For some, the 2014 competition season is well underway. Riders are entering their fourth, fifth, or sixth event for this season. They are definitely in it, so to speak. That unmistakable and unavoidable “rusty” first event of the season is long gone. Then, there’s the rest of us, or the masses, who are just now starting to think about and start planning our 2014 eventing calendars. I don’t know about the rest of you, but entering an event when there’s 462 inches of snow in your backyard seems daunting on multiple levels.
Daunting Factoid #1. I have been very lucky because I have an indoor riding arena I can use, but I have not been able to hack my horses since November because of all the interminable ice. Although, indoor or no indoor it seems very unlikely that I will get the opportunity to go cross-country schooling prior to my first event, which will be the case for most Area 1’ers. Of course, that won’t stop from me going to a competition, but being able to get your horse out running and jumping even once before your first event is preferable.
I often wonder how crazy or wild my horses will be at their first event? Will there be airs above ground? Bucking, leaping, snorting, and/or bolting? The answer at this point is up in the air, which seems like an appropriate answer under the circumstances.
Daunting Factoid #2. We can’t blame our horses. Presumably, some of our horse are fit or have a decent base on them, so one could expect one’s horse to exude enthusiasm after not competing for six or seven months. I like to take my first event with a grain of salt. You sort of have to go with the flow and withhold any unreasonable expectations. For example: Dressage: If I can stay in the ring and attempt each movement, that would be great. Cross country: If I can make it over every jump, even if my horse takes off or leaps out of the start box, that would be great. Show Jumping: If I can make it over the first and last jump, I just might be a happy camper.
Daunting Factoid #3. Of course, there’s the inevitable worry that you and your horse are not fit enough to compete. Have I pushed myself as hard as I could this winter? Can my horse gallop without having galloped since September? Of course, I’m not really talking about Prelim and up competitors, I’m talking about Beginner Novice thought Training competitors. If your horse is relatively fit and if you have been riding him or her for most of the winter, chances are your horse will not keel over from a Beginner Novice cross-country course!
Again, I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I have been riding with me and myself only. This winter I have grown accustomed to riding in front of a bird, and on an occasion, a squirrel, and these creatures tend to not judge you or laugh. Which brings me to:
Daunting Factoid #4: How do I not humiliate myself in public at my first event? Fortunately, most of us are sailing around in the same boat. We have been hibernating all winter, and the thought of not only riding but looking like we know what the heck we’re doing in front of the masses seems unnerving to say the least.
Daunting factoids aside, I cannot wait to get out and compete. I have been dreaming about galloping and jumping for months now, and to think I could be competing at the end of April is thrilling beyond words. The first events are so exciting. Of course, there are nerves and fears, but there are goals waiting to be met and smiles waiting to be put on and adrenaline waiting to take over.
Plus, there are so many fabulous venues in Area 1 to kick off your season. For some, there’s UNH, for others, King Oak, Hitching Post, or perhaps a low-key schooling three-phase at Pirouette Farm. Wherever you compete first, just know in the back of your mind that nobody is there to point fingers or to judge you. There’s an unspoken understanding in the eventing world, at least in this area, that we are all in the same boat and we are all out there trying our best because we love this sport. We are there to have fun and cheer each other on, no matter how glorious or horrific your ride.