Eventing is so much more than just a sport. It’s a way of life. The time and effort put into each and every event is outstanding. From Grassroots all the way up to Advanced level the atmosphere is almost identical, the only difference being the size of the jumps and a couple of other things.
It has to be said there is currently a big Eventing shaped hole in many of our hearts but fear not, we will be back out causing havoc before too long.
So what is it about Eventing that makes it so special? Why do we put in so many hours of preparation into this sport? Why do so many of us fight our nerves off for weeks or practically all season, just to take part in it? No, it’s not because we are mad, but it’s because there really is no better feeling than when you absolutely nail your dressage test, have your first clear show jumping or when you fly over that finish line after cross country.
It’s a community of riders, families, owners, volunteers and spectators, coming together with a passion for the thrill of Eventing. It is all of us which makes it so special.
Yet, it is still so much more than that…
Before the event itself, you spend weeks practicing serpentines and grid work and finding new and creative ways of testing cross country combinations and challenges with the facilities you have available (which can only be getting more and more interesting as lockdown goes on). There’s the whole process of learning your dressage test, which some do find easy to remember, meanwhile others can be found running circles around yards, sitting rooms and supermarket car parks. Perhaps even drawing tiny arenas on A4 pieces of paper, hundreds of times, and filling them in using different coloured pens to signal movements. It’s planning your daily training two weeks in advance to ensure your horse has the right balance of schooling, hacking and whatever you do in between to ensure that on the day they aren’t too excited for the dressage test, but keen enough to make it to the end of the day.
It’s about perfectly measuring out hard feed and supplements to make sure your horse has the right concoction of winning juice in their bodies to ensure peak performance on the day. It’s plaiting the day before; scrubbing tack; cleaning the lorry; packing the lorry; writing a list to make sure you’ve packed everything, unpacking because you can’t remember where you put your cross country watch and then re-packing. It’s laying all your clothes out ready for the early start, only to find you forgot to wash your breeches after the last outing, so putting them on for a last minute wash and risking not having them dry enough for the morning (but at least they are clean). It’s making sure you have enough food for you and your entourage and champagne ready in case you win (not that you have to buy any as you’ve had the same bottle reserved in the lorry since 2016 for the exact same reason).
On the day your nerves are bubbling inside of you. Your adrenaline is up, yet you play it cool (or so you think). You are focusing on remembering your dressage test, the show jumping course and to turn left after the big log in the woods, otherwise you’ll be following the yellow arrows instead of the pink. It’s warming up for your dressage test beautifully, feeling like you’re on cloud nine, yet entering the arena and riding down the centre line on a giraffe crossed with a bouncy ball. You’re hoping for a good score and waiting for it to be called out in the show jumping arena, knowing full well you shouldn’t be listening because it distracts you from your first fence. You’re thrilled to hear you got thirty, but you rode at jump one like a sack of potatoes so now you’re on thirty-four. It’s making it round the cross country in good time and clear. It’s checking out the pictures in case they snapped one of you and your horse looking awesome, spending hours trying to work out which bay out of five hundred images is your bay and realising that they did capture you, but on the fence where you both had a different plan for take off. It’s spending a few hours waiting for the results to come in and missing out on the top five by a couple of points, but you’re ecstatic to be in the top ten because you achieved what you set out to achieve. You battled your fears and nerves, nailed the medium trot, jumped the ditch which caught you out last year, saw and supported your eventing friends, spent time with the people you love and you’ve still got four shoes.
After the event you have memories that make you smile for several days. You have shaky videos recorded and narrated by family members, which you watch over and over again, and you’re proud of what you accomplished and so are the people around you.
It’s a team effort and something which we all know is so incredibly special and we cannot wait to get out again.
Plus, nothing beats a burger and chips from the van by the show jumping arena.