View Full Version : Eventing in Extreme Conditions (for major publication!)

Jan. 10, 2011, 12:01 PM
A friend of mine is a writer for a large horse publication (not sure if I should post which one, but I guess I'll err on the side of caution...) and sent me this last night.

I asked if I should post it here and she sad, yes, please! She needs all the info she can get!

Please feel free to share anything you'd like about the following!

I have been asked to write a feature on ‘Competing in Extreme conditions’ (brief below) and need lots of advice, tips and case studies so I am hoping some of you may be able to help me! If you have competed in snow, heat, hard ground, cold weather, very wet weather etc and feel like you have any info that may be useful or are willing to be a case study please let me know. Please also feel free to pass it on to any friends or colleagues you think may be able to help. It is for the eventing special but I am sure that if you have competed in different disciplines in extreme weathers there are plenty of tips/advice that cross over. I need the info by the end of January at the latest. If you can think of any events that have run in extreme weather please also let me know and I will try and track someone down from the event to speak to (anything from international events to unaffiliated ones).

This feature will hopefully be useful to everyone competing in eventing from unaffiliated level up to novice and perhaps even higher. The idea is to get lots of tips and advice on how to cope when the conditions aren’t ideal: wet ground, hard ground, hot weather, cold weather and anything else you can think of! So for example, advice for wet weather such as not jumping in the middle of wider fences to give your horse the best ground, are there places in a dressage test you can “cheat” shapes slightly to give your horse better ground, making sure as a rider you stay warm enough so you don’t freeze up etc.

As well as tips for actually dealing with the conditions on the day, this should include how you can prepare for this in advance - don’t always ride on a perfect prepared surface, don’t cancel your cross-country schooling session just because it’s raining (you need to practise!), useful equipment such as taking several old towels for drying reins and bottoms of rider boots etc and the like.

Some real life case studies would be great if people can remember a particular event where the conditions were not ideal and how they adjusted to cope with this."

In short:

-Tips for riding in extreme conditions

-If you've shown in extreme conditions and want to be a case study, I will pass your info along to her.

-Specific events that have run in extreme conditions she can speak to someone about?

Jan. 10, 2011, 12:42 PM
Define extreme? I have competed in snow/blizzard conditions when there was ice in the water fence (Colorado Horse Park but back then it was High Prairie) to days when the high was 103 (Rebecca Farms). All of the preparation is LONG before the competition and the only decision you have to make once you get there is "Are me and my horse up to the task and will I be willing to make the right choices."


Jan. 10, 2011, 12:48 PM
The most compelling personal example I can think of was getting Gwen fit for a CCI* (aged 18) during a summer where it was much hotter than normal with much less rainfall than normal. Not "extreme" by the standards of hot-weather states, but it made an impact on my ability to do gallop/fast work. We had to be creative, but we did get the work done. LOTS of trot sets in the outdoor arena! Lots of galloping up one short, steep hill! :lol:

The "yang" to that part's "yin" was the fact that on endurance day at the CCI* for which we'd prepped all summer in the hot/hard conditions it was 45 degrees, raining, and muddy. :sigh: I had fully clipped the horse during late September in anticipation of continued higher-than-normal temps leading up to the event.

Well, the game old mare went out in those cold, wet conditions and did her level best, but she tied up in the 10-minute box and could not continue. :( Her temperature coming off phase C was 101, barely above her normal. She was NOT a warm horse. In hindsight, I would have left her with a trace clip and possibly even used a quarter sheet on phase A, but you live and you learn. :sigh: She was also in heat, which I'm told makes mares more vulnerable to tying up, but I do believe that the weather did play a role.

Again, neither weather conditions we faced were "extreme" by anyone's standards in isolation, but it was something that played a large role in the outcome of the competition.

Jan. 10, 2011, 12:59 PM
I probably think of it as not quite expected weather. The two that come to mind were both at the KHP.

