Dec 09, 2019

Ride Between the Flags with Bec Braitling

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Fence 6AB of the Galway Downs Training Three-Day cross-country course. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Ever wonder what the pros see when they're out walking cross-country? In the Ride Between the Flags series, riders walk us through their approach to tackling different cross-country questions. International rider and trainer Bec Braitling explains how she would tackle fence 6AB of the Galway Downs Training Three-Day cross-country course.

Among the offerings at the 2019 Galway Downs International Event was the Hylofit USEA Classic Series Training Three-Day, where 17 riders came forward to test themselves over Bert Wood’s cross-country track. California-based Australian rider Bec Braitling was one of those 17 competitors, finishing third aboard Galwaybay Merbantos, and she took some time out of her busy weekend to walk through the bending line at 6AB on the Training Three-Day course.

“Being a combination it’s a question of bravery – we have a brush fence with a little rampy face, but then also it’s on a related line,” Braitling explained. “Knowing your horse and what kind of step he has is helpful – if your horse has a big step then you want to be careful not to catch this too big. That’s really going to affect my approach – thinking about what size horse I’m on. I’m on quite a big horse, so I’m going to be thinking about not catching a real big one in. If this were a single fence you’d look at it like a steeplechase fence, but because it’s in a related line it probably needs to be treated with just a little less forward momentum, but enough that you know you can still get the job done.

Fence 6A, the first of two fences in this bending line combination. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

“It’s actually a pretty straight approach,” Braitling continued. “So, I think you’ve got to be careful that you’re not looking at this from 50 strides away and trying to pick your distance and get a little caught up in coming to it quick.”

The A element comes off the long approach with a bit of a drop on the landing side of the fence. “Once you land it’s got a little bit of a downhill landing and that may cause a few of them to peek,” Braitling cautioned. “The terrain will also change the distance a little in the middle – it walks in four strides.”

A view of the slight drop on the landing of the A element. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Braitling advised jumping in just to the right of the center of the A element and then stay out on the bending line in four strides. “Ride two strides straight, then a little turn, then two strides straight so that I can be jumping the B element thinking about opening my left rein to get away from the fence quickly afterward so I don’t waste any time.”

The B element is set on a four-stride bending line. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

“It sort of prepares you for that coffin feel,” Braitling observed. “I do think you’ve got to make sure you’re a little bit up in your body in the landing and stay really tall. They’re asking the horse to be brave but then the terrain may allow the horse to run on a little bit down through the turn and make that turn just a little harder. You’re going to have to make sure you really close those outside aids to help get to the B element and not have a silly runout. Often they’ll jump something like this and think, ‘Oh, we sprint away!’ so think about riding that B element once you land.”

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