Cross Country: Facts & Information On This Intense Riding Discipline

Cross country is an equine sport that I myself want to try one of these days. Just watching this sport with these horses in action is thrilling. Cross country consists of running a long course with a variety of jumps and obstacles that you and your horse must complete in the shortest time possible. But how many obstacles must the horses clear? How long is the course? And are there specific breeds that do better in this discipline than others?

What Is Cross Country?

Cross country is an English riding discipline that consists of an obstacle course where horses must gallop through the countryside through grass, trees, and water, jumping over fences, hedges, and walls. Cross country tests the horse’s bravery, stamina, jumping ability, and agility.

What Is Expected Of The Horse?

In cross country, horses are expected to do a variety of things. Some of these things include:


Cross country, in some ways, is like a race. The horses that compete in this discipline compete to complete an obstacle course in the fastest time possible. A fast horse is preferable for this sport so getting a good time is easier for you and the horse.


The courses that horses run in cross country are often several miles long. This being said, you need a horse with good stamina and endurance to be able to run the course and complete it with a good time. Without good endurance and stamina, the horse will struggle with the completion of the course.

Good Jumping Ability

Horses need to be able to jump pretty far and high to be successful in this industry. This is because many of the obstacles that they must clear are not only tall, but wide as well. If a horse struggles to jump, it will not do good in this discipline.


To be able to jump off of ledges into water that you don’t know the depth of is quite a brave thing to do, especially if you are a big horse carrying a rider. Bravery is one of the most necessary things that a cross country horse needs to successfully complete their course. Some of the obstacles horses face test their bravery as they include aspects that the horses might find scary.

Are There Different Levels Of Cross Country Competition?

Yes. Just like in most other sports, there are several different levels of competition ranging from amateur youth levels to competitive professional adult levels.

Do Cross Country Horses Like Their Job?

Yes! These horses love running through the countryside, clearing obstacles, and crossing terrain. I have seen many horses almost unable to contain themselves with excitement before they leave the starting box to begin their run.

Horses love having a job so this is a great thing for them to partake in as not only does it keep them fit and help their stamina, but it also helps to keep the horse’s mind busy and focused on the task that lays ahead.

Is Cross Country Dangerous?

Yes, cross country is one of the most dangerous sports in the horse industry. This is because you are riding a horse going at incredibly high speeds while clearing a number of different jumps of all heights, widths, and sizes.

It is not rare for a horse to spook, buck, rear, resist a jump, throw a rider, or do other irrational things that may hurt the rider. This is because this is a high-intensity sport that incorporates a lot of bravery tests making some horses panic and therefore potentially hurting themselves or the rider.

What Is The Average Age Of A Cross Country Horse?

Horses that compete in this discipline range in age between four and fifteen on average. Some may start younger or go on to compete even past the age of fifteen, but otherwise horses will compete in cross country between these two ages.

What Do Cross Country Riders Wear?

There is specific gear required to be worn by riders who compete in cross country, This gear includes:


The helmet is probably the most important piece of riding apparel that riders wear when competing or riding in this discipline. Sometimes, riders will attach a wide brim or visor around the helmet to lessen the sun exposure and make it easier to see. Helmets are required by all cross country riders with good reason.

Riding Shirt

Most cross-country events and shows don’t require a certain color or type of shirt to be worn when competing. This means that most of the shirts that riders wear and use under their protective vests are random general riding shirts of any color.


Breeches, usually black white or tan in color, are worn by cross country riders. Breeches, especially breeches that have grippy knee or seat patches, are most popular in cross country as these patches help the rider to grip and stay on.


Tall boots are most likely the most popular footwear choice by cross country riders. This is because these boots not only look professional when you are riding the horse, but they also help to protect the rider’s leg from getting pinched by the saddle during the ride.

Eventing/Cross Country Vest

These vests are crucial when it comes to a rider’s safety as they inflate if the rider falls to help to protect their neck, back, ribs, and other fragile parts of their upper body that might be injured in the case of a fall.

Cross Country Tack

There are so many pieces of tack that are used in riding these horses. The tack used includes:


The most general and obvious piece of tack needed to ride in cross country is the English saddle. These saddles should be lightweight and have a low pommel to allow you to jump without a high pommel to deal with.

Saddle Pad

Saddle pads are the next common thing to be used in cross country. Beneath every saddle is a saddle pad used as protection on the horse’s back to cushion the shock from the hard work of carrying the rider.


The bridle is an essential piece of tack as without it the rider would find it impossible if not nearly impossible to control and direct their horse throughout the course they must complete.


Supportive boots and wraps are really important so the lower legs of the horse are supported properly as they land jumps and gallop through the countryside. These are essential to help maintain the health of your horse’s legs.

What Breeds Excel In This Sport?

There are so many breeds that you can find doing cross country. Some of these breeds include:

  • Thoroughbred
  • Trakhener
  • Oldenburg
  • Selle Francais
  • Hanoverian
  • Holstein
  • Swiss Warmblood
  • Swedish Warmblood
  • Danish Warmblood
  • Dutch Warmblood

Hailey Sipila

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

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