1) Spring Bay in 2000 warm weather forecast, but actually sleeting on dressage and xc day

2) KHP forecast in 80s, actual temps over 100 (I have a great pic of my trainer braiding with a beer stuck in her braiding belt pouch)

Jan. 10, 2011, 08:14 PM
Rebecca Farms one summer the radio reporteed Kallispell temp to be 112 degrees at it's warmest point, don't recall any scratches in significant numbers. As usual the organizer had everything avail to properly cool the horses at the finish line...best event in America!!
2009 Fairhill, very cold and wet weather many people scratched, but those who ran learned alot about how their horse could perform in less than stellar conditions.
As for preparing ahead of time, not sure you could actually do that, the question on the day is "do I as a rider feel prepared" is my horse fit and do I have the sense to pull up if my horse feels less than eager about the conditions"

Jan. 10, 2011, 09:59 PM
Agree with everyone else on preparing ahead of time and then just "sticking with it" on the day of if you decide to do it...

The Waredaca T3d is always, always, always cold and rainy. The year I did it my coach had just run Burghley and come off in part because she was so wet...
so I was completely wigged out about the steady rain that had been present all day. When I got to the 10 minute box before D, I slathered on that great german sticky stuff (not saddle tite....orange can...someone will know what it is)....I was terrified that I'd slip and slide right out of the tack...

about 3 fences into D I decided that my foot was a little bit too far "home" in the stirrup, and went to move my lower leg and foot.
Nothing doing.
I was completely glued to the saddle in the position I had when I had gotten a leg up. That was it. No movement ANYWHERE below my thigh.
I had to laugh, it was so ridiculous.

The next day, the footing in SJ warmup was truly atrocious. I was worried about loosening up my horse after endurance day, but since I board at Waredaca, he had been out in his field all night instead of in a stall...so...I jumped an X and a vertical and called it a day. No way it was worth a bowed tendon.

Just as everyone had predicted, the effects of the day before on him (mentally) were very evident; he came into SJ thinking he was king of the world, and put in a terrific round despite lack of warmup.

On other years we have had conditions so extreme that we've had to deploy humans to hold up ALL the standards in the SJ ring during the T3d stadium....

Jan. 11, 2011, 09:37 AM
Probably not publication worthy, but the penultimate Ledyard was interesting. I was volunteer dressage ring steward on a day that saw more than 9 inches of rain fall. The footing got deeper and deeper until there was a large rut/ small ditch around the inside of the dressage ring. Our dear event horses were jumping it as they entered center line, and splashing everywhere.

I remember Mike Plumb riding over to the ring telling someone to buck up: it was just like England.

Amazingly, the footing was so good at Ledyard that Neil Ayer's course rode beautifully the next day.

Divine Comedy
Jan. 11, 2011, 11:04 AM
Agree with what everyone has said about doing most of the preparation beforehand, particularly with the fitness level of the horse.

That said, there are small things that you can do depending on conditions.

Of course, studding depends on conditions. For hard ground, road studs can help give a horse traction on the slick surface. For muddy conditions, bullets help. An experienced trainer can help you with your stud decisions based on conditions.

If it's hot, I sometimes will give my horse half of an electrolyte tube the day before XC, and the other half after XC. It helps ensure that he's drinking water and becoming properly hydrated. Some people will put electrolytes or even Gatorade in the horse's water to entice them to drink more.

Also when it's hot, you can add a small amount of rubbing alcohol to the water that is used to cool the horse at the end of XC. The alcohol increases the speed of evaporation, which results in a greater cooling effect.

If it's hard, soaking their hooves (particularly the front hooves) in ice water a couple of times after XC can help take away the sting in their feet.

Finally, when I did a CCI* in high altitude at CO, I put a Flair nasal strip on his nose. He was very fit, so I'm not sure how much it helped, but I figured it wouldn't hurt at the very least. He was still moving like a freight train at the end and cam out of his stall the next morning squealing and bucking while I was gasping for air and basically steering because I couldn't get enough air.

So there are a few things you can do, but by and large most of the preparation is done beforehand.

Jan. 11, 2011, 11:54 AM
Divine Comedy reminded me of something.

Speaking of extreme conditions, what about altitude? Sure Colorado Horse Park is at 6,000 feet but Coconino in Flagstaff is at 7,000 feet and the old competition at Fox Ranch in Walden CO (had up to Advanced) was at over 8,000 feet.


