As the eventing season is rapidly approaching the team at Equestrian.com provide advice to make sure you are well prepared.
Bringing the horse back into work
If your horse has had a few weeks break then their basic fitness levels should not have dropped too much. In this case start with a week of hacking with a little bit of trot work towards the end of the week, gradually resuming normal schooling and jumping after two weeks.
However if your horse has had longer off, say two or three months, then you would need to spend more time walking and getting the horse’s muscles used to working correctly again. We would do this for about four to six weeks, gradually introducing trotting in that time scale. Once your horse feels fit enough to work for a good period of time we would resume normal schooling and jumping.
It is paramount that your horse is fully fit to be able to compete successfully and safely at a one day event. To get horses fit hill work is a great asset. This reduces the injury associated with galloping but still gives your horse a great cardiovascular workout. Another technique we use to get horses competition fit is interval training as well as incorporating gallop work. Once the competition season arises, remember that a run at an event counts as a gallop, therefore during the week your preparation does not need to be as strenuous.
Read our Fitness Training article for more tips and advice here
Preparing for the Disciplines
It is important to have regular lessons with your horse so that you are both prepared for the challenges ahead. During the competition season consider having lessons to sort out any problems and to help when stepping up a level.
To get horses back in the competitive mode take them to a few show jumping and dressage competitions so they are not so ‘ring rusty’ when they go to their first event. It is also important to go to a few low key competitions before you brave your first event to check things out, for example to see if the new bit worked or if your warm up system needs tweaking. Dressage and show jumping competitions can be used as a bit of a dress rehearsal, making sure you have everything you need in the lorry.
When it comes to events later in the year do not be tempted to overrun your horse. If they are experienced at a certain level then you just need to keep them tuned up. However if they are inexperienced at the level you are competing at then you may need a few extra runs to gain confidence. It is also a good idea to practice dressage tests at home and get someone to video them. It is amazing what you can learn from watching yourself. Make sure you have practiced jumping the more difficult cross country jumps like skinny fences and corners at home, in addition to one or two cross country schooling sessions.
Make sure you monitor your horse’s food intake daily, therefore you can make slight alterations as opposed to major changes. Try not to suddenly up your hard feed levels the week before a big competition because they feel too lazy. Watch out for starch levels in concentrate feeds. A lot of people think it is the protein level that you need to keep an eye on, but it is a high starch content that can make your horse fizzy and silly.
Turnout of your horse Clipping reduces the chance of your horse getting a chill because he has a long wet coat and it also makes them much easier to groom. Trim out horses heels and the long hair around the top of their hooves and pull their manes and tails. It is also important to bear in mind that horses change shape. During their break, horses can lose muscle tone, therefore ensure you get your saddle regularly checked when the muscles start building back up again.
Plan your first competition carefully. Start your season at a level you and your horse are confident with. Early in the season an event with fairly flat ground is ideal for horses that are not at the peak of their fitness.