Cross-country prowess is the core of every top event rider’s skillset and cross-country schooling is an important part of honing those skills. British Olympic double medallist Tom McEwen is no exception, with an excellent record in this all-important phase.
We caught up with Tom to find out the answers to some of our questions about how he goes about this aspect of training his horses…
1. How often does Tom go cross-country schooling?
All Tom’s horses will go cross-country schooling at a venue away from his yard at least twice before the eventing season starts – Tom often goes to Oxstalls or Wayfarer Eventing at Chedworth. The focus is on building horses’ confidence, making it fun and keeping them relaxed. The sessions also serve as fitness work.
In addition to going schooling away from Tom’s base, his horses frequently jump logs and go through the water in the woods surrounding his yard on the Gatcombe estate – there are both natural obstacles and fences left from the days when the “little Gatcombe” fixtures ran here.
“It’s nice having something quite natural to work over and I think the horses do more cross-country schooling than I realise,” he says.
2. Does he jump big fences?
No. Tom doesn’t believe in jumping a lot of larger fences while cross-country schooling.
“I’m not bothered about fence size – most of the time jumping big fences is for humans not horses,” he says.
3. Does he go fast when cross-country schooling?
No. Tom doesn’t ride at speed cross-country schooling and jumps out of a steady canter.
4. Do his horses wear studs?
Another no. The horses don’t need wear studs to do this work on good ground, which is well prepared.
5. How many fences does Tom McEwen jump when cross-country schooling?
Tom prefers to emphasise little and often over packing a lot into one day. If the horses are having a cross-country session at a venue, they will go through a good warm-up, including trotting and cantering in and out of the water several times, jump perhaps 25 fences in three bursts and then finish up with a strong trot around the field.
For efficiency, Tom McEwen will sometimes work in partnership with one of his team when cross-country schooling, so a groom will warm up a second horse alongside Tom on his first horse, then when Tom has finished jumping the first horse, the groom cools down that mount and takes it back to the lorry while Tom jumps the second one.
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