As the season gets under way this weekend not all of us are lucky enough to be competing so if like me the only eventing you will see this year is as a spectator and not a competitor take a minute to read our helpful guide to making your life easier at events.
Choose suitable footwear/clothing. If it is raining/muddy/windswept or simply Larkhill in the midst of summer (as it is always cold) make sure to pack your layers including spares left in the car and wellingtons. Worst thing as a spectator is to feel chilled to the bone with mud seeping through your trainers whilst getting splattered with mud from a passing horse who drifted off the normal line and ended up hugging the rope. I do and learn these things so you don’t have to!
Take suitable transport and park appropriately. If you know the event parks spectators in a sloped field and it is wet and muddy don’t take a car that struggles on grassy hills never mind in the mud going up hill. If your car won’t cope join up with a friend who has a 4×4 not only can you share petrol costs but you may also be able to save on the entrance fee if it is based on a car rather than occupants. Whatever you drive make sure you have a functioning towing eye. In the event you need to be towed out have it to hand and fit it before you call over the tractor driver as time saved for them will get you and other spectator and competitor vehicles out more quickly.
CASH! Moving swiftly on to entrance fees make sure you know how much it is (schedules on BE website will tell you) and have the appropriate cash with you. I have seen multiple cars turn round when turning up at events with no cash at all expecting to get in for free! Extra cash is also advised for purchasing of bacon rolls etc if you don’t bring a packed lunch with you.
You’re now into the event so where to go and what to do?
Look before you stop. In the words of a friend “take a minute and think about the implications your selfie on the bridge at Blenheim has on the swathes of people walking behind you” If you have been to Blenheim/Burghley or any event with a narrow crossing point/bridge or shopping village you will know the frustration of someone suddenly stopping infront of you to watch something, take a photo or do something that isn’t walking, who then causes a huge pileup behind them and the person directly behind having to take evasive action to not trip over the person who has stopped.
Look before you stop applies quite equally to smaller events, I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched people stop in in appropriate places (including in the middle of the XC track) leading to stewards having to scream/shout/blow their whistle to clear them out of the way before they are run over.
Observe crossing points/string. The string is not there to annoy you, it is there to keep you safe so observe it stay outside it and cross only where safe to do so. You may well see others seemingly ‘ignore’ the string and crossing points but that doesn’t mean you should or can do the same. Often these people will be officials and have specific need and permission to do so.
Do as instructed – If a steward or official ask you to do or not do something adhere to your instructions. They are asking you to do it for the safety of you other spectators and competitors.
Keep dogs on SHORT leads – If you have to bring your dog to an event (personally I would never bring a dog with me) make sure it is kept securely on a short leash at all times. As no time is it acceptable to remove the lead or collar. Slip collars should be used with care, speaking from personal experience I’ve seen far too many dogs wriggle free from them at events. DO NOT use extendable leads especially when walking around otherwise you will trip up fellow spectators whilst you’re not looking or potentially more dangerously a horse.
Don’t hassle officials – Let me be clear I am most certainly not saying don’t talk to the officials infact the opposite as most, in particular cross country fence judges will be happy to chat but be considerate of when and where you do. Asking a fence judge a question as they are watching a rider jump their fence is not a good time and you may well prevent them from doing their job safely. Instead wait until the horse has passed and they have completed their score sheet and reported on the radio. On the same vein if you have a question for the event secretary if there is a queue of competitors 5 deep come back later when it is quieter, it will help their blood pressure immensely!
Phone signal or lack thereof – At all of the big events you may get a signal but don’t expect to actually be able to use it as network busy is the norm. At a lot of the normal ODEs you will just be lucky to get a signal full stop. Therefore if meeting up with friends at an event it is always wise to agree a place (scoreboards or by first fence XC are good) and a time before you arrive in case one or both of you have no signal.
Look, look and look again – just because there isn’t a piece of string or a fence judge or steward in close proximity doesn’t mean you are not in danger. Where ever you go watch up for horses especially of the loose variety who can appear where you least expect them.
Be respectful of competitors – This is hopefully common sense but if you see your all time favourite hero walking their XC course looking very serious, or warming up for their dressage or rushing back to the lorry that is not the time to introduce yourself asking for an autograph or a few words. They are not being rude if they blank you or say no they have a job to do and are most likely trying to adhere to tight times riding multiple horses never mind trying to put themselves in the appropriate mindset. If they look relaxed and chilled and even better have finished for the day you will most likely find them more than willing to take 30seconds to sign their autograph.
Events don’t run to times – No matter how well organised an event is things happen so it is unlikely that an event will ever run early but they will often run late. Riders with multiple horses will also without question compete out of order for their SJ and XC rounds except in rare circumstances when a day actually does run to time. If you want to watch a particular rider it is best to keep an eye on where they are in advance of their time or be prepared to be at least 30 mins at the SJ or XC ahead of time in case they run early.
Clear up after yourself – Do the organisers a favour and pick up all your rubbish and put it in the nearest bin, in the uncommon but possible event you can’t find a bin then take it home with you. Events are often run on grazing land for livestock and rubbish could be potentially lethal if not picked up.
Say thank you! – take a second to thank the officials and stewards you see throughout the day. Although the events are run predominantly for competitors they are also run for the spectators. Almost all stewards and officials will be there unpaid as willing volunteers and a thank you will often make their day. Help make sure that even if it’s raining they finish the day with a smile as hopefully so will you.
Do you have any more hints and tips for spectators? If so please let us know.