Jan. 11, 2011, 12:07 PM
I don't have a lot to add right now, but the one thing that really struck me in the original message was this
don’t cancel your cross-country schooling session just because it’s raining (you need to practise!)
While the logic is sound, it is in EXTREMELY poor form to school xc when the footing is wet/muddy and can get torn up! Most places won't even allow you to school if the footing is in danger of being torn up, and I know those of us with an ounce of manners in our heads around here always get VERY frustrated when we show up at Frying Pan Park (a public park with a free for all schooling policy) and find the footing, landings, and take offs torn to shreds because some pack of bozos showed up and schooled in the mud. This is Manners 101 for trail riding and Manners 101 for mountain biking- don't ride when you can screw up the ground!

On top of that, at least my philosophy is to never willing put your horse in a position that he can be scared. That's why we school only occasionally and why we never school when it's slick (and the one time it was borderline, one of our horses slipped and sat out the rest of the season with a stifle injury) and seriously weigh the pros and cons when we have less than great footing at events.

All of that is probably good info for an article of this nature.

Jan. 11, 2011, 12:42 PM
Torrential rain in August at an event. It was not predicted so no one was really prepared. The heavy rain started during my warm up for dressage. Everytime I changed gaits, a gush of cold water would end up in my lap:eek:
Kept raining hard throughout the day and x-c was about 4-5 hours after my dressage test. Biggest advise it NEVER take off rain soaked tall boots if you ever want to get them back on again. It took forever and I didn't have any spare boots and I really thought I was going to have to scratch.

I was in 2nd place going into show jumping on Sunday, but had quietly told myself that it didn't matter, if it was raining I was going to scratch. Sunday was cloudy but at least no rain:)

Jan. 11, 2011, 12:59 PM
This may not be as extreme as others' examples but this one came to mind when I read your original post.

In September 2009, I was competing Prelim at GMHA in Vermont, a lovely venue that have competed at many times in their June, August and September. I was lucky number 1 (first competitor on course) and drew the 7:30 am ride time for both Saturday dressage (SJ was later on Saturday) and XC on Sunday.

Dressage day dawned in the mountains of Vermont at a chilly 27 degrees, but I was prepared. I made sure my tight chestnut mare was blanketed well and gave her back extra time to warm up for my test, and threw a layer of long underwear on under my breeches.

The real fun came XC morning. It was about as cold as the previous day, with a thick layer of frost covering the grass. I warmed up for my start time, only to be informed by the steward that the GJ was holding the start to check the footing - they were worried about slipping on the frost. I camped my mare out in one square of sun to keep her warm. Finally, they gave me the go ahead to start, and asked me to report back to the TD about any particularly bad areas of frost.

When I actually got out on course, the real problem the frost caused was not the actual footing, but the glare from the sun off the frosty grass. The sun was also significantly lower in the sky than it is in the summer, and as I came to the coffin up on the hill that I am sure many are familiar with, I prayed that I was on my line, because I couldn't see a single element looking straight into the sun. Luckily my mare and I had jumped through it many times before, and we came through unscathed, but I know the glare caused problems for others during the day.

I have competed in hot and humid temps, and in downpours, but very rarely do we eventers need to worry about frost and sun glare! I had to pay extra attention to my horse to make sure she was warmed up properly for all three phases, but the bonus was that she cooled down pretty quickly after the course!

Jan. 11, 2011, 01:11 PM
1993 Greater Dayton Horse Trials at Twin Towers Park when it was held at the end of October. 8" of heavy, wet, gloppy snow overnight Friday night into Saturday morning. Stabling was at the fairgrounds, so there was no place to get out of it on the grounds. I remember horses slippin' and sliding in dressage warm up because the snow was just absolutely perfect for snow balls....

They ran dressage at Twin Towers & everyone pitched in and loaded up the show jumps and took them to the county fairgrounds where they could be set up on a (harrowed) sand arena so the competition could at least be run as a combined test.

It was nuts.

Jan. 11, 2011, 02:14 PM
I have competed in hot and humid temps, and in downpours, but very rarely do we eventers need to worry about frost and sun glare! I had to pay extra attention to my horse to make sure she was warmed up properly for all three phases, but the bonus was that she cooled down pretty quickly after the course!

