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 Sharon White. She walks us through a Preliminary combination from the Ocala Horse Properties Winter II H.T. at the Florida Horse Park. Sharon rode this course in February where she finished second aboard Cooley On Show. Click here for all of our Ride Between the Flags series.
This combination at the beautiful Florida Horse Park rode very well, as did the entire course put forth by the designer, Jay Hambly.
10 A. Brigitte Aickelin Photo.
What the pictures don't show is that fence 9 was a roll top of sorts on a soft bend to fence 10 A, the brush, which was a jump down into a gully. You then went up the gully, over the coop at 10 B, then to a right handed corner which was numbered 10 C. As you can see in the photo, a right handed corner is one in which the skinniest side, or the point, is on your right-hand side. This is very important because in a properly designed course, in my opinion as a rider, each fence on the course plays a role in your success or lack of success and factors into the next combination or fence in question.
10 C. Brigitte Aickelin Photo.
What I loved about this combination was the use of the terrain. Going cross-country is about going across terrain, and this was wonderful use of the man made gully to set the horses up perfectly for the two fences on the out. One thing all riders should note when walking this question is that these fences are not separately numbers. This means you cannot circle between the fences! You must ride from A to B to C without crossing your tracks.
Any time you have to run up a hill to a jump, the ground does your placement for you. If you maintain a rhythm, the horse will naturally get close to the jump and push off the hind end. This is because their weight is already on the hind end. Because of this, I love any type of jump up a hill, or any type of terrain where you get to roll down then back up a hill. Both sensations allow the terrain to run through your horse’s body, essentially giving them a nice loosening up, making it very easy to hop over whatever is next.
In this particular exercise, you had a few different elements. A bend to the first brush jump- very inviting as horses love brush- down into the gully where the most important thing to do was keep your eye up where you were going, then let the hill on the out place you perfectly at the coop, which was set at a perfect 4 strides to the right handed corner in front of you.
A very astute horseman, Bruce Davidson, once gave me the best piece of advice about riding a corner I have ever heard, and I use it to this day. "Ride your line not the stride”. In other words, put your hands down, keep your eyes up where you want to go, and maintain a rhythm. Jumping a corner always works if you can do this!
The corner in this combo was right in front of you, on a 4-stride line, but I didn't count strides, I just looked up where I wanted to go. It of course rode in 4, but it's so useful to always practice riding the line not the stride with a corner. What the rider sees and what the horse sees can be two different things, and usually horses are right in these situations.
Sharon White is an international four-star event rider with over 20 years of competitive experience. Sharon is known for her absolute dedication to her horses, her students, and her business Last Frontier Farm, where her passion for the sport of Eventing is evident everywhere you look. Sharon has competed extensively in the United States and in Europe and is a USEA ICP Level 4 instructor with distinction. Her horses and students range from those just beginning their careers to established four-star competitors. She believes strongly in supporting the future of the sport, dedicating her time to helping develop future upper level riders as a coach of the Area VIII Young Rider team, and is committed to helping the United States produce top horses for years to come through her sport horse breeding program. To learn more about Sharon White please visit her website at www.lastfrontierfarm.com.