Follow these four tips to start your Eventing season successfully
Given that lots of riders spend the winter months down south and thus start competing quite early in the year, this article might be late for a portion of event riders in the U.S. However, for those riders (like me!) who winter up north and perhaps give their horses an extended holiday, the following tips for having a good debut may prove useful. I’ll use myself as an example–I just ran my first horse trial of the year at Fair Hill with my two geldings.
1) Realistically evaluate your and your horse’s state of fitness.
Are you and your horse fit and strong enough to start out at the horse trial level you ended at last year? Remember that if the two of you have not cantered around a full cross country course in a few months, it may not feel as seamless or easy as it felt before–no matter how much gymnastic and dressage work you did in the off-season.
I’ll use my horse, Bendigo, as an example. He completed a CCI2* at the end of last year but had a few months of quiet hacking and off-time. He probably could have jumped around an intermediate to start out this year, but with a very wet spring leading up to this event, I entered him in the preliminary instead so he could canter around comfortably without risking injury.
2) Think about your goals for the year.
If you’re aiming for a three-day in a couple of months, it is not wise to come out gunning for the win. Time penalties can lower your placing but ultimately a confident, rideable horse will serve you better when the results really matter at the big competitions later in the year. This rationale might be another factor in your decision to drop down a level for the first time out. Also, there’s nothing worse than starting the season on the wrong foot with a stop or run-out.
3) Try to knock the rust off somewhere else.
Events are expensive no matter where in the world you compete. Take your horse cross-country schooling. Take him to a combined test or to a jumper show. Don’t come unprepared to your first event of the year.
4) Bring an extra pair of breeches!
This last point especially rings true if you’re riding multiple horses, but it has personal significance as well. Just as I had finished getting dressed and was about to bridle own of my horses this weekend, he pulled back from the trailer and somehow shoved his shoulder into me. I toppled into the mud. Thirty minutes before I was due to trot down centerline, my breeches gained a slimy coating of mud. A bit of soap and water did the trick, but it would have been quicker to have an extra clean pair in the truck!