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How To Keep A Horse Balanced When Galloping Downhill In A Cross Country Course

Submitted by member: Linda

I am a beginner novice level eventer and would like to learn more about cantering and galloping downhill. I have a very strong 7-year old warmblood and have trouble with balancing him downhill and keeping him from going on the forehand and racing downhill.

Answer by: Olivia Loiacono

Hi there, thanks for your question. It takes a while to really master galloping down hills.

I would recommend that the first thing you do is make sure that you and your horse are comfortable walking and trotting down hills. It’s easy to “over protect” the horse, such as holding the reins too tightly or leaning back excessively.

Alternatively, you want to allow the horse to find his own footing. When he accelerates too much, make a downward transition, then allow again. You’ll have to be diligent in this, horses learn from consistency and repetition, so take your time!

Your position should be following but with a strong, stable core and low hands so the horse can use his/her neck to balance.

Try to practice up/down hills frequently until the horse feels very confident in his footwork.

Once you’ve mastered this, then you can try the canter and finally the hand gallop (this is plenty enough pace for the beginner novice/novice levels). If you’re not sure that your pace is correct check out the video on called “Mastering Your Cross Country Pace.”

Video Recommendations:

finding the correct pace for your horse on a cross country course

Eventing – Mastering Your Cross Country Pace
Olivia Loiacono
In this video, international Eventer, Olivia Loiacono of OKL Eventing, shows you how to practice and master a good solid pace for the Beginner Novice, Novice, Training and Preliminary levels of the cross country course. There is a lot to think about when riding cross country; including keeping a proper galloping position to achieve a rhythmical, consistent and balanced pace. For any eventer, keeping the right pace for your level should become second nature, but it takes practice! Olivia shares some training exercises you can set up at home to establish and learn the correct pace for galloping at your level of competition. She also discusses how the reins (bridge and pulley rein) effect the horses balance – specifically the benefits of using a bridge as a tool for inexperienced riders to get better balance over their feet. Knowing different styles of holding your reins and hands is of the utmost importance when riding the eventing cross country course.

Tools you will need for this exercise include flags (or markers), meter wheel, stopwatch and your horse.

The United States Equestrian Federation’s Rule Book and Omnibus listing is the official source for finding out what pace you will need to ride at for your specific level for each event.
Running Time:  7 minutes and 21 seconds

View Video
The right canter for your horse

The Right Canter
Denny Emerson
In this topic Denny shows us the importance of establishing the “Right” canter. He demonstrates how getting to the right take off point with the proper speed, balance and impulsion, while staying out of the horse’s way, allows the horse to jump his best.
Running Time:  22 minutes and 22 seconds

View Video

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Olivia Loiacono

After years of training, riding, and competing all over the world, Olivia decided to bring her knowledge and experience back to the Southern California eventing community. She now runs OKL Eventing. Bringing young horses through the levels and teaching all stages of eventing are Olivia's specialty and primary focus. During her free time Olivia enjoys giving back by contributing to Pony Club and helping to grow the local eventing community. Ultimately, Olivia is working to build up a team of competitive top level event horses to represent the United States in international competition.

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