Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eventing is different

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.

I have had some feedback on my  blog submissions.  I understand that my humor may not suit all, but that's where that business of "freedom of speech" comes in.  Happily, all the comments, with one exception from someone who admitted that only part of the blog had been read, were positive.  I like doing this so maybe I'll continue for the foreseeable future.  Lucky you.

I want to elaborate on the differences in training of horse and rider in the Hunter Jumper world and the Eventing world.  This is from my perspective of course.  In the simplest of sense, riders come in three formats.  1.)  The amateur who works in an industry other than horses to support their equestrian "fix".  2.)  The professional who feeds upon, that is to say, earns their "fix" money by teaching amateurs and, in the case of a big shot, who will also to instruct other professionals.  There is quite a hierarchy of who's who in professionals, but this may be better left alone.  I may need lessons again some day.  3.)  The third member is the lucky one who has funds from a) previous hard work and a justified retirement; b) a satisfactory marriage or divorce; or the very best c) the individual who managed to choose parents/family carefully.  For they will have managed all their lovely money wisely which allows the, um shall we say, trustee to enjoy life without that tiresome employment business getting in the way of life.  In the case of your type "A"  personality these individuals may be a conglomerate of any or all of the above riders.  Type "A"'s are usually good at what they do, but may not be that much fun at a party.

Let's talk a little about how eventing is different from shall we say hunter jumpers aka H/J.  At a  H/J show
your trainer may ride your horse in a few classes to settle the beast in to the new surroundings, because God only knows Fluffy has not seen the outside of the ring at home in like forever.  If you have a really good horse your trainer will always ride your horse, you will not, and you will be charged an extra training fee for the opportunity to have your horse shown by the professional, and ridden at home by anyone but you.  It's a confusing concept, but it does happen. 

Eventing is different.  You have to ride your horse in all three phases.  Yeah, you, personally.  I had a Jumper trainer a long time ago who showed up at an event to help me.  He was carrying his chaps and boots fully prepared to ride the horse in the "warm ups", and was horrified to learn that I would be doing all the riding and could only take help from him verbally.  Fortunately for all involved, the aforementioned horse had had a nervous break down the night before dressage and tore off all her shoes and for some reason we could not find a farrier.  But in any case, I didn't have to perform at all that weekend which was probably a blessing.

In the H/J world it is critical to have a properly turned out stable at a show.  In all likelihood you would never dream of competing at a H/J show without a trainer.  Depending on how much of a big shot your trainer is, there will be many stalls devoted to anything but horse housing.  There will be drapes which cover the outside of the show stables.  This disguises the fact that you have paid a huge amount of money for a 10' x10' stall made of plastic.  Then there will be mahogany tables, chairs and benches.  Brass lanterns will hang from the eaves.  The tack trunks will all be matchy matchy.  Sod, yes sod is purchased and placed around the custom decorated EZ-Up tent.  There will be an assortment of  plants and trees scattered about and some kind of carpet to give the impression you are "at home".  Never mind you are outside, probably in a field somewhere, with a stable full of horse poop and flies, the trainer with the most stuff wins.  People will want to ride with the big shot with the most expensive "stable".  That's just the way it is.  The last time I rode at an "A" rated horse show with a trainer I paid over $600 in entries, and about $1000 for the rest of the doo-dads.  And that didn't even get me there or pay for a place to stay.   It is at this point that perhaps you should glance over and reread the "about me" part that mentions the reversal of fortune bit.

At an event you may see some drapery, but usually not furniture, unless it folds up.  Occasionally you may run in to someone who is there to help, but it is usually a friend or a parent.  They are not paid.  If a training barn has a row of stalls, there may be a tack stall but rarely a grooming stall since there is a barn aisle to block.   A line of matchy matchy tack trunks may be outside each stall but there will always, always be a rogue trunk from another life that breaks up the monotony.

During the H/J show there is additional staff. In addition to the "trainer" there will be a gaggle of groomers, stall cleaners, assistant trainers, gardeners, longers, tack cleaners, psychiatrists and soothsayers.  Each staff member charges each horses owner a daily fee.  They spend all their time with the big shot, but they get a paycheck from someone else.  Interesting concept, but there you go.  I want to think that the groomer and stall cleaner at the last show I attended were paid $50 per day each.  That was for one horse.  That horse stayed for about five days.  You do the math.

