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New to eventing...what do I need to know before my first event?

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  • New to eventing...what do I need to know before my first event?

    I am 25 years old and had not ridden since I was 18 until I started lessons again last summer. Over the last year, I have gone from one lesson a week to finally leasing an amazing horse and now riding four days a week. In the last six months, Mac and I have been showing at the local level mostly in the 2'6" jumpers and dabbling in the hunters, which are what I grew up doing. Mac loves doing the jumpers and does really well on my barn's "cross country course" (no fancy obstacles...mainly just jumps and logs in a field)

    I don't know the first thing about eventing, but my trainer suggested I go to a mini-trial with Mac this upcoming October. I have always thought that eventing looked like a blast, so I'm really excited about it! That being said...

    -What would you suggest I focus on in my rides for the next two months in preparation?
    -Mac is already really awesome in our jumper classes, but what makes the jumping portion of an event different than your typical jumper classes?
    -I know nothing about dressage...I will be doing the beginner novice test B. Any advice?
    -What do I need to know about how the actual event will run?
    -Any other advice that you have for me?

    Thank you in advance for any help! I absolutely cannot wait to try all this out and just get to explore something new with Mac!

  • #2
    1) Know your limits.
    A) Can you have a cocktail before 8am?
    a) Hold it, it's always after noon somewhere
    B) How much beer does your cooler currently hold?
    2) That's all I got.


    • #3
      The sticky at the top of the Eventing Forum list of topics page - it is banded in pale yellow - it is the place where people have collected the links to commonly asked questions. You will find a lot of material about beginning eventing that you can reference. Enjoy the new fun!
      The cue card kid just held up an empty cue card. For a minute there I thought I had lost my sense of humor. --- Red Skelton


      • Original Poster

        pony grandma Wow, thanks for pointing that out! There is definitely some great info there to get me started!


        • #5
          Originally posted by KK73 View Post

          -What would you suggest I focus on in my rides for the next two months in preparation?
          -Mac is already really awesome in our jumper classes, but what makes the jumping portion of an event different than your typical jumper classes?
          -I know nothing about dressage...I will be doing the beginner novice test B. Any advice?
          -What do I need to know about how the actual event will run?
          -Any other advice that you have for me?
          Focus on your dressage for the next two months! You should be working towards free forward movement, rhythm and relaxation at that level, and accuracy of the geometry of your figures. You should also practice riding in the open more. Is there anywhere you can go XC schooling besides at your own farm?

          The stadium jumping phase is pretty much the same as a jumper round.

          You will get ride times for each of the three phases. You are expected to ride at that time (and you need to calculate how much warmup time you'll need before that time). Sometimes they'll take the jumping phases out of order, but there is no holding things up waiting for your trainer like you might see in H/J. Also, no one but you can warm up the horse. You'll want to allow time to walk the XC and SJ courses, either the day before, that morning, or in between phases. You'll need a medical armband, and may or may not need a number holder, depending on if the event supplies pinneys.


          • #6
            get a rule book. there are so many ways to get eliminated in eventing, so you need to know! other than that, don't worry too much about the dressage. it's a good thing to not be too concerned about where you are placing the first time out...produce a killer dressage test, and be sitting on the top of the leader board, and then be so concerned about keeping your spot that you blow it somehow out on the jump courses....haha, most of us have done that a time or two. 1st time out focus on riding safely and well, walking and knowing your courses. I like to be able to see every bit of my cc course in my mind's eye before I leave the startbox. I would also highly recommend just going to an event first without entering and watching everything


            • Original Poster

              Originally posted by sunhawk View Post
              it's a good thing to not be too concerned about where you are placing the first time out
              sunhawk I totally agree! I'm just looking to try everything out and will be happy if we have fun and make it through each phase


              • #8
                If you can I would try to fit an XC schooling in somewhere. It will give you more experience with different jumps and different terrain. I would definitely practice dressage if you haven't done it before. I don't think you'll see anything drastically different with jumping - there are no jump offs, just go in and do your round within the time limit. You won't need to go rip roaring about on XC and at the lower levels many riders will trot because you can get penalties for going too fast. I'm not sure if there are any events near you before the event, but if so definitely go volunteer so you can see how things run. You can learn quite a bit through volunteering at the shows. Check out for more info -- geared towards USEA recognized events, but still a wealth of information available. Another link is

                Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the experience!


