This one is for the Wobble Berries!
Heading to your first, actually, any event can be a nerve-racking/ terrifying experience…
Whether you are taking part in the amazing Wobble Berry challenge and heading off to your first BE 80, or you are a seasoned pro, I like to think this blog has something for everybody!
So here we go, this is what you really need to know in order to survive a day eventing;
1. Make a plan the night before, and no, I don’t mean, “I plan to get a 26 dressage followed by a double clear and a first place rosette”. I mean make a plan of your entire day; the time you are going to get up, what time you will leave, arrive, collect your number, walk the course, tack up, warm up, etc, etc. Even if you don’t stick to it exactly, it will give you a rough estimate on when you should be doing certain tasks and help you avoid the “oh shit, I’ve ran out of time” panic.
2. Pack a spare head collar& lead rope, hair bobble, several pairs of footwear, toilet roll (Portaloos often lack the essentials, especially if you are on day two or three of the competition!), sanitary products (getting caught short in tight white trousers is not on anyone’s eventing bucket list), breeches (incase of heavy rain), plasters (incase of blisters) safety pins (incase your stock pin bends), a waterproof sheet for your horse (incase of heavy rain, again) and probably a hundred other things I haven’t listed, but these are my essentials!
3. When you collect your number, take your helmet (only necessary at your first event), your horse’s passport (necessary at every event) and your start fee. If you aren’t familiar with the event ask for quick directions to each phase and always be nice to the number giver-outerers – they have a long day ahead of them! Oh, and find out the time for your SJ course walk!
4. When you walk the cross-country course BE VIGILANT and listen for whistles. Your aim is to A. not get run over/be in a competitors way and B. not to get shouted at! Avoid getting shouted at by getting right off the course (yes, I mean behind the white tape) well before a horse is approaching. When moving out the way at a jump, always think, “what if the competitor refuses? Am I far enough away to let them safely circle without running me over?”- It’s a foolproof way to avoid the wrath of a fence judge!
5. Always give extra warm up time for dressage – especially if you are quite far down the running order in your section as Dressage often runs early as there is less hold ups. Obviously you don’t have to go down the center line until your given time, but these judges have had a long day and personally, I try to do anything I can to keep them happy, so if I can let them go home five minutes earlier I recon that goes in my favour!
6. Give your horse water between each discipline, and if you have happy helpers make sure everyone knows their job, especially if you have a quick change. In my example Dad holds the horse/ checks the studs/ gives him water, mum gets my clothing ready for the next phase as I change saddles/bridles/clothes/whatever else I need to change.
7. Always double check whether showjumping is running in number order or riders declaring as this information can help avoid an unnecessary and stressful wait! Obviously, number order is easier but a lot of events have multiple riders and take people as they come so it’s good to know in advance.
8. Don’t jump too much in the warm up! The warm up is there to give both horse and rider confidence, not there to see who can jump the most or who has the most scope. Take a helper to do poles for you (or tag along with someone who’s husband/ parent/ friend/ trainer looks like they know what they are doing) and jump a couple of cross-poles, a couple of uprights and a couple of spreads. If pony jumps well, then leave it at that. If you need more, then jump a few more but again, don’t over do it!
9. Cross-country will not run in number order, you will run in the order you enter the warm up ring! Make sure you present yourself to the steward and keep an eye on the amount of horses to go before you – your horse will already be loose and moving from the showjumping (providing you haven’t had hours between) so all you need is a few lengthening and shortening trials to ensure you have them in front of your leg and a few jumps (maybe some on an angle or some skinnies to focus them). My top tip for a successful XC warm up is to practice coming out of the start box- make sure you aren’t in anyone’s way, stand still about 10 strides in front of a simple fence and count yourself down from five! Wave goodbye to start box issues!
10. ENJOY THE CROSS COUNTRY!! A lot of people get nervous about this bit, but it’s genuinely my favorite part! If you are just starting out then forget about your minute markets and what the optimum time is, just get out there, find a pace you feel comfortable at and bloody enjoy it! And smile- it honestly helps!
11. Take extra time to cool your horse down and keep him moving for a while once you have finished, especially if you have a long journey. When I am finished I am usually starving so we tend to sit on camp chairs and have a picnic (I can’t eat before I’ve ridden- I have stomach issues!) and Woods just gets to wander around us, grazing rather than getting put straight in the box. Keep an eye on the picnic though; he is partial to a Hula-Hoop!
12. If you have had a good day then keep an eye on the scores using BDWP on your phone, you may be needed for the prize giving! If you are then find out the time from the secretaries tent and make sure you turn up with your glad rags back on (including Show Jacket and Helmet!). Clap and cheer for the other competitors, and make sure to smile when you collect your frilly!
So that’s your day- it’s long, exhausting and the weather plays a real part in how easy or difficult the day can be, but my goodness is it amazing! Whether you finish in the prizes or your goal was just to complete/ survive the day, you will go home with a massive grin on your face, because guess what? You’ve caught the eventing bug!