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Steeplechase! (Current freebie!)
The steeplechase phase of a 3 day event is an exhilarating experience - it's the ultimate thrill ride! But it can be nerve wracking if you have never before jumped fences at such a high rate of speed. So it is best to be well prepared with the knowledge of how to ride it!
As with all jumping, the key to riding a good steeplechase round is balance and rhythm - both of which are attainable at any speed. And as always, you need to really know your individual horse to develp the most intelligent plan of attack. Is he high strung, brave, and raring to go? Or is he usually laid back and relaxed? This will help you come up with the best plan to prepare for the steeplechase phase.
If your horse is the quiet, laid back type, you will want to really wake him up at some point late on phase A, by giving him a short but strong pipe opener gallop. This will serve to get his adrenaline up a bit, and will help him to be more prepared to be galloping quite fast at a full size brush jump for his first jump of the day! If he is high strung and brave, then you merely need a short, quiet gallop near the end of phase A, just to make sure he is fully warmed up for phase B.
Employ the same strategy for coming out of the start box for the steeplechase itself. If you have a high strung forward horse, you can ease out of the start box, and try to smoothly establish your gallop rhythm right away. If your horse is the quiet type, you will want to really get him going coming out of the box - like his tail is on fire! Then, once you feel he is very in front of your leg, immediately settle back down into a rhythm at the speed required for your level, and maintain that rhythm to the first jump.
Throughout the steeplechase course, you should strive to maintain that rhythm, to stay in a somewhat defensive position, and to leave your horse alone as much as possible. Do NOT look for a stride - just maintain the gallop, your rein connection, and your position all the way to the base of each jump. Put your knuckles on the neck, and maintaint the same feel until he has safely left the ground for each jump. Dropping the contact in the last stride at that speed can have disastrous results. Don't go for any long spots! Think about waiting for your horse to add a stride when in doubt.
The beauty of riding the steeplechase course before phase D, is that you will be able to get a feel of galloping to soft, forgiving brush fences in a rhythm, while staying in balance and interfering as little as possible. This gives your horse a chance to really use his own eye - and his own brain! Which will set you up to have the best cross country ride (on phase D) that you will ever have!
You will find that your horse will be more focused and professional on the cross country. And it will be easier to start out of the start box in a great rhythm, which means you will usually find that you will meet the majority of your fences right out of stride. The steeplechase will have fired up the timid horse, and will tend to bring out his hidden tiger out on the cross country! And the high strung horse will often be more settled and rideable on phase D.
So not only will you find that steeplechase is the most fun ever, but you will find that your cross country will be more fun than usual as well! Three day events are just the thrill of a lifetime!