In an eventing career that spans an embarrassing number of decades, I have probably made more than my fair share of Eventing Errors. In fact, I could probably manage a full Eventer’s Excuses T-shirt all on my own. In the spirit of caring and sharing, here are some of my worst, which I’m sharing in the hope that you won’t do them and spoil your day!
Learning the wrong dressage test.
I did this at my first ever BE event, and found out 10 minutes before my test. This triggered a new definition of mayhem and panic. The fact that we did a great double clear and finished on the ensuing pretty terrible dressage score was just added salt in the wound.
Leaving boots on horse for test.
Okay, I only did this at a RC competition, while a friend did it at BE, but both led to a big fat Elimination. See also: forgetting to drop your whip. If you have a helper, it’s a good idea to ask them to do the visual check-over for you too, just in case.
Missing out a show-jump, or jumping the wrong fence.
Extremely annoying because it is so easily avoided. Big fat E again, but if you ask nicely the BE Steward will usually let you run xc, although now of course you are HC.
Walking the xc course incorrectly.
I now always have the programme in my hand and make notes as I walk the course. I usually photograph every fence with my phone, too. Then I can have a quick run through of the pics and notes before going xc. I learnt this lesson the hard way – missing out the D element of a fence on the OI xc at Weston Park, spoiling a fabulous clear round, because I hadn’t spotted it on my course walk. I also managed to miss a fence out when walking Poplar Park Intermediate in pea-soup fog, and then rode the course exactly as I’d walked it, minus that fence. So, pay attention to every single fence’s number and make sure you don’t miss one out – it sounds so obvious, but it’s an easy and very expensive mistake to make!
Don’t be distracted by well-meaning friends chatting to you while you get yourself and/or the horse ready, if this is your job. This situation has led to me turning up for my dressage minus my stock (oops, quick canter back across lorry park to dress properly) and, once, to forgetting to put on my mare’s overreach boots for xc, which was of course the only time she ever overreached, and we missed Boekelo 3* because of it. Tough lesson, that, duly learnt.
If there is a tight turning question, make sure you have control and don’t jump the first element too fast to turn for the second. It’s easy to get carried away when the adrenalin is flowing and things are going brilliantly. Yes, this has cost me a win. Twice, if you must know.
If there’s an alternative you’re not sure about, make sure you decide WELL before the fence which route you are going to do. Don’t suddenly change your mind 3 strides from the fence. I was lucky to get away with just a stop for this piece of adrenalin-fuelled lunacy at my first Intermediate. Not recommended.
That’s enough Don’ts, I suspect you get the gist by now and are probably sitting there shaking your head in disbelief at so much idiocy. In my (slight) defence, I don’t think I ever managed more than one of these errors per event, or maybe even per season in some cases!
Now for the Do’s.
Of course you’re there to compete and to do your best, but it’s supposed to be fun too. It’s a real privilege to compete in such a fabulous elitist sport, alongside the best riders in the world, in some of the most beautiful settings in the country. So, try to remember to enjoy it, despite any pressure and nerves you may feel!
Stay calm, be organised, these will give yourself and your horse the best chance for things to go well.
Appreciate your helpers, try not to turn into the nightmare from hell (I’ve been it, seen it, endured it!) and don’t forget all those who work so hard to make the event run smoothly. They will really appreciate a word of thanks.
Say a big thank you to your horse, however the day goes. Polos, carrots, and apples are customary tokens of appreciation. Sloppy kisses are optional, but tend to happen if you get rosettes, prizes, and spangly Points.
Very best of luck this season. Go and have a blast!