At a recent arena event, the optimum time was set at 375mpm. I knew this, but didn’t really understand what it meant. I watched other riders going round who appeared to be very slow -I now know why, as despite my clear round I was way too fast on my pace and didn’t get placed – the one who won actually trotted part way round! At a previous xc event I was too slow and got time penalties. How can I judge my timing better so I don’t make the same mistakes again?
Observing optimum times can be a very hit and miss affair, and its all about practice and getting to know your horse’s rhythm and pace.
At lower unaffiliated levels, it’s quite common that the optimum time is not revealed until after the class. This makes the whole thing a complete lottery and in this case, we suggest you ride at a steady canter, that’s comfortable for your horse. Keep a good rhythm going throughout the course and aim for a clear round!
If there is a published mpm, then you need to try to ride to it. One way to do this is practice at home by working out the length of a canter track or field you can use ( google maps is a great tool to help you with this), then time yourself riding it until you reach the mpm you need. Practice riding this regularly to get you familiar with how that speed feels so you can replicate it in competition, although bear in mind you need to allow for the time it takes to jump the fences as well as the terrain – hills, drops etc as these will add some extra seconds on to your time.
To be more accurate, if your event allows you to, you can use a stopwatch. All levels of BE Eventing permit stopwatches now. are measuredLooking at it halfway round will help you to know whether to speed up or slow down to get as near as possible to the optimum time. Just don’t get carried away with looking at your watch all the time as it will distract you from the job in hand!
Many professional riders will use minute markers when walking the course. There are some great apps that you can use to measure your distance , so say you need to ride at 425mpm, the app will tell you when you have reached that distance as you walk, and therefore you know you need to be there in one minute. To save over-complicating matters though, we suggest you perhaps pick 2 or 3 markers throughout the course and measure your time against them.