Saving "fuel" on course?

Auto racers know how to save fuel during a car race by deciding when to push the car and when to get off the gas. Do eventing riders do something similar? When riding a course do riders choose places to allow the horse to cruise and other places where they need to push to make their time and still come to the finish with some energy left in the horse?

Yes definitely they do. More so at the higher levels, although even at the lower levels there are place to just let the horse have a bit of a break mentally.


Yes, we do. This really doesn’t come into play until prelim and above (really I and A). Of course without the old long format, this is even less a factor now given that XC is last of the phases. Add in the courses are way shorter than they used to be.

The starting point is to subtract 1 second for every fence you have on course from the optimum time. That is your true time, and thus your between fences pace is higher than the optimum pace. In the past, I alway set places on course where I would “check in” with my horse to see what was there. Generally this was in a long gallop stretch where I could take a tug and add leg to see if they were still responding well, also I could float the reins a bit and feel if the step was even and consistent. In the speed study we found that tired horses tended to vary their speed as their exhaustion kicked in. They stopped holding a steady step between fences. So there is another way to check.

In general, I always let my horses dictate their pace on course. I have found that they are usually happiest cranking along at or above the optimum between fences so my 1 second rule tends to hold well. Thus, at prelim I would run 600mpm+ between fences. At OI and A I would be between 800mpm+ between fences. This allowed us to slow down to 350-450mpm to jump.

To do this mean you have to actually condition your horse and learn to recognize when the tank is getting empty. This is done at home with gallop sets, hills, speed work etc. You push both you and the horse beyond the conditioning needed for the level to know where the “breaking point” is. Hence why knowing what is in the tank is more about the higher levels. Up to Training, regular arena work will do in terms of conditioning and fitness.


It’s also useful to ask your horse how he’s feeling between say halfway and 2/3 around the course when you’ve got some space to gallop. I just sort of float the reins a bit, see if and how he takes me forward, and adjust my ride if appropriate.

The Course Designer has some input too. They place jumps around in such a way that there are let-up fences that help horses regain some puff, and confidence if necessary, and stretches of plain galloping that give the horse opportunity to fill their lungs and roll along in a rythmn.

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The first thing I thought of was drafting…but you’d have to catch up to the horse that went out before you first and it may defeat the purpose…though I would love to see a horse drafting behind another one then nosing around after the last jump…new life goals.

Called “being given a lead” and not allowed.

AKA “unauthorized assistance” which results in elimination.

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What would be the point of that? You would still be 2 minutes (or whatever the interval) apart in elapsed time.

OK, that was a joke…still wanna see them out there like NASCAR because it entertains me to thinkg about it and that’s all that matters on my side of the screen.


That’s pretty much what steeplechasing is already!

Look up “Team Chasing” which is eventing on steroids and participants are largely insane.

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