Cross Country Prerequisites

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    Horse Illustrated MagazineBefore tackling true cross-country schooling or competition out in the open, your horse will need some mental preparation in order to proceed safely. Many horses have only been ridden in an arena and become frightened or overly excited and difficult to control when ridden in the open.

    First, find a place to ride outdoors with a buddy horse. The horse should not be spooky—he needs to be calm and reassuring to your horse. Make sure to go somewhere safe, such as a large pasture that is not near a busy road. Keep your horse at a walk until he understands that being out in the open is no big deal. After he becomes relaxed, try some trotting.

    Do not proceed to cantering until your horse is confident and calm while trotting. Keep in mind that a cantering horse can quickly become a galloping or bolting horse. This is where the buddy system is especially important! Your horse is unlikely to want to leave his friend behind, s keep at a pace where you can easily stay together.

    If your horse has passed all these tests with flying colors, make a practice of hacking out as much as possible—even if that just means around the farm. Any place he can see new sights and understand that the world outside the arena isn’t a scary place will benefit his frame of mind on the cross-country course. Take every opportunity to trail ride with a group or go somewhere new to ride, since exposure and desensitization are important parts of your cross-country training.

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    Holly Caccamise
    Holly Caccamise has been with Horse Illustrated and Young Rider since 2007, and in August 2019, she took over as head editor. She’s been instrumental in the production of both magazines and helped Horse Illustrated win a 2018 American Horse Publications Media Award in the General Excellence Self-Supported Publication (circulation 15,000 and over) category. Before getting involved in the editorial side of print media, she worked as an award-winning ad copywriter for Thoroughbred Times magazine. Caccamise has her MS in Animal Science from the University of Kentucky, where she studied equine nutrition and exercise physiology, and her Bachelor’s from UCLA in Biology. Caccamise has also worked as a research assistant, horse camp counselor teaching riding and vaulting, and as a top-level show groom in the eventing world, where she continues to compete her horse, Artie, at the lower levels.

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