Over my Christmas break, I was in search of some inspiration and new gymnastic exercises as Oh So and Bear are coming back into jumping work, so I pulled out an oldie but a goodie–Blyth Tait’s Cross-Country Clinic, which was published in 1999.
A four-time Olympian for New Zealand, Tait brings a wealth of experience to his book. The format is question and answer, which makes it really easy to find what you’re looking for.
The book is laid out into five sections–Horse Problems, Rider Problems, Cross-Country Problems, Problems Arising At Competitions and Training Exercises.
Each question is pretty broad, such as, “What are the causes of a run-out?” and “How can I prevent a run-out from happening”, and Tait provides several bullet point answers, making it an easy read. The book is illustrated throughout with photos of Tait and others demonstrating both correct riding and flaws, as well as diagrams.
Tait’s training philosophy is systematic and common sense–for nearly every problem he advises being consistent in your training, empathetic to your horse, but also keeping a firm insistence when things go awry.
He’s also good at explaining the mechanics of cross-country position–from things as simple and obvious as looking up to improve balance to how to improve weakness on landing from a fence.
Perhaps the most useful section was the Training Exercises at the end of the book. Some of the 14 exercises are quite simple, such as working on a figure 8 over a vertical, but others ramped up the difficulty with multiple fences to help improve the horse’s form.
Tait explains the benefit of the exercise, things to be aware of and most importantly, provides the distances and strides in meters AND feet!
While I wish there were maybe a couple of exercises that focus on rider position, I’m only too happy to have more ideas to work on Oh So’s technique.
For those new to eventing, those who want a refresher on cross-country technique or those who are looking for a few new exercises to try this winter, Blyth Tait’s Cross-Country Clinic is a good choice.