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equiniphile 12-09-2010 08:58 PM

Hoping to start eventing
I'd like to train Excel to be an eventer, but I don't know how I go about doing this. I've ridden Western all my life and started riding English about a year ago. Excel is a 6-yr old 16.2hh OTTB who has w/t/c down and is ready to start "really" training, though bad feet have had him out of commission for 2 months. Now he's ready to go and I'd like to start training him in eventing.

Problem is, there's only 2 eventing trainers near us. One is my mom's friend's trainer who comes to people's barns to give lessons, but she will only teach adults, despite my mom's friend's attempts at having her take me on for just one lesson to see. The other trainer is at an eventing barn 30 minutes away, HERE (click). We know two people who would allow us to borrow their trailer to trailer to lessons, so trailering really isn't an issue. This spring I may have a trailer, too.

Excel's put weight on. He's had his break off, and now I want to start really competing in eventing. Lessons are $50 from Fox Creek Farms, and they have a cross country course and indoor/outdoor arenas, along with several eventing "names" who come to give clinics regularly. I just don't know when to start taking lessons. If finances can afford it, I'd like to start as soon as I can, because I know Excel and I need work and I'd like to be ready to maybe compete this show season.

Tips? Advice? Greatly appreciated!

corporate pride 12-10-2010 02:34 AM

i'm not sure how it works there with the barns, but here in australia you get private or group lessons in each disapline. like showjumping that can cross over the cross country, and hire the course at a local pony club to train or go to arrange training days organised by pony clubs.

well there are 2 options that you can take:
1) go to the barn and get started
2) go to a dressage barn for a year and get the established before the eventing barn

after all your horse is only 6 (the same as my young horse) so there's no rush realy, the better the dressage is the easier the jumping will come and how much of a threat you'll be when you do start to compete :) the biggest thing to hold you back in eventing with placing is the dressage score. you'll be like the dark horse in the competition and people won't see you coming :) :)
also do some trail riding to get out into the scary nature to toughen the horse up and expose him to things that he hasn't seen before so when nature jumps out of the bushes on the cross country course your horse won't have a heart attack!!! LOL (not like you have kangaroos jumping out!!)

equiniphile 12-10-2010 03:49 PM

That's a good idea, to go to a dressage barn first, problem is I don't know of any around here! This eventing barn has dressage though so I think I'll work on that with the trainer until Excel's ready to jump.

Haha, it'd be quite a sight to see a kangeroo jumping out of the bushes here!

Strange 12-11-2010 07:30 PM

I think 6 is a perfectly adequate time to be jumping him as well, to be quite frank.

While I agree that dressage is of the utmost importance, a lot of times it can be quite a lot for a younger horse mentally, and I've always found that jumping is a bit of a mental break sometimes, especially since you probably won't be doing anything incredibly difficult with him quite yet. I suggest trailering him out to the other barn, or possibly seeing if that trainer would be willing to travel to you once a week, and you can travel to that farm once a week, a bit of a compromise I suppose.

In the mean time, I suggest working on Excel's fitness. It's never too early to start conditioning a horse. If it's possible for you right now, I'd find some good ground, flat or preferably with some shallow slopes, and do some trot sets on him. Basically you'll be doing intervals of forward, active trot work, followed by brief bouts of walk (forward and still engaged through his hind end). Start off with less trot and more walk, then gradually begin shifting the balance to more trot and less walk. I like to do 1-hour sessions, personally. Also, it helps if you know your horse's average resting heart rate and breaths per minute, because it;s a good gauge of his fitness to see how quickly his HR and BPM come down after work. If possible I'd suggest investing in an electronic meter you can attach to the left side of the girth and under the saddle pad. It'll give you readings on his HR and BPM as you ride, and you can generally find them for about $90-$120. A good investment, in my opinion. I plan on getting one as soon as I have the money. I believe SmartPak sells two different kinds, one for mounted (about $120) and one better used while dismounted ($90). Here's a link to the mounted version that I plan on getting; Equine Easy Exercise Monitor - Heart Rate Monitors from SmartPak Equine

Basically, you want your horse's heart rate to be under 60 beats per minute in less than 10 minutes after strenuous exercise. A horses resting rate is generally anywhere from 32 beats/min - 45 beats/min.

If you don't have anywhere with good enough ground to do trot sets, then try to find somewhere with a good hill and just walk up and down it. Sounds tedious but it does help as long as the horse is really working from back to front. :)

equiniphile 12-11-2010 07:38 PM

Thanks, Strange! Excel's been off work for about 2 months because he was losing shoes like crazy, then had an abcess and had to wait to have his shoe put back on, and now he's sound again and ready to be ridden.

We have 1000 acres or so of farmer- and park- owned land (we have permission to ride on farmer's land) that is pretty flat but does have several gradual hills that are GREAT for trot work....especially in the snow when it's a lot harder.

As he's back and ready to be ridden again, I'm trying to get him back into shape again so he'll be ready for lessons.

Ak1 12-13-2010 08:59 AM

I agree iwht Strange- FITNESS is HUGE in eventing! Condition and condition. Mix it up so he doesn't get bored howver naturally , when working with 3 different disciplines, you get a typical garden variety. In the mean time, check out some just plain old dressage or jumping barns around. Dressage is HUGE in eventing as it is the basic of any discipline. Try some plain lessons to get the foundation. Sometimes breaking each phase of eventing apart makes it easier to do lessons. Find a barn that the instructor just works on jumping. My best luck came from that. I have yet to find a good all around trainer because the truth is, every instructor has one they prefer and therefore have aquired more experience or talent or instruction in and can offer more. Hope that Helps!

