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Hi There! Planning My First Event! Have Questions!

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  • Hi There! Planning My First Event! Have Questions!

    Hey everyone! Long time lurker on the eventer forums. I am planning on venturing away from the hunterland into eventing. I am a bit (okay a lot) nervous...but want to try something new and different. I am planning on a Starter Level horse trial in May and would LOVE any and all advice.

    I have shown hunters for the last 2 years...mostly over crossrails and schooled up to about 2'6". My mare is 25 and I am not comfortable pushing her any higher than that. I am getting a new horse this week...a 7 year old OTTB who is calm, quiet, and sweet. She is coursing 2'3"-2'6" and has been on a trail riding lease for the last year.

    So, new to eventing horse and rider! I have groomed for a good friend at a training 3 day and loved the eventing atmosphere. Everyone seemed to be friendly, helpful, and very into good horsmanship.

    My questions are:

    What should I be doing to get ready for a starter trial? Conditioning, ect?

    Does anyone know what to expect from the course? Will it be fairly easy in regards to terrain, ect? Is there a water jump? Does anyone have pictures or links to starter courses?

    What would the jumping phase look like? Any combinations? Sharp turns?

    Dressage phase: I have never done any sort of dressage. I am on the lookout for a decent starter dressage saddle. Does anyone have opinions on the Wintec? I don't want to invest a lot in a saddle, but don't want something that I will have to fight to keep a good position.

    Thanks in advance for any tips and suggestions!
    "I'm an idealist. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way."

  • #2
    Welcome to the dark side!

    Lots of good questions and I'm sure you will get lots of good responses. To start off here is a link to a great little guide:


    Sounds like you've already had some great exposure to eventing! So here is one person's answer to your questions.

    1. For a starter level trial you shouldn't need any special conditioning. If your horse has been jumping 2'3" courses and trail riding for a year you will be fine. Really, if you add up total time of work it comes out to less than a usual day's ride.

    2. Never been there so I don't have any idea about the obstacles, but typically a starter trial is very inviting with mostly level terrain and possibly a water pass through (meaning you can walk, trot, or canter through it without a jump associated).

    3. The jumping phase will also be very straightforward and if you've been showing hunters ought to be just fine for you. Should not be any combinations at that level.

    4. Dressage will most likely be a simple W-T or W-T-C test. You can ride it in your jumping saddle, no one will care (I promise). Just learn the test and ride the pattern. At that level the most important thing is to maintain a nice steady forward rhythm.

    Be sure you have the necessary safety equipment (approved helmet, vest, and medical armband). Do you have a trainer or seasoned friend to help?

    Have fun!!! And come back with ANY more questions.
    Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.

    The Grove at Five Points


    • #3

      Your horse is fit enough for starter right now. No worries. Just normal work for a sound, healthy animal is plenty for up to probably BN.

      From what you've said about your own experience, I'd say the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing you need to do to prep for your starter HT is to get out and school cross country, as often as you can. Yup, I know it's January and that's difficult, but whatever you're going to see in SJ is going to be well within your capabilities if you've done the low hunter stuff. And starter HT dressage is going to have nothing more complicated than a 20 meter circle.

      It's not like you have to wonder about which types of obstacles you'll see on a starter XC course--there will be nothing complicated, no combinations, no tricky jumps, etc. But you and your horse need to be comfortable heading out alone into the open fields and jumping safely the things that are on your course. Sounds simple, but if neither of you have done it, then PREPARE. It's not the fences themselves, it's the whole package.

      I can always tell who is unprepared for their first XC when they are freaking out about a log that has a couple of flowers underneath it or a mini table. Those jumps are ITTY BITTY and the horse is just going to canter over them, but the riders are making mountains out of them because they just haven't seen it before. Unprepared = expect to be unprepared.

      You don't need a dressage saddle at this point. For sure look around for a nice one that suits you and your horse if you're committed to eventing, but do NOT put any pressure on yourself to find one before your HT. Not necessary.
      Click here before you buy.


      • #4
        I second the welcome to the dark side

        Starter horse trials are meant to be a perfect introduction to the sport. Most starter events I've seen are mostly logs, with a few other small jumps thrown in to keep it interesting. All are going to be inviting. Its also always nice to hear that 99.9% of the fences can be jumped at the walk. Hearing that often makes people feel a little better!

        Stadium will be simple and very straightforward. No combinations, very few related distances, and don't be surprised if the stadium is actually crossrails. Dressage, again, will also be very simple. Most starter trials will have a walk-trot-canter test (usually Beginner Novice A) but some may even have just a walk-trot test for the dressage.

        You do not need a dressage saddle, nor do you really have to do more than just go forward on contact and make accurate figures at this level in dressage. Your horse does not have to be "round" at this level, the judge just wants to see a happy and non-resistant horse and a competent rider (make sure you are on the correct diaganol, not counterbending in your corners, not cutting your turns, etc.). In fact, for people not used to riding dressage, a dressage saddle can actually make things more difficult. If you're comfortable in your jumping saddle and can properly ride your horse in it, go for it. I showed through Novice in my jump saddle. Noone is going to notice, nor is everyone else going to have one.

        That being said, I have the Wintec Isabell dressage saddle which I love. Its not the most recent version but I have heard good things about the new one as well.

        Good luck, have fun, and feel free to return with more questions!


        • #5
          Hi, I just did a few starter trials with my horse last year. We entered the Elementary division. It was our first experience eventing. The stadium courses were super easy and simple. This is one:


          And here is the start of one of the XC courses:


          The jumps on the XC courses that we've encountered have been teenie tiny. Coops, logs, the smallest ditch in the history of ditches, little rock walls, a tiny table here and there, no water or banks.