As TD for an unrecognized event running in Michigan in November, I had them delay the start an hour because of sun glare caused by frost

Jan. 11, 2011, 04:09 PM
Probably not publication worthy, but the penultimate Ledyard was interesting. I was volunteer dressage ring steward on a day that saw more than 9 inches of rain fall. The footing got deeper and deeper until there was a large rut/ small ditch around the inside of the dressage ring. Our dear event horses were jumping it as they entered center line, and splashing everywhere.

I remember Mike Plumb riding over to the ring telling someone to buck up: it was just like England.

Amazingly, the footing was so good at Ledyard that Neil Ayer's course rode beautifully the next day.

I rode there-Prelim championships. As I approached my dressage ring, Heather St. Clair Davis, my divine judge that day, popped her head out and said, "It's a bit deep in there-just make a few circles where you can and we'll call it good!" Easier said than done! When we 'finished' our test and had walked out onto solid ground, I realized my horse pulled a front shoe 1/2 way off and stepped on the clip. I stood bent over, in my breeches and boots and lovely wool coat, in the DUMPING rain, holding that foot up off the ground for over an hour, waiting for the farrier. A friend came along with an umbrella which truly wasn't very helpful. Naturally, horse came up lame by the time all was said and done that afternoon. I packed him up and took him home and never got to run a last trip around Ledyard.

Another extreme was Radnor CCI* 1995. Our first real 3-day. (all 3-days were real then) It poured like I haven't seen rain before or since. I have a picture of my horse landing off a huge table, his front leg has sunken into the mud so his galloping boot is not visible. I slithered off at the second to last fence just because I had gotten so slimey after A, B and C! 1/2 of our trip around the course I had my eyes shut. I remember marveling at the fact that Char could keep his eyes open! Yummy omelets made up for it all. Most of the (**) horses scratched, I think. They were scheduled to run after the (*)'s.

Another extremely wet one was Groton House...2005 I trotted the Prelim course. Went around clean, got 33 time penalties!

Such is the stuff of which dreams are made.....right?!

Jan. 11, 2011, 07:12 PM
If you plan on competing, you should train in all weather.
The posts are all about a competitors nightmare. I have done dressage in the rain and jumped in driving snow. Neither are fun. At all. You look back and laugh but while you are doing it, you are more worried about your horse than yourself and are saying" Is this worth it?"
Having said that, once you are there and the entry fees are paid, competitors are usually determined to give it a go. The deciding factor is usually if your horse is coping well. He will usually do his best if it is familiar.
Have you trained in mud? Hard ground? Grass? Rain? Wind? Snow?
You can do it if you are careful. I would never say to put the horse at risk but you can get stuff done at low speeds/heights to at least get the horse used to the idea on rain in his face, wind up his tail and grass being slippery.
I only scratched once. at a H/J show, jumping in the rain in the summer, after a long, dry spell. The rain wasn't heavy but the grass had been hard and dry, like iron, and I did not have studs. My horse did not like the sliding on ice sensation at all and was losing his confidence, so I scratched before my first class.

Jan. 11, 2011, 07:24 PM
My parents love to tell the story of running the Pacific Northwest Championships at "the 108" in the early 80s. One year it was so baking hot that nobody could even believe it. They were having water shortages due to the huge demand on the water spigots.

The following year, it rained so hard that the dressage was full of puddles, and the morning of XC they got to the grounds and found the competitors and their horses huddling in the indoor - they had all moved their horses from the open pole-paddocks because they were soaked and shivering.

