9 Things I wish someone told me before I started Eventing

 

9 Things I wish someone told me before I started Eventing

Eventing, a sport that is really THREE different sports all compiled into one. Complicating Eventing even further is the fact that you only have one teammate, your beloved horse who doesn’t even understand the concept of sports. When I was 11-years-old, I began Eventing after signing up for a few weeks of ‘Eventing summer camp’ on my barely-broken-Mennonite-bargain horses. I was participating in this camp because a barn friend of mine suggested it, remarking how fun cross-country riding was. Being a bit of an adrenaline junkie, it was no doubt a must-try for me. Of course, I had heaps of fun flying around the cross-country jumps at the camp and learning all about this new-to-me sport of Eventing. However, even the camp did not prepare me adequately for my first sanctioned Eventing adventure. These are some of the things I wish someone told me before I started Eventing…

1) You cannot ask the jump judges on cross-country for directions. Probably the most hilariously naive thing I did at my Eventing debut was asked one of the cross-country jump judges where my next fence was when I became lost halfway around the course.  Unsurprisingly, the judge gave me a look of shock and politely explained that was not allowed. I rode off in annoyance and after some time of circling around the fields, I found my fence. In fairness, the jumps were so tiny they were hard to spot from a distance.

2) Spending two hours just braiding one horse is ridiculous. I probably went off course on cross-country because I was up all night braiding my horse. I don’t even know how it managed to take me over two entire hours to braid one horse but it did. My parents were fairly annoyed because all of my friends were done hours before me. But we had to stay up late at the barn while I fussed with my horse’s braids. Looking back at photos, they didn’t even look that good… Moral of the story, your braids won’t make or break your performance so make sure you manage your time better than I did.

3) You can never practice your dressage test too many times beforehand. Before my first event, everyone in the camp just ran through their tests once in their final dressage lesson of the week. No wonder none of us were competitive on the flat! Always spend the time practicing your dressage test before each event so it is almost second nature to you.

4) Likewise, you can never walk your show jumping and cross-country courses too many times. Unfortunately, unlike in dressage, you will not know your show jumping and cross-country tracks until you arrive at the event. But when you do get to the event, dedicate ample time to walk these courses numerous times. You can head on course with atrocious braids and it will not impact your performance, but wasting several minutes searching for your next jump certainly will…
 


 
5) It is critical to cross-country school on a regular basis and at various venues. Before my first event, my horse had only schooled at one venue (the farm where the camp was held). This was a mistake. All of the first timers at this camp had horrible cross-country rounds because the horses were not used to seeing different jumps and running through new fields. Spend the time taking your horse to as many venues as you possibly can before Eventing it and even once you have already begun Eventing. Cross-country is the most influential phase in our sport and schooling it should never be overlooked.

6) How to put my horse’s brand new boots on correctly… So I tackled cross-country with my horse’s boots upside down and backward before my coach realized what I had done. They were brand new boots that I bought specially for the event and I had never strapped on a pair of brush boots before. Oops! Eventing tack can be confusing if you have never seen certain pieces of equipment before. So make sure you ask someone who is knowledgeable whether you are using something correctly before you rock out in public with it.

7) You don’t need to gallop the snot out of your horse on the lead up to a Beginner Novice event. I’m still unclear why but my first Eventing barn peers and I were all under the impression we had to do wildly fast, long and frequent gallops with our horses to get them fit. We also never iced their legs or did any form of aftercare. In hindsight, it is a true wonder how we did not end up breaking more of them down. However, this resulted in us all showing up at events on raging fit and probably sore horses. Make sure you consult with someone or read articles by reputable trainers about how much fitness work is appropriate for your horse.

8) The top eventers are just people too. I almost passed out when I saw the O’Connors in person for the first time. One time, I was so excited by seeing Joe Meyer riding at Rocking Horse that I couldn’t even focus on my own warm-up. Not only was I in awe of these Eventing celebrities but I was also quite intimidated by them. But after being in this sport and at events for over 10 years now, I realize that even Eventing celebrities are just people and some of the kindest people out there to be exact.

9) You will get Eliminated A LOT. I used to be absolutely devastated everytime I got eliminated at an event. I am not nearly as broken up about an elimination as I was in the beginning. The reality is that getting eliminated is an unfortunate part of being an eventer. No matter how hard you train and perfectly you prepare, things will still end up going off the tracks every now and then. Get used to it, move on, smile and try again!

 

Feel free to email me any additions you have to this list…

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