The official rulebook is important, but there are a few aspects of eventing you’ve just got to learn on your own. Here are a few unwritten, unspoken lessons I’ve learned, a few of them the hard way:
• Before you put your horse on the trailer, especially if you’re heading to a faraway event, take a moment to jog him and check his shoes.
• Know how to change a flat.
• Make copies of important paperwork and keep them in a binder in your truck.
• Get to know the people stabled next to you. It’s a great way of making connections and friends.
• Make checklists — ESPECIALLY if you’re not a checklist-type person.
• If you think you need an hour to get ready, give yourself an hour and a half.
• A smile at the judge might not help, but it can’t hurt!
• Be nice to the show secretary and officials. They don’t get paid enough.
• Thank every volunteer you see. Without them, there would be no eventing. If you have a few spare hours between rides, volunteer yourself.
• Expect the best but ALWAYS have a backup plan.
• Try not to get eliminated for something dumb, like forgetting your spurs in the Intermediate test or cruising past a jump.
• Dump your manure at the back of the manure heap. Don’t be “that person.”
• Never use new products or equipment for the first time at an event. It can be tempting, I know. DON’T.
• If the course looks big, walk it again. Defying all laws of physics, jumps grow smaller with each successive course walk.
• If after several course walks the course still looks big, grab a go-cup of wine from the competitor’s party and give it one more try.
• Have a start box ritual, whether it’s visualization, a prayer, a mantra or just a deep breath.
• When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with sitting up and closing your leg.
• Unhook your vest before dismounting!
• Call your mom/significant other/etc. after cross country. They worry.
• When you have a bad day, don’t act like it’s the end of the world. Because it’s not.
• When you have a good day, remember that you didn’t get there alone.
• If you feel like dancing at the competitors’ party, you ought to.
• SERIOUSLY, THANK EVERY VOLUNTEER YOU SEE.
• And whatever you do, never ever look down in the Port-a-Potty!
What would you add to the list? Leave your “rules” in the comments section below.