The first show with your horse will be one of the most nerve-racking and intimidating days of your life. Yet also one that's rewarding and filled with glee at the end; even if you don’t get the result you were hoping to.
Tip: You shouldn’t aim to win, you can’t expect to win Badminton first time over the Vicarage Vee.
No matter the level you’re competing at, which discipline, we are all human and all typically feel the same. So, I’ve put together a few handy tips from lessons learnt from my early competing days…
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
I cannot stress how beneficial early prep for a show is, the day and night before, let alone the day of the competition. I find it easier to pack ahead the night before and check that everything needed, from stirrups to a few cheeky hobnobs, are secure in your box or trailer cupboards. If your horse is prone to getting dirty and likes a bit of a roll around in those puddles, consider keeping him in overnight if possible after cleaning him up. Instead of letting nerves creep their way in, try to get plenty of rest and don’t stay up till early hours on Netflix. One of my favourite things to do is make a playlist full of songs to boost my energy and confidence on the way.
Be a Pro Co-ordinator and Timekeeper
Depending on the length of journey to the show and the class you are competing in, check any set timings the day before and be there accordingly early in time to register (though some may be online), receive your numbers, and tack up.
Tip: Tack up and get dressed after to avoid the saddle soap marks on the washed stock tie.
Remember to also leave enough time for you and your horse to fully warm up, and for you to walk the course.
Novice low-level competing should be much more welcoming and low-key for newer competitors, however your fitness level needs to match that required of the class you’re doing.
Learn The Unspoken Warm-up Etiquette
Generally, this is the epicentre for stress as it is the busiest area of the entire showground and everyone is doing their own thing within a very small space. Most arenas, though few are different, ask you move past each other left to left, walk on the inside track and keep your distance from the jump If you aren’t jumping. If you are wanting to pop over one, call out the fence you want to do and ask a helper to make sure it’s the height you want with the red flags on right and white on the right.
Remember to thank everyone, including event organisers, volunteers and your team!
Knowing What To Wear
3 eventing rules to live by:
1. Keep yourself clean, sparkly and presentable in the right gear, whether that’s a clean white pair of jodhpurs or the correct gloves for dressage.
2. Keep your horse clean and free of mud or grease, plaited up if needed.
3. Make sure you have everything needed to abide by the rules of the show and the safety of everything is up to standard.
At the end of the day, even though you might not return home with a shiny rossie, a clear round or the dressage marks you were hoping for, remember why you were there and what you learnt from it. Social media only highlights the good so don’t be put down if you see others winning constantly (as they really aren’t).
Congrats, you survived your first show!