Tips to get out of your comfort zone and compete at a new event


Tips to get out of your comfort zone and compete at a new event

Are you stuck in a routine of competing at the same events, year after year? Last year, I was fortunate to get to compete at numerous new events and this year I will also try  several new events. Discovering new events has inspired me to encourage you to also test out some new ones. It’s time to venture outside of your comfort zone and try new events this season with the help of these tips…

Why should you compete at a new event?
You get the opportunity to compete somewhere entirely different which will make you a better rider and competitor. You get the chance to ride on new terrain; hillier, flatter, sandier, muddier. It is important to be able to compete on any type of terrain. It may seem daunting to travel to a new event and it can be hard to budget for, but it can make for a great experience, no matter how you place or what level you are competing.

Choose a new event, regardless of your level
Some areas have many events, but if your local area is lacking, consider competing beyond your province/state line. If you want to gain international experience, there are events in the USA relatively close to the Canadian border and vice versa, that run from Entry (Beginner Novice) to Intermediate. Canadians and Americans can compete internationally, without having to hop on a plane, at the level they are comfortable with. Once you decide how far you want to travel, check out the omnibus and pick an event. [Equine Canada omnibus] [USEA omnibus]

Making sure you choose the right event for you and your horse
Research and seek opinions (Facebook and forums) from people who have already been to the event.

Keep your level in mind when making your choice for a new event. If you want to go to an event with notoriously tough cross-country and that is your weakest phase, consider running a level lower.

Do a YouTube search and see if someone has uploaded a cross-country round from a previous event. Check past event results to see what type of competition you will be facing and how riders fared on cross-country.

When making your final choice, you need to consider:

  • the level you want to compete at;
  • what your personal goals will be at the event;
  • your expectations at the event including amenities and prizes; and
  • your budget.

Budgeting for a new event
When traveling a to a new event you may incur different costs than what you are accustomed. Make sure you budget accordingly for additional expenses.

Stabling – Find out from the event website or omnibus page how much stabling costs per night.

Hotels (or camping equipment/trailer hookup fee) – Book your hotel on a website that offers a discounted rate such as Expedia, no sense paying full price. Camping is a good way to save money. If you are up for pitching a tent, many events offer onsite camping and some even have buildings with showers you can use. If you have living quarters in your horse trailer or are planning to bring a camper, you will have to pay a hookup fee if the event offers this.

Gas (or trailering fee) – Look at how many kilometers/miles you have to travel and try to estimate what you will be paying for gas. If you do not have your own trailer and are tagging along with someone else, find out up front, how much you will have to pay for the round trip.

Tolls – Many highways and bridges that have toll charges, these can add up over a long trip. Talk to others who have made the journey to get a ballpark figure on how much you will be paying for that trip, or look it up online, Google Maps marks most toll charges down.

Health papers – Travelling across certain borders requires health papers. (For example, back and forth to the USA and Canada, and into Florida)In order to get health papers, you have to pay your vet to fill them out and usually another fee to the government to stamp them. Your best bet is to call your vet to find out how much it will cost.

Bonus tip: Try to find other riders at your barn or in your area, who want to attend the same event. Take one trailer to split the costs, share a hotel room, help cover a shared coach’s travel expenses.

Preparing to tackle a new event
You know what event you are going to and how much it will cost you. Now it is time to get into action and prepare for this exciting adventure.

1. Enter the event: Get your entry in on the opening date. Many events fill up quickly and you do not want to be wait-listed

2. Health papers: Find out what health papers your horse needs to make it through the borders you will be crossing. Tell your vet what you need, well ahead of time. Vets hate being phoned up last minute.

3. Bookings: Make sure you book your hotel, event trailer hookup, and make horse trailering arrangements well in advance.

4. Coaching: Check your coaches availability sooner than later. If your coach is not available, ask other eventers what coaches are going to the event, and arrange for someone else who you are comfortable with to help you.

5. Plan your route to the event: Do not just hop in your truck and punch the event address into your GPS. There are some roads that horse trailers cannot travel on and your GPS does not know you are towing a trailer. Read the event’s suggested directions in the omnibus and talk to other people who have been to the event, about what route they’ve taken. You want to make sure arrive at your event without some crazy story about how you almost decapitated your horse on a low bridge. Also have small bills and coins on hand in the correct currency, to conveniently pay at toll booths. Toll booths rarely except credit cards, so you better have cash, otherwise you will be pulled over on the side of the road, filling out paperwork so they can mail you your bill. Not fun.

6. Pack hay, feed and water: Overestimating how much your horse will eat, is better than trying to explain to your horse why you are rationing its portions. If you board your horse, make sure your barn knows of your travel plans, so they can make sure there is enough hay and feed at the barn the day you leave. Pack a large jug of water so you can offer your horse a drink on the road, most horses won’t drink but some will. For the amount of effort it takes, be sure to offer your horse water when you stop to gas up your truck. Plus if there was ever an emergency where you got stuck in traffic for a very long time, this water could be crucial.

Enjoy the experience
Remember it is just another event, even if you are hundreds of miles away from your home turf. No matter how detailed your plans are, horses are involved and things are likely to not all go to plan. Breathe, problem solve and laugh off whatever unfortunate things happen. Experience does not always come from success; you have to learn from failures as well. One of my coaches once told me, ‘Eventing is 90% disappointment. But the other 10% makes it all worth it.”

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