Hunter trial ready

Posted in Cross Country

Get prepped for your comp with Team PONY's top tips!


Looking for a mega-fun comp that’ll boost your confidence, too? Hunter trials are the perfect solution. You’ll have the best time cantering round the course with your pony, testing your skills and building your unbreakable bond. Here’s how to gear up for a hunter trial and feel ready for some fun.  

Feeling fit

Fitness is sooo important in any discipline, but hunter trials can be hilly and lengthy, so making sure your pony’s fully fit is key. You’ll need to be prepared to ride a course that’s up to five minutes long, so make sure you’re doing plenty of canter work to super-charge your pony’s fitness levels. 


Get to know the terrain you’ll be riding on. If it’s super-hilly, practise riding up and down plenty of slopes beforehand.

Setting the pace

Did you know you can get penalties for going too fast as well as too slow? Most hunter trials are based on an optimum time, which is revealed after the last competitor has completed the course – the combination closest to this time wins. Get used to riding your pony in an even rhythm and at a consistent pace. 


Try not to disrupt your pony’s rhythm by asking him to go faster, it’s more important that he completes the course happily with some energy left in the tank.

Out & about

A trip to your local cross-country course is the ultimate way to get prepped for a hunter trial. You can test you and your pony’s skills over different fences, such as ditches, hedges, drops and combinations. It’s also a great way to brush up your skills riding on grass – it’s super-important to be able to ride balanced turns on the course! Remember to have a go at stringing a few fences together to work on your rhythm between fences, too. 


Take your pony to the gallops or find somewhere out hacking that has plenty of space to practise cantering in a steady rhythm. 

Perfect pairs

The ideal way to have some fun with your bestie, hunter trials often have pairs classes that’ll boost your pony’s confidence, too. A dressing fence is one you jump together – penalties will be given to combinations not in sync! So, practise with your pal at home by setting up two fences side by side to help you nail it on the day. 


Canter around your arena at home with your friend to establish your rhythm and speed – count the strides out loud to help you. 

Geared up

Skull caps and body protectors are a must at hunter trials – checking yours meet the required safety standard is super-important, too. But when it comes to your outfit, be as brightly coloured or as smart as you’d like. It’s the perfect opportunity to wear your fave matchy-matchy set! 

Time to shine 

Getting everything right on the day is just as important as your prep – here are our five top tips…

  1. Walk this way

Walking the course ahead of your round gives you a chance to see the fences up close and plan how you’ll ride them. You can take note of any bumpy or boggy patches of ground that you should avoid, too. 

     2. Warming up

Make sure your pony’s engaged and responding to your aids. Rushing your warm-up could leave you feeling nervous, so relax, take your time and ride positively. If your pony’s lazy, don’t tire him out before you get started – the course will feel extra-tough if he’s lacking energy!

     3. Ready, set, go!

As you’re on the countdown to start, keep your pony quiet and happy by walking him in and around the start box so he’s not fazed by anything. Take a deep breath, too, and think about how much fun you’ll have! When you’re given the green light, walk into the box and steadily pick up the pace as you begin the course – remember, you can’t canter through it!

     4. You’ve done it

Cantering over the finish line will deffo be the best feeling in the world, and your pony will deserve a huge pat. But, don’t forget to look out for spectators and other competitors and come back to walk quickly.

     5. Feeling cool

Be sure to spend time cooling your pony down once you’ve completed the course. Even though they’re super-fit, you’ll need to keep them walking until their breathing rate has gone back to normal. Washing off thoroughly once you’ve untacked them will help his muscles recover, too.

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PONY magazine - July 2024 issue

July 2024

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