It’s very important to develop a feel for jumping out of the three different canters that you would use xc. Again for the experienced rider this will often come naturally, however for the less experienced rider I feel that it needs to be practiced along with the ‘gear changes’ that are regularly required on today’s courses.
1st gear…trot, occasionally used for leaf pit type of fence, ditches, steps and water with young horses.
2nd gear….’coffin canter’ , short stepping, high powered canter. Often used for fences where there is a suprise for the horse on the landing such as ditch or water and the horse may need an extra stride to read the question. This canter needs to be trained as often you will see the rider just go to the hand and kill the canter of power which also takes the horses eye sight away when the head goes up too high.
3rd gear….show jump type canter, often used for vertical rails or fences that are related to each other with a distance. The importance of this canter is that it is forward, well balanced and the rider has a soft hand.
4th gear….the gallop. This is the speed that most xc fences are jumped out of including brush tops, roll tops, spreads, tables, etc. This pace is NOT top speed but should be balanced with power and the hocks put more underneath four or five strides out.
5th gear….top speed that generally isn’t jumped out of.
Once that I have worked with rider to develop the three different canters I would use three different types of fences in a big area such as a field, large surface (in the winter) or on the gallops. The fences I would generally use would be an upright set of rails (get the rider to imagine a ditch downhill on the landing), a double of skinnies and a triple bar. Then set the horse and rider off, getting them to generate a good 4th gear and practice over the triple bar using their eye to read the stride pattern as far out as possible. Then get them to practice moving from 4th to 3rd to 2nd gear using the 3 fences accordingly.
This exercise trains the rider to find out how far away from the fence the horse needs setting up. It helps develop a good partnership and enables the riders eye to develop. This is also a great time to practice the gallop seat and develop a secure lower leg.