Eventing Cross Country Explained

The Cross Country phase is considered by many as the highlight of Eventing! Although, it can be quite daunting if it is the first time you are going eventing. Here we explain the cross country phase in more detail as well as the penalties relating to this phase of the competition.

Walking the Course

The cross country course will be available to walk from 2pm on the day before the event. It is important to note that a competitor must not have ridden the cross country course within two weeks of the competition unless they intend to compete HC. When you go to walk the course there will be a plan of the cross country course at the Secretary’s office and at the start of the course. On the plan will be the distance in metres, the optimum time and it will show the course of obstacles and their numbers.

The Warm Up

On the day, there will be practice fences available per class which are clearly marked with directional flags (red on the right and white of the left). Once you have warmed up, you will be asked by the cross country steward to moved down to the start box, which is approximately 5m square with an open front and entry points from either one or both sides. The start box will also have directional flags at the front. Competitors must comply with the instructions given by the Starter.

Starting Your XC Round

The Starter will count down from five before the signalling for you to start, if a competitor rides through the start box gap at a canter or faster, than they may be given penalties for dangerous riding. The time is counted from either the starter’s signal or if the nose of the horse crossed the start line; which is the earlier, so there is no advantage to jumping the starter’s signal.

If however, the competitor does not cross the start line after 1 minute from being given the signal to start, they will be eliminated.

Cross Country Obstacles

The cross country course is always held on grass, with seven types of cross country fences:

  • Drop Fence
  • Water
  • Keyhole Fence
  • Overhead Obstructions
  • Hedge and Brush fences
  • Obstacles with spread only
  • Portables Fences

The jumps will have coloured numbers on each obstacle according to their class:

  • Purple BE80(T)
  • Orange BE90
  • Pink BE100
  • Black BE105
  • Yellow Novice
  • Green Intermediate inc Advanced Intermediate
  • Blue Advanced

Black flag options is an alternative obstacle or element which can be jumped rather than the direct route. They will have the same number as the direct route and both sets of directional flags will have a black line.

Cross Country Penalties

Penalties will be imposed for a refusal, run-out or circling only when the fence judge deems that a competitor has presented a horse to an obstacle.

A refusal is when a horse stops i.e. is no longer moving forward. The rider should turn the horse away and re-present at the obstacle. If a rider tries to jump the obstacle from a standstill, this constitutes dangerous riding and will be penalised accordingly.

A horse is considered to have a run out if the body of the horse (head, neck, shoulders and pelvis – legs are not included) fails to pass between the extremities of the obstacle flags.

A competitor is considered to have circled if they pass round the back of any element of the lettered combination in an obstacle composed of several elements or it crossed its tracks between the elements. As long as the rider has not presented the horse to an obstacle then circling between separate numbered obstacles is allowed without a penalty.

Error Penalty Points
First Refusal, run out or circle of the horse at an obstacle 20 Penalties
Second refusal, run out or circle of the horse at the same obstacle 40 Penalties
Third refusal, run out or circle of the horse at the same obstacle Elimination
Third cumulative refusal – Novice and above Elimination
Fourth Cumulative refusal – BE105 and below Elimination
Fall of the competitor anywhere on the course Elimination
Fall of the horse anywhere on the course Elimination
Trapped horse Elimination
Error of course not rectified Elimination
After more than 2mins of continuous disobedience Elimination
Omission of obstacle or boundary flag Elimination
Retaking an obstacle already jumped Elimination
Jumping the obstacle with crossed flags Elimination
For every commenced second in excess of the optimum time 0.4 penalty
For every commenced second in excess of the 15 secs under the optimum time 0.4 penalty
Exceeding the time limit (twice the optimum time) Elimination

The finish line will be flagged and is between 20m – 50m from the last obstacle. It is important to ride to the finish, so as to avoid penalties for exceed the optimum time. However, if it is deemed that a competitor has deliberately slowed down near the end of the cross country course to avoid time penalties (for going too fast) they are likely to incur a disciplinary sanction and penalties will be added.

Eventing is the ultimate equestrian challenge and the cross country phase will test a combinations accuracy and bravery. The combination with the lowest penalty score at the end of the event is the winner!

To start your eventing experience why not enjoy Eland Lodge’s British Eventing fixtures on the 17th - 18th April and 26th - 27th June 2021, the classes start from BE80 up to Novice.