Jan. 11, 2011, 08:32 PM
Reed might remeber the date, it was the first time we had CIC in the US.
It snowed Blizzard style in Parker, Colorado Horse Park, temp at the midteens at night and mid 30 for day high.
During my CIC Dressage it snowed so hard that I had 1 inch of snow baked to the front of my coat and Sally remarked about my woolen ski gloves.
X-C was quiet interesting the next day. Even after a 2 hour delay to allow the ground to unfreeze, it was still frozen in the shadow and slick like a scating ring were had thawed out, that black clay.
I took over an hour to warm up, very slow and careful and than never allowed any cool down. It was my biggest worry that Jester would not be warmed up enough, or would not stay warmed up, Gallop after the 2 minutes call around the start box.
First jump was still snow covered. After X-C we just loaded Jester with blankets.
That was my biggest worry, keeping him warmed up and keeping him warm.
I was never realy worried about the conditions of the footing, I grew up with conditions like that and Jester had spent many winters on my place, ice, mud he knew it.
Stud selection was very tricky. I choose roadstuds on the toe, all around, medium mud bullets on the heels for the front, a medium mudstud inside heel rear and a large grasstud for the heels outside. Turned out to be a perfect choise, never sliped or slid and Jester was after 3 fence very confident and it did not stress his legs.
The other extrem, but very normal for the Southwest, 100 plus temps. The best prep, ride when it is hot not when it cools down, ride with you vest at 100 every day, horse and rider will learn to adjust, find out if your will be able to transfer heat after beeing stressed
Driving rain, jokey gogles, rain x, proper gloves and reins to avoid slipping, how to treat leather rains so they do not become slippery in rain, lost art.

Jan. 11, 2011, 08:39 PM
To the OP: You should also post this question on the Endurance Forum. Riding in all kinds of weather is what it's all about... And we're talking many many hours here, so the right clothing, tack and preparation are essential to complete.

Jan. 11, 2011, 08:43 PM
Thank you all for your stories so far! I'm going to link my friend to this thread and let her follow up on anything she wants to!

To the OP: You should also post this question on the Endurance Forum. Riding in all kinds of weather is what it's all about... And we're talking many many hours here, so the right clothing, tack and preparation are essential to complete.


Jan. 11, 2011, 08:51 PM
Gnep,that was the one I was thinking about although I can't remember the year (late 90s, early 00s). You could hear the ice break as you landed in the water. (Very strange to jump into a "solid." We did the same schooling thing a month ago though!) The dressage judges were all in trucks, engines running and windshield wipers slapping away. Our ring used the Dodge horn for the "whistle." There were no pictures from dressage as the photographer gave up when she realized all she was getting was a white blur.

The weather at a competition really has no bearing on preparation. When I was working for NASA we did our training with the Air Force. The one thing that was constantly drilled into us was ACCLIMATION. Like Gnep said, you spend your training wearing your vest when it is 100 degrees out. You ride in the cold. You make sure you have the right equipment. Then be willing to be your horse's advocate.

I agree that you do not take unnecessary risks during training (e.g. school XC in heavy mud) but you take you horse out for an easy hack maybe to get a feel for the type of footing and how your horse responds.

Once we schooled in such a bad blizzard (the footing was AWESOME!!) that as I came to the first fence all I could think was, "If my horse sees as well as I do at the moment, we are screwed." There was 3" of snow on the ground by the time we finished (because the bases of the fences were finally obscured not because we were done).

By the way, galloping in the snow is the absolute best!

Jan. 11, 2011, 09:29 PM
reading these bring back lots of memories of eventing adventures. I remember at Event at the Downs in Santa Fe, NM, I rode at 730 in the morning with snow falling pretty hard. My horse was not happy about that. I also remember the High prarie adventure in the snow.
One year at Mountain Meadows in Washington it poured down rain, what a miserable experence. They canceled x-c because it was so bad, Show jumping was interesting, standing water on grass, exciting days.
Jackson Hole, Wy. in August it was 13 degrees on the morning of x-c, water pipes in my trailer were frozen solid. There was layer of frost on the ground, the water jump was frozen, and that wasn't very fun. I ended up falling off around a corner cause i pulled on the inside rein(on frosty grass, not a good idea).
There are a lot of other events that I have been to that have been extreme adventures, either so hot or so cold it is miserable, gotta love eventing!

Jan. 11, 2011, 10:30 PM
What about Pine Top II last year - where it snowed in North Georgia/South Carolina the day before and they still managed to run the event - somehow they managed to clear the dressage rings, delay the start (and have people come and sign up for dressage times first-come-first-served), and clear a path on xc!

Heart's Journey
Jan. 12, 2011, 07:47 AM
Living in South Fla, we experience extreme heat and humidty for several months of each year, but still are able to ride. One thing that really helps keep the horse cooler is wet their neck, chest, and legs just before riding. It helps the sweat glands not have to work as hard and the horse will dry off and then start sweating once they need to.