A ditch with a tree trunk over it is called a Trakehner. The tree trunk is positioned over the centre of the ditch, which should be wide enough to be visible on each side of the tree trunk. The inexperienced horse and rider should be well capable of jumping the full width of the obstacle before attempting it.

A coffin is a combination of three elements: a jump in, a ditch, and a jump out. The jump in is usually a tree trunk or another solid obstacle.

The horse cannot see what lies beyond it. After one or two canter strides downhill, he has to jump an open ditch which is sometimes filled with water. It is often easier for the inexperienced horse if the ditch has a jump over the top. After the ditch come one or two canter strides uphill and then out over a second tree trunk or similar obstacle. The difficulty of the coffin lies in the depth of the ditch and how steeply the ground slopes when riding in and out.

The horse must already be confident jumping over ditches before starting with an easy coffin. If the inexperienced horse previously had problems with ditches, then he should follow the lead horse again. It is important not to over-face him. The elements of the coffin must not be too far apart, otherwise the horse may run out.

This type of obstacle requires good co-ordination and quick reactions from both horse and rider.

Hedges are found on the cross-country course both in their natural form and as ‘bullfinches’ (high hedges with straggly tops which are brushed through) and ‘brush fences’ (artificial hedges). Jumps of a type similar to the last form were also used until recently on the steeplechase section that was a phase of advanced events. Young horses who are not familiar with hedges of various types often jump too big over them because of lack of confidence so, when they are first introduced to hedges, these should be fairly small.

A cross-country course includes combinations as well as single fences, the same as in showjumping. The distances between obstacles can vary, but they are always placed fairly and with a certain number of strides in between. A lot depends on the skill and concentration of horse and rider. One can practise combinations by using portable jumps such as hurdles, straw bales, logs, etc.

When you jump these as combinations, just as with single elements they should be approached fluently in an even rhythm. When jumping three elements they can each be of a different type such as an upright or a spread. The ground conditions are an important factor and should be taken into account when setting out the jumps.

Once you have practised different obstacles at home the next stage is to enter your first competition; the aim of achieving harmony and confidence over cross-country fences has been achieved. With every competition, the practising beforehand can be reduced as the horse gains experience. Establishing trust throughout the training makes it easy to overcome any doubt when riding in a competition. Trust is built by progressing in easy stages, using simple exercises. This how you achieve your goal!

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