We are excited to once again partner with Athletux to feature blogs from their riders in 2015! Today's blog comes from Ryan Wood, who walks us through the strategy he uses when mapping out the season for each of his horses. Many thanks to Ryan for writing, and thanks for reading.
Every year it seems as though the “off season” in eventing gets shorter and shorter, and before I know it in the blink of an eye it is time to get cracking again on planning the new season. As my business Woodstock Eventing has grown over the last couple of years, and we have added more horses and great owners who make it all possible, having an individualized plan for each horse has become more important and instrumental in achieving my desired results.
Now as one of the largest eventing barns in the U.S. with 30 horses, all of which are competing with the help of our hardworking seven staff members, having the proper plan has become a must in every way. People often ask me how I decide which horses go to which show, or what the plan is for one horse or another. I think for any rider, this is a question you have to address before the season starts for your horses.
Whether you are a professional, an amateur or a young rider, having a game plan for each horse and, more importantly, a reason for competing at one show or another is very important. In my case, we have to be sure we have enough riders and help at home at the same time I am away competing, as well as enough help at the show to put in our best performances.
When determining an event schedule, I suggest working backwards from the end goal for all horses, which is usually a three-day event for the horses 6 years old and up. This, of course, depends on their previous experience. I pick the three-day event I feel best suits each individual horse in terms of skill, fitness and the venue overall.
I then work backwards with events I feel are needed to achieve success at the end goal show. This can mean a competition at that venue earlier in the year, doing courses designed by the same cross country designer, getting them in front of similar crowds, jumping on similar turf, or simply getting some runs in that make sense fitness and skill wise to help them as much as possible.
For my 4- and 5-year-olds, I tend to stay local, as we are looking for an outing with the main goal being for them to learn the ropes and gain exposure and confidence. A positive experience at each outing is the main focus, and staying local keeps the stress low on a young horse while also helping to keep costs down for the owners.
For these horses, the end goal to work back from may not be that season, but may be early in the next year. We do a certain amount of horse trials and then do things like jumping days and schooling shows to help them get experience. These shows can often be mid-week, or fall on a weekend that does not clash with the international events the older horses are competing in.
For sales horses, I do the same as the other horses in my program based on their age and try to help them be as successful as possible while working toward the goal of finding them the ideal next partner. I work back from what I feel is the optimum timeframe to sell the horse in and keep in mind what we need to do in order to reflect the horse’s skill level. The goal with them is to best showcase what they can do in a timely manner to achieve the best possible value for the horse.
Once my show schedule is set, I spend some time looking at what other supplemental things will best benefit the individual horses in my barn, such as what fitness they need to be doing based on their show schedule, whether or not they should go to some other jumper shows or dressage shows depending on strengths and weaknesses, and try to be sure they each have a well-rounded plan.
These plans also include short breaks or vacations after big international events, and, like with horses in general, of course at times we have to restructure plans as the season goes based on best helping each horse at all times.
This time of the season is so exciting — full of much hope and big goals for the year that lies ahead! I am excited to see what 2015 brings and how the plans I have in place for each of my horses play out.