7 Step guide to plan next year’s competition season like a pro



7 Step guide to plan next year’s competition season like a pro

For most of us in North America, the 2019 eventing season has wrapped up.  Our horses are enjoying a little down time– some longer than others, depending on your winter climate.  Still, it’s never too early to start looking ahead to next season.  Since I’m very goal-oriented and driven to succeed, I like to develop a “roadmap” for the upcoming competition year and start planning early.

What guidelines do I use to develop a competition schedule?

1. Identify your end goal (AECs, Area Championships, CCI, etc) and review the qualifications necessary for you and your horse.  Is this goal realistic?  Is it very ambitious, or simple to achieve?  Keep these thoughts in mind when developing your season.

2. Start the season on a good note.  It is common to enter your first event at a level lower than your regular level, to knock the rust off and give ourselves confidence.  If you and your horse are very established at the level and are looking to move up, start at your comfort zone first and build on that. Along that vein, consider entering a “soft” event the first time out, not the most difficult one in your area.  Give yourself plenty of time to have your horse (and yourself!) fit and prepared.

3. When possible in your area, show a progression over the season.  Start with a couple events that are easy or familiar, and then increase the difficulty as you gain confidence and experience.  I want my horse feeling solidly on-track before moving up, or attempting a very challenging course. I also want some solid, challenging runs under our belt before we attempt our year-end goal.  Staying “home” and running ’round the same old courses may earn you qualifications, but it won’t do much to get you and your horse fully prepared.



4. Spacing: I don’t like to compete on back-to-back weekends, especially not at Preliminary or above.  Every other weekend is where I draw the line.  If there is a lot of travel involved, I try to space them out every three weeks.  It helps to know your horse: does he get in the groove with frequent competitions, or does he do better when he’s fresh, only competing once a month?  If you have a rigorous few weeks, plan for some downtime to let him recover; competing too often, too long is a definite risk for injury or mental sourness.

5. Have options and alternate plans.  If you are banking on getting qualified on the minimum number of events, chances are good something will go wrong (lost shoe, silly runout, helicopter landing in the dressage warmup…).  Know where you can re-route if the unexpected happens and you need an extra qualifying event. I take this a step further with “Plan A,” Plan B” and “Plan C.”  I draw up a very ambitious schedule, with an early move-up and difficult events, for the hope that my horse is foot-perfect every step of the way.  However, I know this is often too much of a risk, so I make other versions: Plan B, which is moderately challenging but doable, and Plan C, the most conservative route while still achieving qualifications.

6. Keep your budget in mind.  The choice of competitions will also be determined by your finances, so try to be affordable while still keeping your horse well prepared.  Estimate the cost of entry fees, fuel, and stabling/hotel expenses.  It’s tough trying to compete on a shoestring, but be honest with yourself about what you can afford.  Contact friends and local competitors to split travel costs, and start saving early.


When one show season ends, another is just around the corner.  Keep your motivation strong this winter by looking ahead to next year, and be ready when your first event arrives. 

What events do you already have marked on your calendar? 

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