At an event you ride your own horse.  You may have the friend or parent help in the stable but more than likely you will tack it up, clean it, put it away, feed it, give it water constantly and clean its stall.  With any luck your trainer will remember all of your ride times and make some kind of attempt to be at your warm ups to encourage you with sensitive comments and compliments galore.  Since you have to do all your own riding at an event, it is considered sporting if you also ride your horse at home.  This will probably involve devoting at least an hour a day in the saddle and requisite time cleaning your horse and hopefully your tack.  Count on two hours a day and all day on weekends.  I'm not sure why. 

At a H/J barn you are invited to visit when it is convenient for the trainer or his or her staff.  When you arrive your horse will be presented to you with all its tack on and shiny stuff on its feet.  You get on and cautiously make your way to the ring where the trainer or assistant will bark at you for 30 minutes.  You will be reminded that you must wear a shirt with sleeves, said shirt should be tucked in and you will wear a belt next time won't you?  Oh and keep your heels down.  You will most likely have a lesson of some sort every time you visit your horse.  After your ride you leave.  Period.  The barn will be closed on Monday.  Don't even think about visiting your horse on Monday.  It's just the way it is.  If the trainer goes to a show he or she will leave the Monday before the show starts on Wednesday.  It takes time to "set up".  The trainer will be gone anywhere from five days to six weeks.  It just depends.  Your horse may  go to the show for mileage.  There are trailering fees, stabling fees, grounds fees and day fees incurred as well as any entry fees for this education/mileage. 

Eventers should try to take a lesson once a week and more than that the week before the event.  You should also memorize your dressage test.  Over the course of the show season  you will ride the same dressage test over and over and over again if you stay at the same level.  But there will be the exception for one competition which is the one you won't have noticed that instead of Dressage Test A, you will be required to negotiate Dressage Test B.    It happens.  Therefore you should read about events you plan to enter in your omnibus* repeatedly and verify-verify-verify the test, the location and the date. 

Let me go on ad-nauseum about entering an event.  In the omnibus* you will locate an event you want to enter.  If you read about the event you will find that the show dates are listed.  The opening and closing dates are posted.  The opening date is about six weeks before the start of the competition and the closing date is about four weeks later.  You are supposed to send your completed entry to the organizer or secretary some time during those four weeks.  Sadly some competitors find those dates to be arbitrary and will ALWAYS send their entries late.  Now think about it for just a teensy tiny moment,  you are being asked to send your entry with your fees to the competition management at least two weeks before the start of the show.  In return, the organizer will have purchased or rented, shavings, hay, stabling and jumps.  They will have paid for someone to come design a the show jumping courses and design a cross country field with up to five different courses on about +/-100 acres.  They will pay to have a water jump filled, galloping tracks plowed and footing prepared.  They will have paid for transportation for all the officials and provided room and board for them.  They will pay for porta-potties, food vendors, tents, tables and chairs.  They may have to pay to use the facility, pay for a use permit and obtain insurance and deal with the governing body of the federation.  Oh,  all this is done before the event starts and it adds up to slightly more than your entry and stabling.  If you look at it from that perspective the $400 you are asked to pay for entry and stabling is small potatoes.  Next time you think you will just enter whenever, think about the financial risk an organizer takes each time they post an event in the omnibus*.  My my that was quite a little soapbox wasn't it?

I hope this clears the differences up between H/J and eventers.  I would explain the differences between dressage and eventing, but it's just too depressing.  Basically, in any horse sport you need money and a lot of it.  Next time you will be a little more careful choosing your parents.



*Omnibus:  This little gem lists all the events sanctioned by the USEA (United States Eventing Association) in the U.S.  The events will be listed by areas I-X.  The levels offered, the dressage tests being used, the length of the cross country, accommodations, directions, who the judges are (usually) and a time table are listed for each event.  Since these are made up by the organizer, there may be some revisions on the actual day, but the Omnibus will also tell you that this is information that was available on the day the publication was printed.  Hopefully if there are any major changes someone would let you know.   Amen.

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