Sally Cousins is a well known rider and coach here in the US and Sally has been a good friend of Eventing Nation from our early days. To learn more about Sally, check out her website. Sally will be guest writing a series of short posts on various eventing topics for Eventing Nation over the next few weeks. This is the first of her posts and it covers the scheduling challenges of one-day horse trials. Our East coast readers are used to seeing Sally at one-day events with 49 horses and most of them typically finish in the top 2. Sally’s experience provides great advice for planning and preparedness for riders with seven horses or just one. Thanks for writing this Sally and thank you for reading.
Also, the layout of the event is hugely important. At Maryland everything is close together whereas at Fair Hill I have to figure out a way to get the horses quickly out to the cross country field and back once they have finished. I am also careful about what order I ride the horses in and who I have entered.
Joule is not good at the start box so once I am on him I need to stay there or I might not be able to get back on! So, he will not compete often at Fair Hill since I can’t switch his bridle between jumping phases in the middle of the cross country field. I am also very aware of when the divisions change over to the next level so I know when I have to be done. The organizers have been really great about letting me do multiple rides and I want to make sure I don’t keep anyone waiting if I can help it.
In terms of groom support, I plan on having a person a horse and then one extra. The day before I carefully walk both the cross country and show jumping courses. If I have time it is best to walk around each twice. Each time you have to think “where is my next jump” it costs you seconds. On Friday night I write out a schedule of when each horse goes, what tack it wears, what time I need to warm up and who needs to be lead into the box. Before I get on my first horse to do dressage, I go over in my head each of the phases and how I plan to ride them. Before I get on each horse I also think about their strengths and weaknesses, how they need to be ridden differently, or where I need to be more careful.
At most events I have the horses brought to me at the dressage warm up. We need also to be careful that a nervous horse’s “friend” is not led away just before I go into the ring. The studs are changed as soon as the horse is brought back from dressage so that is taken care of. Each horse has a bucket with its own equipment in it. Whenever we have to change a bridle from show jumping to cross country we try to take the horse back to the trailer so we don’t lose it! Personally, I do not wear my vests to show jump. I find them a little bulky and in the summer they are really hot. Usually, I try to show jump two horses then do those two in the cross country while my other rides are getting ready for the jumping phases.
It is really important to work with the ring stewards. Most of them are quite aware of riders with multiple horses and they are great at getting me into the ring. If you wait for three horses for each phase, you have the potential to hold up the event sometimes for up to thirty minutes. Thank you to all the riders out there who so kindly let me go before them. I am aware that my scheduling problem does not have to be yours! I usually have to show jump the last two then do the cross country so I don’t hold up the change over in the show jumping.
I do find it hard to switch back and forth between the cross country and show jumping positions–I have to be aware of each in the warm up. Gatorade and water are brought with each horse and it is important to keep drinking. As you can imagine the cooling out and cleaning up from this whirlwind can take almost as long as the competition itself! At Maryland Horse Trials I had six people helping me. In the heat, it was just enough. I find the one-day type of format easier on the horses if not on the help!