landing and get-away, and allows the rider to maintain the correct position of their foot, and achieve greater balance over a fence. They also offer shock absorption, which is great when you ride as many horses a day, as I do!

Visit: royalrider.it/en/prodotti – or visit the website of our UK Royal Rider distributor. You can make an enquiry about distributors and retailers in your country by visiting: royalrider.it/en/shops.

Follow Ryan’s news at www.woodstockeventing.com

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