There’s no better feeling than galloping over the finish line after a great cross country round. A lot of work and prep goes on behind the scenes though before getting across the line with the hope of winning a rosette. From fitness work to turnout, we’ve got advice from 4* eventer Rosa Onslow to help you have a successful eventing season.
Firstly, be prepared for the season by planning your upcoming events. With a schedule in place you’ll be able to get your horse fit in-time and won’t miss any entry deadlines. If you’re aiming to qualify for certain events you can also make sure you meet the requirements. Of course, with horses nothing ever completely goes to plan so prepare to be flexible with a back-up plan or two.
“We try to plan our events schedule four months in advance, but this is flexible dependent on how the horses are performing. It rarely goes exactly to plan.”Rosa Onslow
So, whether you’re the kind of person who has everything planned down to the exercises in each schooling session, or you prefer to see how things go on the day, having an outline for the event season will help you achieve your ambitions and reduce last minute stress.
Tackling all three phases is a demanding task for your horse. With your event plan in place, work backwards from your first competition to put a fitness schedule together. If your horse is in light to medium work, they will already have a good foundation of fitness. However, if your horse has been chilling in the field all winter, they will need building up slowly to gain muscle and stamina whilst minimising the risk of injury.
“My theory is a combination of careful routine but variety in exercise. One day we are galloping the horses through heather up steep hills, and the next we are show jumping in the arena.”Rosa Onslow
Hill work, flat/jump schooling, interval training, canter work and XC schooling are all important parts of getting your horse fit. Aim to keep the work varied and interesting to improve all round fitness.
With a base level of fitness in place, work on some discipline-specific training. As eventing has three phases, it can be tricky to perfect every aspect with riders often lamenting about their “weakest phase”. Use the run-up to the season to work on any troublesome areas and this will pay off in your result on competition day.
“I train with experts in their fields, including the Woodhead family for dressage, Ian Stark for show jumping and Andy Heffernan for cross country and show jumping. In addition, I am on the Horse Scotland Performance Squad and have access to their expertise which is invaluable.”Rosa Onslow
Even if you don’t have access to top trainers or a performance squad like Rosa, there are still lots of great resources out there. Joining your local riding club can be a great way to attend clinics or compete. You could also team up with someone on your yard to put up jumps for each other, offer advice on a dressage test, or even travel to events with.
Finally, before the first event of the season try to get out competing. You could tackle each discipline separately to really hone your skills, or try out arena eventing so you and your horse aren’t feeling rusty when you head to the start box.
“I believe the horses feel good when you make them look good.”Rosa Onslow
Aside from looking smart, being well turned out can make you and your horse feel the part at a competition. A shiny coat starts from the inside out with good feed appropriate for the workload. Washing your horse a few days before competing will allow some of the natural oils to be replaced for ultimate shine. On colder days, or if you’re short on time, a quick wash of the mane, tail and legs will suffice.
Rosa likes her horses to be turned out to the highest standard in public, so they are always well groomed and plaited for competitions with their hooves oiled.
We have a motto in our yard “treat every horse like an Olympian and one day we might have one”.Rosa Onslow
With your horse looking the part, you don’t want to let the side down. A smart show shirt, jacket and breeches will see you through the whole season. Don’t forget your XC colours either as you want to stand out when galloping round the course! Aubrion’s competition collection is made from performance fabrics and won’t break the bank either.
“My favourite piece of kit has to be my stunning navy Aubrion Oxford Show Jacket from the new Aubrion range. You will see me out competing in it all this season!”Rosa Onslow
Keep your competition outfit looking clean on the day by wearing overalls or tracksuit bottoms and a jacket over the top to avoid slobber stains and mud splatters!
Whether you’re aiming for Badminton like Rosa or heading to your first BE80, prior planning will help set you up for success. With a plan in place and the prep completed you can enjoy the day, hopefully with a fantastic dressage score and a double clear!