Lifesaving tips for competing multiple horses – WITHOUT a groom

 

Lifesaving tips for competing multiple horses – WITHOUT a groom

The world’s top riders frequently roll into events with over six mounts but these pros all have at least one groom. Their grooms tack up their horses and they just have to ride. This makes competing so many horses possible. But if you are a one-man-show competing more than one horse at an event becomes a cumbersome task. I have never had a big string of horses; the most I have ever had to juggle is four. However, over the years I have frequently ridden more than two horses at events and I have never had the privilege of a groom. If you are planning on competing multiple mounts this season use these tips to make your life easier:

1) Organize EVERYTHING well ahead of time: Organization is key when you’re showing multiple mounts. Spend the time the day before your event to get ALL of your tack and equipment organized. You do not want to end up frantically searching for your spurs when you have a very limited amount of time to tack up. I organize my trailer tack room in a consistent and logical fashion to simplify things. Grouping equipment together specific to each horse and phase makes a lot of sense. For example, I hang up each horse’s bridle for each phase with the corresponding breastplates and neck straps that I belong with them. I put my cross-country helmet in a bag with my watch and medical armband. My dressage helmet is in another bag with my hairnet and black gloves. And so on. You need to organize your gear in a way that makes sense to you but never get sloppy and just shove things randomly into your trailer.

2) Invest in a whiteboard and make a plan: Take the guesswork out of when you should tack up by mapping out a detailed plan for the day. Buy a whiteboard (if you do not already own one) and write down all of your ride times in chronological order with lots of space in between. Then, decide how long of warm-up your horses will need and write down what time you will need to have your butt in the saddle by. Next, determine how long it will take you to tack up and jot down what time you need to be at your trailer, getting ready. Once you arrive at the event, follow your whiteboard’s schedule like your life depends on it.

3) Sometimes you’ll have to suck it up and walk courses the day before: At many one-day events, you can easily arrive the day of the show and find time in between your rides to walk your cross-country and show jumping courses. However, with multiple rides in the picture competing at different levels this suddenly becomes impossible. Do not sacrifice how many times you walk your course because you’re tight for time. Bite the bullet and show up at the event a day early to give yourself time to walk courses. You put a lot of work and money into getting ready for an event, there is no sense wasting it because you miss a fence on cross-country. You should also consider bringing a pedal bicycle to your events because you can bike around your cross-country courses significantly faster than walking.


4) Have copies of your dressage tests on stand-by: If you are competing horses at different levels, it can become confusing to keep the different dressage tests straight. Don’t throw away marks by going off course in dressage. Always have copies of your tests either in print or on your cellphone, which you can review right before you tack up for dressage. Reading over your test before your ride will refresh your memory and ensure you stay on track.

5) Don’t be afraid to contact the event secretary before the event: Sometimes event secretaries make mistakes and space your rides out impossibly close or they don’t realize that you are lacking a groom. For example, you look at your alarmingly close ride times and realize if you could show jump later in the division it would make things more doable, speak up. Just politely request if you’d be able to show jump at ‘X’ time instead and it is highly likely this will not be an issue.

6) You can always ask another rider for some quick assistance: Eventers are a tight-knit and helpful community of people. If you desperately need some help with a small task such as loading a horse onto the trailer, ask for help.

7) Be prepared to move quickly, all-day: Showing multiple mounts at an event is not for a lazy rider. You are going to have to be prepared to hustle, bustle and probably skip lunch to make things happen on time. You cannot get too finicky brushing your horse before dressage if you only have five minutes to tack up! Do your best to turn your horses out as impeccably as possible but remember a good warm-up will help you more than a baby oil shined muzzle. Keep an eye on your watch and make sure you stick to your whiteboard schedule. If you are unwilling to move it and make things happen than you’re going to have either compete fewer horses in a day or fork out the money to hire a groom.

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