          Custom Painted Saddle Pads and Ornaments


          • #6
            One of the most helpful suggestions for my first event was a time board. Kept it right out side the stall. I used a dry erase board. Name of Horse goes on the top, your phone number and where you are staying goes on the bottom for emergencies. The middle part is like a spreadsheet. On the left side you make a line for: Ride time, Warm Up, Groom, Dress, Feed, and Wake Up. Across the top is Dressage, XC and Stadium. Enter your ride times first then back up the time for each of the other activites. You will never be late and you don't have to stress.

            I have the Wintec Isabell dressage saddle which I love as well. It is the old version but as others have said you don't need a dressage staddle for starter. Just practice you test and don't get nervous. If they allow have someone read your test for you. I got so nervous on my first test I went off course twice! If I hadn't I would have actually placed 1st instead of 5th since my horse is so good. Most of all have fun. Eventers are the best!
            Grief is the price we pay for love- Gretchen Jackson


            • Original Poster

              Thank you all so much for the encouragement. The videos were great. Very helpful, as well as the PDF. We have until May, but I want to be well prepared!
              "I'm an idealist. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way."


              • Original Poster

                Oh, and I have a vest and helmet. Need to get an armband.
                "I'm an idealist. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way."


                • #9
                  Welcome to eventing!

                  You will have fun. Do spend some time reading the rule book. They are a bit different for eventing than the h/j world. Also, you will be given times...every event is a bit different with jump times but dressage times are fairly set in stone. That said...things happen and rings can be behind or ahead of time so you should keep an eye on your ring to plan your warm up. They can not make you go earlier than your published time....but for a lot of people, if given the opportunity, we go early.

                  I showed for several years up until Prelim in my jump saddle for all phases before I finally got my first dressage saddle. A dressage saddle does make holding your position easier but do not stress on getting one right away. As for Wintec--there are a lot of people who like them. There are also a lot of nice used saddles out there. You need to sit in a bunch and find out what fits you and fits your horse the best.

                  Remember to have FUN. It is all a learning experience and we have all been where you are at one point
                  ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                  • #10
                    As you're in Area IV, there are several resources you can use. MACTA (www.macta.info) is your nearest USEA Associate. You'll see that nominally their base is up at Olathe (near Kansas City) but in reality they cover most of eastern Kansas/Western Missouri and even have members in your neck of the woods in Springfield & Joplin including an ICP instructor, brownhorse on this forum. If you're over 21, the Area has a large & helpful Adult Riders group and an active Young Riders as well if you're not.
                    You may not be aware of it but, like me, you live on the border between two USEA Areas so sometimes the closest clinic or training opportunity is just over the line. Check out the link in my signature & it will take you to a calendar covering both.
                    Brock n. (Anglo-Saxon) badger as in Brockenhurst, Brocklebank etc www.area35.us


                    • #11
                      One more thing, leave the hunter fashion worries behind. So long as your clothing looks like what the rulebook says it should, no one cares what brand or color it is.


                      • #12
                        HI and welcome:

                        First, I would talk to some other people who have ridden the course. My first starter had water, a ditch, and a bank, and all the C/x fences were 2'4". You don't want any surprises out there.

                        Second, I also recommend the rule book. There are lots of ways to get eliminated. Too much time before entering for dressage, not getting bit checked, etc, not wearing your armband, not wearing bridle number, etc.

                        Third, if possible buddy up. Is there someone at your barn or someone you know who is also going or will go with you to help? It's easier to have help at your first event, someone looking out after you.

                        Good luck!


                        • #13
                          If you're aiming at the MCPC HT at Longview in May, I would highly recommend the XC weekends they have - there's permanent stabling onsite so you can ride both days. First weekend is March 23/24 and then April 6/7 and 20/21.
                          Brock n. (Anglo-Saxon) badger as in Brockenhurst, Brocklebank etc www.area35.us


                          • #14
                            The thing about a starter trial is that it is not a regulated division. There can be huge variance in terms of what you'll see on course and size of the jumps. I would recommend checking with the organizer to find out what might be on their course.

                            Around here, jumps typically run up to 2'3 (although they usually list heights, and the next one is only 2') and might include an optional water crossing and/or an optional ditch. One of the local venues has a VERY tiny bank. That shows up on courses from time to time. Typically I've just seen them drop the BN course even lower for SJ. The courses might be twisty and have related distances, or combinations because there are no uniform rules for starter level.

                            Rules typically are the same you'd see at a recognized event, but if they are short staffed, they may forgo things like bit check, measuring dressage whips, etc, and may not enforce the rule about horses having a number on at all times (in the stabling are) BUT they might. Read the rule book and know the rules.

                            If it's a one day show, even at a recognized competition you will only need to wear a conservative colored solid shirt (no neckwear). Around here, polo shirts are perfectly acceptable, but again, check with the organizer if you're unsure.
                            The rebel in the grey shirt


                            • #15
                              A show hunter who's done trail riding for the last year stands an excellent chance of being great on XC and in stadium phases. After completing my daughter's first year of recognized eventing at Beginner Novice last year, I'd just recommend that you pay close attention to your dressage, first and foremost! Although it seems like it might be the "easiest" part of eventing, it is actually the toughest I think. If you get off to a rough or rocky start in the dressage ( or heaven forbid you memorize the wrong test or something ridiculous!) you can kind of ruin the rest of your event. The thing about dressage is that it's SUPPOSED to look easy and fun... all the while - it isn't! haha Know the rules, know your test, warm up properly, get him/her moving forward obediently, quietly. Pay attention to your geometry. Be precise. Don't rush. Thank the judge. Whew, you're done! Now on to the FUN STUFF! Good luck and have fun!


                              • #16
                                This is the Starter xcountry course I did with my guy for his first event last year.
                                R.I.P. Eagles Hill. 4/6/00-12/10/11.