Welcome to Eventing: Get Ready for Your First Event

Is this it? Is this THE season where you finally compete in your first event? If it is, get excited and stop biting your fingernails!

There’s a right way and a wrong way to compete in your first event. The “right way” is to make it a no-pressure, fun-filled occasion. If you approach your first horse trial by putting pressure on yourself to get a blue ribbon while also quaking in your boots that you may fall off, you’re doing it wrong. Relax. Have fun! That’s what eventing is all about.

First, let’s talk about what your first event could look like. Let’s use the term “event” loosely. You don’t have to dive right into the world of eventing with a recognized horse trial at a busy venue. Ease your way into eventing and dip your toe in the water before you take the plunge. There’s a huge variety of schooling events out there that follow different formats so you can choose what’s right for you and your horse.


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Derby crosses are becoming extremely popular. These events are essentially a mix of show jumping and cross country fences that either take place in a field, arena, or some combination of the two. There is no dressage test involved with these events, so they’re perfect for the horse and rider that would rather be out jumping than in the dressage ring.

A combined schooling show is similar to a derby cross, but typically you get to choose some combination of the three phases to compete in. For example, you could choose to just do the show jumping and dressage portions of the test, and skip cross country, or vice versa.

On the other hand, you can do an Eventing Academy-style horse trial. This involves a full three-phase horse trial preceded by two days of schooling at the venue and on the courses you’ll be competing in. It’s a great way to familiarize horse and rider with a potentially intimidating course and get them used to the environment.

Whatever format you decide to choose for your first event, pick a venue you’ve been to before. If you’ve never been to any venue, school your horse at the venue a few times before the competition. There’s no need to add any confusion or nerves to the competition because you don’t know where the show office is, where the cross country course starts, or because your horse is afraid of the flowers in the dressage ring. Since it’s your first event, do everything in your power to make it a success.

By success, I don’t mean coming home with a blue ribbon. We’re eventers. A successful event is one where nobody falls off, you get around the course with minimal issues, and you and your horse have a great time.

You can also cut down on the stress of your first event by understanding the rules of what to wear and having an outfit in mind well ahead of time. Don’t wait until the night before the event to stare at your closet and wonder what you’re supposed to wear. Most schooling shows are relatively relaxed, but be sure to read the rules for your specific competition ahead of time. Different venues and levels of competition will have different requirements.

That being said, we’re eventers. We don’t care if your brown reins don’t match your black bridle. Are you being safe and having fun? Great! At my first event, I actually did compete with brown reins and a black bridle. My little hunter heart was very worried I would get a lot of weird looks. But in truth, I don’t think anyone even looked twice.

Cassidy Brooke Photography. Images courtesy of JPC Equestrian

Most schooling events won’t have a strict dress code. Typically, you should wear white or tan breeches, and a professional looking athletic shirt. For example, a great schooling competition outfit could be a pair of Equine Couture Nicole Breeches combined with the Lettia Equifine Sun Shirt. However, if the event you’re competing in includes a dressage phase, you may need to dress up a bit more, including a show jacket, show shirt, and tall boots.

While eventers don’t particularly care what colors you wear (the more colorful the better!), we do care about safety. If you’re going cross country, you need to wear a safety vest and medical armband. As always, you must wear an appropriately certified helmet for all three phases.

Before the event, take some time to mentally prepare. For my first event, I rode in a team at a derby cross at Waredaca. I was lucky enough to have a very experienced friend, shoutout to Ashley Gross at A&A Stables, who rode in my team and guided me through the whole process. Having a friend who will laugh with you at your mistakes and help you get out of your head and not take the whole thing too seriously will make your first event infinitely more fun.

Ashley Ann Gross and Veronica Green-Gott at the Waredaca Derby Cross.

If you can, I’d recommend riding a “steady Eddy” type of horse who knows the ropes. While I’d recommend this, it’s not really required. I did my first event with my 7-year-old OTTB. It was both of our first events; she’d gone cross country schooling only twice before. We lived and had a great time!

Just remember, when it comes to your mindset at your first event, you’re only there to have fun. Don’t put pressure on yourself to perform well and don’t think twice about embarrassing yourself or looking like you don’t know what you’re doing. All of us have been there at some point and, if you ask me, I’m right there with you!

Go eventing!

This blog contains sponsored links, courtesy of our supporter JPC Equestrian, founder of your online tack store, Breeches.com. If you’re looking for quality tack at amazing prices, check out their website.

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