January 06, 2023 4 min read
If you’ve seen eventing horses in action, you’ll know that three-day eventing is one of the most elegant and exciting ways to witness people riding horses. From the poetry of Dressage, to the athleticism of Show Jumping, to the sheer amount of skill required for Cross Country, watching an eventing competition is enough to make you want to grab the nearest horse trainer and start training.
Many, however, aren’t prepared for just how difficult it is to actually compete in the event. The people riding horses on your television make it look easy because of all the work they’ve put into making sure they can handle every complicated task involved. If you’re interested in getting into three-day eventing, you’ll need to know just what it is they do in order to make it through all three days of the competition.
In this guide, you’ll learn more about the following tips for surviving your first three-day eventing competition:
These tips were written with beginners in mind, but more advanced riders might still find a few useful reminders for their next competition.
Three-day eventing is one of the most grueling equestrian sports you and your riding partner can join, combining two highly technical disciplines and an endurance test across three to four days. The competition consists of three events—Dressage, Show Jumping, and Cross Country—and is meant to showcase the very best in cooperation between horse and rider.
Before you even consider joining one of these competitions, make sure that you and your horse have trained enough in each of the three events. Your horse, in particular, has to be in good enough shape to physically endure at least three straight days of intense sporting activity. Vets at the competition will be doing routine checkups on each steed to make sure that there are no issues with horse muscle, joints, heart rate, and other medical markers, and will not hesitate to eliminate horses who show a significant risk of getting injured while competing.
For a more in-depth look at three-day eventing, check out this blog for a primer on the sport. You can also start following publications like Eventing Nation to get updates on the latest developments in the world of Eventing, as well as some useful tips.
Three-day eventing is one of the most elegant and exciting ways to witness people riding horses.
Depending on where you live, local Eventing associations may have entry-level competitions for green riders and horses. The US Eventing Association (USEA), for instance, has the Beginner Novice level available for first-time competitors wanting to dip their toes into the sport before fully committing to it. The courses at this level are typically smaller, as are the fences and obstacles your horse will have to navigate during the Show Jumping and Cross Country portions.
If you need to build up confidence before even joining a Beginner Novice competition, you can also try joining Schooling Events. These are smaller events that are usually organized by the same people who put together association-sanctioned competitions, except they have no bearing on any ranking systems you might qualify for. They’re primarily held for fun, and many new riders use them to practice with their eventing horses.
Each Eventing association has its own set of rules, and it’s your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the rules that govern the competitions you join. While the United States has the USEA, some events follow the rules set by international associations like British Eventing (BE) and Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). Many organizers choose to use FEI rules as the federation is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee.
Aside from scoring and penalties, eventing rules also have guidelines on the gear you and your horse use during the competition. Eventing associations often have strict regulations on your personal equipment, as well as your horse’s tack, for two reasons: 1) the safety of both eventing horses and riders are of utmost priority for these organizations, and 2) certain types of tack may give some competitors an unfair advantage over the others. By learning what the rules are beforehand, you can check your gear and horse tack sets for compliance with the rules, and avoid the risk of getting eliminated from the start.
While people riding horses take the spotlight during three-day eventing, surviving the competition is a team effort. First and foremost, you’ll need the help of a good horse trainer to prepare you for the sport’s demands. Some equestrians may even work with separate trainers for Dressage, Show Jumping, and Cross Country, depending on the experts they have access to.
At the same time, you’ll want a physical trainer to help you get into the right condition for competing. Engaging in any sport for three days in a row will take its toll on your body, and you want to make sure that Eventing doesn’t lead to any injuries or long-term pain issues.
Finally, it might be good to have a team of assistants who can help you keep time, scout the track, and manage your horse’s maintenance while you rest up. Three-day eventing requires a lot of coordination; you can focus a lot more on your performance if less of the smaller stuff takes up space in your head.
Make sure that neither you nor your horse gets hurt while Eventing.
Keep in mind that three-day eventing is an endurance test—in order to make it to the end, you’ll need to properly manage yours and your riding partner’s energy. This is especially true for Cross Country, where you can get penalized for either going too slow or too fast. After all, even horse muscle has its limits.
It’ll help to scout the ring and track beforehand, just so you’ll know the best times to trot, canter, or gallop during the competition. Note which jumps will require more work from your horse, and adjust your pace accordingly.
At the end of the day, you want to make sure that neither you nor your horse gets hurt while Eventing. Proper pacing goes a long way towards keeping the both of you safe and healthy while minimizing penalties.
As complex a sport as three-day eventing is, making it through each stage is already an achievement in and of itself. Very few people riding horses have the skill, discipline, and endurance it takes to compete at this level, and for this long. It is absolutely not a knock on your abilities if you don’t place high in the competition—especially if you’re new to Eventing. Maintaining this perspective will help you keep your longevity in the sport, as there are far too many people who get discouraged by focusing on their losses.
There might even come a point where you’ll need to pull out of the competition for your horse’s sake. Some riders, for example, notice that their horses are more sluggish than normal, or are starting to walk with a limp. Rather than risk injuring their partners, they raise their hands and ask the judges to eliminate them.
It’s your responsibility to act according to your horse’s best interests. Sometimes, that means accepting an early loss. And that’s perfectly fine, because keeping your horse happy and healthy is a bigger win than any finish in the competition.
Your riding partner won't say nay to a few treats at the end of each competition day!
Regardless of how you finish, make it a point to reward yourself for having competed in the first place. The amount of preparation and training it takes to join three-day eventing is no joke, and you deserve to spoil yourself a little when it’s all said and done.
The end of each competition day is also a good time to give your partner a few horse treats, too. You want to make the event as enjoyable for them as possible, so that they’ll be motivated to keep at it. Remember: three-day eventing is a celebration of your partnership, and it should be seen as a way of bonding with your horse more than anything.
Once you’ve felt the rush of three-day eventing, odds are you’ll want to try again. If you do, make sure you call up your horse trainer and start practicing for the next competition. A lot of the joy in joining equestrian sports comes from seeing your partnership with your horse develop; there’s nothing quite like feeling more in tune with your steed with each passing day.
Just remember that every horse gets better at their own pace. Don’t let an obsession with winning push your horse beyond their limits during training. If you allow them to practice at a pace they’re comfortable with, you’ll find that slow and steady progress leads to better finishes at your next competitions.
Again, treat three-day eventing as a means of bonding with your horse. The time you’ll be spending together developing a strong sense of cooperation is special, and any sort of win at the competition is just icing on top. If you do want to perform well, however, and keep your horse safe and healthy as you dive into the world of Eventing, just make sure you do all the necessary prep. Do your homework, work with good people, and make sure you’ve got the right gear. Feel free to look through our collection of high-quality products for equipment that’ll keep you and your horse safe while competing.
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