MIEventer 12-13-2010 09:41 AM

Welcome to the dark side Equiniphile!

To go along with what Strange has said - I highly recommend HACKING!! :)

Hack, hack, hack, hack, hack, and hack some more. Then, when you are done hacking, add some more hacking onto the hacking you've already done.

You can never do enough! I cannot emphasize that enough. You need the conditioning to beable to cover all 3 phases *in most cases in 1 day* and to beable to cover a CC course. You may be surprised, you may think the both of you are in shape, but when you are out on a CC course in a comp, you this over yet? lol.

CC courses are very demanding, even for BN - so conditioning is very important. You want to condition your horse physically - but also the importancies of this factor, are the heart and the lungs. Strengthening the heart and the lungs are very important. There are lot of great articles in the Practicle Horseman Magazine Archives you can dig up online, that'll give you great advice - articles written by "greats" including Jim Wofford, David O'Connor, Becky Holder and others. Very benefitial reads.

During my Eventing Season *cause that's all I do* I hack as much as I can. Get on hills, get on those trails, terrain and condition your little heart out. Work on a functional 2 point while out there, condition and strengthen your legs, your core, your upper body, your lungs. Work on staying off of his back as much as possible to get your body in shape, and all the while, working on your horses conditioning as well.

When I am out hacking, I work on intervals. Walk, to trot, to walk, to trot and gradually increase by adding canter work in there. Working on getting his back lifted and up into my seat, engaged, off of my hands *meaning on his back end and carrying himself*. And then other rides I just let him be and focus on me.

There are so many things you can accomplish while out hacking - I say stay off of flat land. Flat land is ok if you are just starting out, and just getting back into a conditoning program after having a lot of time off - but if you have uneven terrain, all the better - because guess what....your CC courses are rarely ever flat...even for BN courses.

I hack most of my time during the week, and I get in the arena once or twice a week. I have a lesson once a week, and my Coach is an Eventer *competes Prelim* is very competant in working on Dressage with me, and Jumping. She is very involved in the sport, who's coach is also very involed (She is 3*) and her Coach is far above her in the sport...etc, etc - the education trickles down - so I am happy to not have to have 3 different coaches.

I also Clinic as much as I can - I do more Clinics in a season than I do comps. The more you learn, the better - especially in this sport, due to it being one of the most dangerous equestrian sports out there.


While I agree that dressage is of the utmost importance, a lot of times it can be quite a lot for a younger horse mentally, and I've always found that jumping is a bit of a mental break sometimes, especially since you probably won't be doing anything incredibly difficult with him quite yet. I suggest trailering him out to the other barn, or possibly seeing if that trainer would be willing to travel to you once a week, and you can travel to that farm once a week, a bit of a compromise I suppose.
You are right - dressage now, has become the most important phase in Eventing, due to the new formats that have become a huge part of Eventing as we know it today. *I want the old formats back*

But, while working with a "Greenie" you do not always have to do dressage in an arena - you can do this while out hacking. Working on bending off of your leg, becoming light to the riders aids, working on smooth and fluid transitions and etc, etc, etc.

Hacking is very benefitial :) But I agree, GAG and BN wont be too difficult. Just basic "Training Level" dressage.

I also agree, hauling to a coach once a week will be very helpful at this point in time!

All the best Equiniphile, let us know how it goes!

equiniphile 12-13-2010 12:08 PM

Thanks guys!! Assuming my mom gets the job she's 99% sure she got, I'll start lessons asap. Maybe next year we could get a trailer so we don't have to borrow someone's all the time, who knows.

The easy parts for Excel, I think, will be the cross country and show jumping. Because he's an OTTB, he's very easy to get back in shape, and when he is in shape, few things are tiring to him LOL! He also loves jumping, I've only jumped him once (18inches) and he perked his ears and jujmped a good two feet above the rail :lol:. The hardest part, I think, will be dressage. He's still pretty unbalanced and young, REALLY leggy at this point!! Here's a vid from a month or two off the track with my trainer (I say my trainer, but she used to give me an occasional lesson because she was the original trainer of Molly, and the trainer I found for Molly after she was messed up. She was a steeplechase and flat jockey in England, then she came to the U.S. to retrain OTTBs for eventing and dressage. Wish I could get lessons from her regularly, but she lives an hour away.)

*drool* look at that frame!! Wish I could ride him like that LOL.

Strange 12-13-2010 01:03 PM

I'm excited for you!

Dressage is definitely playing a larger role in eventing today, but I would definitely take MIE's advice and do your dressage out while you're hacking. I rarely do dressage in an arena if I can help it and when I do it's just to run through a test once or twice or practice certain movements in more detail. While yes, dressage is very important now and most times winners win on their score, I can't stress enough that OVERTRAINING dressage is just as bad as UNDERTRAINING it. You still want your horse to have that mind of his own and you want him to be able to be out on a cross country course and save your butt if you mess up (because everyone messes up sometimes)! It's important to keep his initiative and ability to figure things out on his own instead of relying on you for everything.

MIEventer 12-13-2010 09:02 PM

Great post Strange!

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