Cross Country Coaching – Combination Fences
by Jenny Richardson BHSAI
In any cross country competition, you will encounter one or ore combination fences, which consist of a group of two or three obstacles following on from each other which must be jumped in the correct order. Any combination fence will be marked the same as your other single obstacles with a red flag on the right and a white flag on the left, together with the number of the jump, additionally the first part will have an ‘A’ with the second and/or third elements having a ‘B’ and ‘C’.
A combination fence is judged as a single obstable, giving you only three attempts to clear all the elements. If you were to refuse at B or C, you may either continue on, re-presenting the horse at the part at which you faulted, or you have the option to start the combination fences again.
Combinations vary in style and can include banks, ditches, drops/steps and water complexes. A coffin fence is commonly used and consists of two rustic fences either side of a ditch, marked A, B and C. You are likely to meet fences placed off centre questioning your ability to jump two or three fences at a slight angle.
An excellent introduction to combinations is gridwork, getting your horse used to jumping several obstables in a row, which can be built at distances and heights to suit you and altered as you become more ambitious. Doubles and trebles are also a good part of your homework, start in a school with wings, blocks and showjumps, graduating to a hired cross country course and concentrating on the more simple options of two plain fences for a first lesson. You will then naturally progress to three in a row, and then add the more unusual elements such as water, ditches, banks, drops and angled fences – be sure that you are well established at these individually beofre you introduce them as part of a combination fence.
Using medium canter
It is better to approach your combinations in medium canter as you will need plenty of momentum to jump two or three fences in a row, and ensure your line to the first element relates to all the jumps, giving you the best track to complete the fences easily and economically. Your horse is more likely to steady himself to judge what is ahead of him at a combination, so keep a supportive leg on to encourage him of his capabilities. It is an advantage if he is on his hocks at the first part, rather than his forehand, to help maintain a good balance throughout the combination.
If your combination includes drop and/or banks, you will be required to stay in balance with your horse as fast as the fences appear, for example going down a drop you will lean a little back, and riding uphill, take your wiegh off his back and lean forward. The ability to slip and regain your reins quickly and without impediment to your horse must be practised and learned.
Because the fences are situated closer together than normal cross country obstables, you will need to be quick thinking and have the ability to adjust and adapt to fit the situatio as it happens. The more combinations you can train over, the more comfortable you and your horse will become, hopefully establishing a trusting partnership based on mutual understanding and enjoyment.