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10 steps to riding your first EA 
cross country course

1 - Competition Equipment - Plan and Pre Plan
Aside from the essential equipment of saddle, girth, saddle cloth, and bridle there is other compulsory equipment required to ride a cross country course. Compulsory equipment includes a helmet that must meet the new EA guidelines, a back protector, a body number holder and bridle number holder, medical armband and safety riding boots. Protective boots for the horse is not a compulsory item, but well fitted, safe, boots are recommended.

2 - Arriving at the Event
Once you have settled your horse on arrival. The next step is to locate the secretary’s office and obtain all of the relevant information for the event, this will include your body number, timetables and cross country map. Check for any master maps that will show if any changes have been made to the cross country after the maps were printed. Listen out for announcements during the day, as frequently changes are made to the running schedule.

3 - Walk the Cross Country Course
An announcement will be made when the cross country course is officially open for walking. Always make sure you take your map with you, it is wise to make sure you have checked the map with the master map prior to the course walk. Identify your class colours – Eg black on white, black on red etc, as you don’t wish to walk the wrong course.

4 - Flags
Each jump will be flagged and numbered. Remember always jump a jump with the red on your right.
Warning – Some courses will have compulsory flags that you must ride through. These are to be treated the same as a jump, therefore, the red flag is always on your right when passing through.

5 - Time Definitions
Optimum time – Is the ideal time you need to be closest to. Penalties apply for every second that you are over the optimum time up to the total time allowed. Calculated at .4 of a penalty for each second over.
Time allowed – The time allowed to complete the course. 
If you exceed the time allowed, you will be eliminated from the competition, this is normally double the optimum time.
Minimum time – The minimum time to complete the course. If you are under the minimum time you will incur time plenties for riding too quickly. Calculated as per optimum time.

6 - Starting your Course
A volunteer steward will be in the warm up area and they will advise you of the number of minutes between horses on course. The steward will then call out body numbers, listen carefully for your number. Don’t go straight into the start box, there is always 1 or 2 minutes before they start the 10 second countdown.

7 - Refusal / Falls Rules
The general rules for lower grades is three stops at one fence and you are eliminated or if you have 4 stops over the entire course. If you are eliminated on the course you are required to walk back making sure you do not interfere with any other riders. If you happen to fall from your horse to the stage where you need to remount you are eliminated from the competition and you must not re mount. Even if the fall was minor you must lead your horse and make your way to the medical team for assessment.

8 - Course Etiquette
If you happen to be going slowly or have had trouble on course and the horse behind you is catching up, the horse coming up behind you has right of way. Therefore, if you are on the front horse, move to a safe distance away from the approaching horse and then continue on your way after the horse has passed. If you are the horse coming up behind, simply call out to alert the rider in front that you are coming through.

9 - Stopped on Course
If you see a jump judge waving a flag at you (normally red or orange) this means that there is some disruption on course and they require you to stop. The jump judge will record the length of time you were stopped, this will be taken off of your overall time at the end of the course. To re-start from a forced stopping, follow the direction of the jump judge or official and continue on course.

10 - Completion of the Course
Once you have ridden through the finish flags, your first cross country course is officially over. It is now time to attend to your horse; immediately begin with a cool down walk. At some events compulsory vet checks are done, you are required to dismount, loosen your girth and continue walking the horse around until the vet is ready, whereby generally they will check the horse’s heart rate. Then check for any injuries, unsaddle, hose down and scrape off and offer your horse a drink. And of course remember to look after yourself too.

Story from Horse Deals Magazine March 2017

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