                • #9
                  1.) Go school xc
                  2) Read the rule book
                  3) Borrow a vest, etc. until you know you want to commit.
                  4) Find an event to go watch first and see how it works.
                  5) Have your trainer connect you with a local eventing trainer who can coach you at the show (and maybe give you a dressage lesson or two to get the general idea)
                  6) Your jump course will be a little less complicated than jumper courses, generally speaking.
                  7) Always wait for your whistle in dressage and stadium before beginning.
                  8) Agree with RAyers... have a drink and have fun
                  Blog chronicling our new eventing adventures: Riding With Scissors


                  • #10
                    PS- at Beginner Novice, accuracy of your circles, where you do your transitions, etc. goes a LONG WAY. Focus on that (like I should have done in my last test, LOL).
                    Blog chronicling our new eventing adventures: Riding With Scissors


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by KK73 View Post

                      sunhawk I totally agree! I'm just looking to try everything out and will be happy if we have fun and make it through each phase
                      That is the best way to attack the whole thing. Try not to get eliminated early, some competitions won't let you continue, and finish. So study up on the rules surrounding dressage-many picky little ones, and those about CC. Of course if they do dressage and stadium before CC, just remember to salute the judge and not miss going thru the flags at the end of stadium.
                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                      • #12
                        Definitely get a rule book and read it --secondly, have someone knowledgeable on the ground --even if you have to pay someone --when DD started eventing 15 years ago, I paid her trainer to come with us --just us --no other students and not with his horse --so that he could be THERE every step of the way for the first horse trail. I have seen people try to do it themselves --but it sure seems a lot easier if you have someone on the ground dedicated to helping you (who can help you) --the other "mistake" I've seen are people who take friends along who are not horse people --the event rider spends more time entertaining and taking care of the friend than she does concentrating on riding (same can be said of some husbands and boyfriends). This first horse trial should be literally all about you and Mac.


                        • #13
                          Volunteer at an event.

                          chief feeder and mucker for Music, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now). Spy is gone. April 15, 1982 to Jan 10, 2017.


                          • #14
                            Seconding what Janet said, volunteer at an event - either Schooling or Recognized - it will give you a much better idea of what goes on. Most Areas have several One Day Schooling HTs, some with associated XC Schooling days and you should attend a couple of those next, preferably at the same venue as you decide will be your first Recognized show.
                            Brock n. (Anglo-Saxon) badger as in Brockenhurst, Brocklebank etc


                            • #15
                              And don't forget to have fun!!!!


                              • #16
                                start practicing your dressage test as soon as you can. not just on your horse, but even on a peice of paper! it is so helpful to know your test backwards and forwards, so you dont have a freak out moment on where your canter transition is or what not. also, our barn rule is that on the morning of the day you do xc, you need to walk your course 3 + times. that gets it stuck in your head well! id startout at a schooling show, especially if you can xc school there the day before
                                area v eventing


                                • #17
                                  Feel free to ask others at the show for help. Everything from "where is the start box/show office" to "how would you ride this" to " oh my God, my ground person disappeared with my coat. Can I borrow yours? I'm next." and "would you mind holding my horse while I walk SJ? I'm here alone " are questions I have asked. Not everyone knows or can help, but we're a friendly bunch.

                                  . Read the rulebook and try to get off your farm to hop over some cc jumps your horse hasn't seen before are my two biggest other tips, and then yes, if not before this show, as soon as possible volunteer at an event. Educational and generally fun., and necessary for the sport.



                                  • #18
                                    Agree with others on volunteering (or grooming) at an event before you go, and asking for help from anyone and everyone on the day of.
                                    In dressage, they take ride times seriously, so be ready. When the person before you leaves the arena, you can (and should) ride around the arena to get your horse used to it. The judge will have a bell or whistle to signal she is ready for you to enter. You can ask as you ride by what the signal is. Once you hear it, you have enough time to ride back down to the entrance.
                                    NO BOOTS of any kind on your horse for dressage.

                                    For jumping, all your warmup fences will be flagged red on right, and you MUST jump them in that direction only.

                                    otherwise, have fun!!!
                                    The big man -- my lost prince

                                    The little brother, now my main man


                                    • #19
                                      Before my first event, I practiced the dressage test over and over as written. Big mistake. By the time we were in the actual ring, my horse decided she knew what was coming next and when to start, which resulted in a LOT of anticipation.

                                      Practice your test as is, but be sure to work on the individual movements out of order, too.

                                      And good luck!
                                      "Oh, sure, you may be able to take down one smurf, but mark my words: You bonk one smurf, you better be ready for a blue wave."---Bucky Katt


                                      • #20
                                        YOU can practice your dressage test over and over, but not the horse . Do it on foot. Draw the figures over and over on an erase board.

                                        You're doing starter? (or Beginner Novice?)N a Walk/trot test? Google search some videos to get some visuals of the test being ridden


                                        British, not same test but shows good examples

                                        Not addressing your immediate concerns about your first entry experience but for continuing education:

                                        Pick and choose info here

                                        FYI if you don't know about EN
                                        The cue card kid just held up an empty cue card. For a minute there I thought I had lost my sense of humor. --- Red Skelton