Riding in a Cross Country Pair Pace

Do you like to laugh with your fellow riders, try new types of riding, and ride your horse in beautiful places? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then a Pair Pace may be for you. In a nutshell, a Pair Pace involves a team of one to four riders traversing a cross-country jumping course. The distance is usually around two miles. One of the nice features of riding in a Pair Pace is that there are very few rules. Riders can tack up English, Western, Australian or whatever type of tack suits them.  There are no bridle or bit rules. Riding in a Pair Pace is an opportunity for all levels of riders and horses to get out and enjoy a good time with friends. When riding in a Pair Pace, teams often wear identical costumes or have a color theme.

Are you nervous about jumping? Many of the riders in a Pair Pace are not hunter- jumpers or eventing competitors. Another nice feature of riding in a Pair Pace is that you can choose the level of fences that suits you and your horse. There is a division in which the fences are optional – so any rider and horse can take on this challenge.

Pair Pace Division Types

Riding in a Pair Pace - Cross Country Jumps

Division A is the most challenging course with two options at each fence. Riders must jump the middle or high element. The fences will be 2’9” to 3’7” and the ideal time will have your horse moving at 400 meters per minute, which is a galloping pace.

Division B in a Pair Pace is a less intimidating, more moderate course that offers fences from 1’6” to 3’7”. Riders must jump any element. In other words, you do have to jump some element of the fence, but you can choose the lowest fence. When riding in a Pair Pace Division B, it is a cantering pace at about 350 meters per minute.

Division C will likely have the most teams because it is the least intimidating of the Divisions. Riding in a Pair Pace Division C offers course fences from 1’6’ to 3’7,” and riders may jump any fence height but must pass between the jump and the orange flag. The orange flag is usually to the side of the lowest fence, and the rider can decide to skip the fence and stay on the flat. The ideal time in Division C will have riders at a pace of 250 meters per minute, a fast trotting pace.

Pair Pace Venues

The venue for a cross-country Pair Pace is usually an existing eventing cross-country course. My daughter and I recently attended the 32nd annual Arapahoe Hunt Cross Country Pace Event held at Plum Creek Hollow Farm in Larkspur Colorado. The beauty of this venue makes riding there a treat. Rolling hills, smooth footing and a lovely creek made for easy riding, even for barefoot horses.

Placings in a Pair Pace are based on optimum time. Teams closest to optimum time + or – in each division are the winners. Riders are not informed as to the optimum time. Instead, riders should know the pace of their mounts and continue at speed designated for their Division. This unknown exact time makes for a more casual and fun event. No timing devices are allowed on the course, so placings are open to any team who manages the most accurate pace.

If you plan to ride in a Pair Pace, here are some tips on what to bring and how to prepare:Riding in a Pair Pace

  • Be sure to get your entry in by the designated postmarked date.
  • Keep an eye out for the communication on your specific ride time. In a Pair Pace, your team will have an exact ride out time. Be sure to check in with the warm-up coordinator at least 15 minutes before your time to let them know your team is ready.
  • No horse can compete on more than one team.
  • Competitors must jump fences in numerical order with red flags on the right, white flags on the left.
  • Unlike formal Eventing competitions, there are no penalties for falls, refusals or run-outs.
  • Dress usually requires helmets with straps and boots with a heel. After that, costumes or Hunting/Eventing attire is Horses must wear a bridle and saddle.
  • Be sure to bring your costume or color-schemed items to decorate you and your horse.
  • Bring feed and water for your horse. Also, if your horse is on the slower side, be sure to bring a tube of Formula 707 Performance Paste for an energy boost. Alternatively, if your horse gets excited at the event, start him on Formula 707 Calming Pellets a week before the event. If the event is in the fall and the days are still hot, it is also a good idea to provide your horse with bioavailable electrolytes in Formula 707 Restore Paste the night before the event to ensure your horse’s salts are replenished.

For Pair Pace events in Colorado, look at www.arapahoehunt.com and www.msea-ccc.org/spring-gulch.com.

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions you can contact us! Happy trails from southwest Colorado.

About the Author


I currently reside in Durango Colorado. Durango is in the Four Corners area of southwest Colorado. Living in this corner of Colorado allows me access to riding in three states within an hour drive. Horses have been a passion in my life for 35 years. I currently have seven equines in my care, including a five-year-old mustang in for training, a feisty grade mare I bought eight months ago, a talented Arab/Mustang mare and a blue dun Icelandic pony. —Phoebe Bechtolt

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