As an eventer, a large part of my life is lived in meter-per-minute (mpm) increments. From fitness rides to walking cross country, everything comes down to having my horse fit enough and riding at the right speed. Over the years, I’ve developed a sense for my speeds and how to condition my horses to be able to withstand the strains of cross country at their given level. Everyone has to start somewhere though, and not everyone has the resources to truly understand what their desired speed should feel like.
Beginner Novice: 300-350 mpm
Novice: 350-400 mpm
Training: 420-470 mpm
Preliminary: 520 mpm
Intermediate: 550 mpm
Advanced: 570 mpm
What You’ll Need
First off, you’ll need some space. The more land you have, the better. But you need enough space where you can get a good canter going for at least 30 seconds. Depending on what level you compete at, you’ll need more land for this exercise, as you’ll be covering more ground faster. This space can be anywhere that you can safely canter at to get a feel for your cross country speed.
You’ll need to measure out your space. Take the level at which you compete at (or hope to compete at) and measure out the area. So, if you’re trying to get a feel for beginner novice, measure out 300-350 meters. If you don’t have that much space, cut it in half and measure out 150-175 meters. This will be your cantering distance. Mark the areas with flags or anything else you prefer so you know when to start and end.
Confused as to how to measure? Fear not! You can buy a meter wheel or there are apps you can download that help. My personal favorite app for walking cross country and measuring distances is the Course Walk app.
Once you have your space measured and marked, it’s time to get your trusty steed, your stopwatch, and prepare go learn what your speed feels like! To start, trot the distance a few times, it’ll help as part of warming your horse up, familiarize them with the area (and your markers) and get you a feel for how much space you have to work with.
Once you’ve warmed up and your horse is used to the space, start to canter your distance. Start slow and work up faster each time until you’re on your meters-per-minute time. Keep in mind, this is an exercise to be done over time. You’re not going to get it in one day and you need to be mindful of your horse’s fitness levels when working on developing your feel. The end goal is to consistently canter your designated meters in one minute (or 30 seconds if you don’t have much space).
Keep in mind that you should be at the speed you want to be at when you start your timers. This is easier said than done, but you’ll develop mad stopwatch skills during your trial and error.
As you move up the levels, you’ll have to change your meter markers to allow for the faster space. When marking your land and doing the math for your speed, always try to use whole numbers and keep it simple. You have enough going on without making things more complicated than it needs to be.
Bonus: This is a lot more fun to do in a group! So grab some of your barn friends and make a routine of learning your cross country speeds together!