In this series, the pros walk through their approach to riding questions, fences and combinations on cross-country. This Ride Between the Flags is given by Brittany Kart. She walks us through a Preliminary line, which featured at the Horse Park of New Jersey II H.T. last summer. Click here for all of our Ride Between the Flags series.
Elements 6 A and B of the Preliminary Course at the Horse Park of New Jersey. Brigitte Aickelin Photo.
The pictured combination was from the Preliminary cross-country course at the New Jersey HT this summer. Please take in consideration that I did not attend this event. So, I was unable to walk the distance between the two fences, locate the fences and surroundings before and after the combination, and to see if the terrain would possibly affect how to ride this combination. Here is my initial analysis on planning your ride:
First, the rider needs to determine what the canter is doing in order to jump this combination successfully. Is the canter long and flat? Is the canter weak? Is it too short? The rider needs to be sure to make the adjustment to the canter several strides before the first fence in the combination. Ideally, the rider needs to work at establishing a balanced canter with impulsion. He/she should try to avoid shutting down the canter too much. This could result in the horse having to put in a bigger effort, having an uncomfortable jump, or possibly even a stop. On the other hand, the rider also does not want the horse to be long, flat, and out of control, as this is going to create quite a bit of work for the rider on the backside of the fence. If this happens, the turn on the backside of the fence could get quite difficult, causing the rider to miss the line, which could also affect the distance to the next fence. The goal would be to reach the first fence with a canter that is balanced with power, so that the rider has created options for what distance they might see. They can either ride forward to the deep distance, or have a patient, waiting distance. Having a balanced and powerful canter now makes the waiting distance achievable. Either way, the rider has created a canter for the horse that the rider can now use on the backside of the fence that is actually useful.
There are two approaches I would consider taking to this combination. If I was riding a young/greener prelim horse, I would likely aim to jump both of the fences in the center, staying out (more towards the right) in the turn. This would give the horse a little more time to evaluate the question, and it would also give me a bit more time to make a correction. I would also, be sure to ride forward through the turn so that the canter is not ‘shut down’, and does not become weak. If I were on a more experienced horse, I might find the combination on a slightly straighter line, or each fence on a slight angle. This would start to test how well or quickly the horse is reading the question, and how well the horse can jump and stay in a straight line. In choosing your line, you may also want to consider your experience at the level, and what you may feel comfortable planning for this early in the course as this is only the sixth fence.
A view of the more direct line. Brigitte Aickelin Photo.
The one thing the rider needs to avoid doing is falling into the turn, or drifting to the inside (riding to the left of the line). If this happens, the rider will lose all options, and will have to commit to that line and hope for the best. Regardless of the line you choose, it will be important to remember that these elements are flagged as A and B. This means the rider will not be able to circle if their ride through doesn’t go as planned, so it’s important to keep your eye on the B element as to not miss your line.
In a nutshell, work to get the correct canter, pick a line to the combination that you think is best for you and your horse, then ride forward and attack! Happy riding!
About Brittany Kart
Brittany Kart started riding at the age of three, in Georgia. When she moved to an eventing barn in her late elementary school years, she quickly fell in love with the sport, and she’s been Eventing ever since. Currently, Brittany runs and operates her own farm out of Athens, Georgia (GO DAGWS!). Over the years, she has trained and brought along several upper level Event horses. She prides herself in developing event horses, and helping riders succeed. To learn more about Brittany Kart Eventing (BKE) please visit her website or her Facebook Page.