Can’t wait until March for your horse trials fix? H&H finds out how to set yourself up for success for arena eventing this winter

Prepare at home

We all know practice makes perfect so ensure you have done your homework and are well prepared for the competition.

“Be inventive at home and make your own courses to practise over,” says eventer Ibby Macpherson. “Include barrels and skinnies and vary your lines. If there’s a puddle in your school then put a jump at the side to practice jumping into water — get creative.”

Four-star eventer and BE JAS judge Sarah Bullimore agrees: “At home practise jumping angled fences, skinnies, corners and ditches. Make your own coffin or ditch using poles on the floor, rectangular blocks or a water tray. Try lots of different combinations so you can jump these things confidently and without question at home and then you won’t be fazed at the event.”

While your horse isn’t going to be at peak fitness at this time of the year, he will need to be in regular work to take on this type of competition. The courses are long, include many twists and turns, and need to be ridden at a decent pace.

On the day…

1. Walk the course thoroughly

“Walk the course two or three times if need be so you know all your options,” says Sarah Bullimore. “Come out of the arena, turn away from the jumps and go through the course in your head. Know where you can turn inside a fence, but also know where to go and what to do if you can’t make that turn.”

2. Warm up appropriately

“Make sure your horse is on the same wavelength as you. Work them enough so they are not too fresh, and if they are a bit lively then do lots of transitions and try leg-yielding as that helps make the rider put the leg on rather than being afraid to,” continues Sarah. “Ride tight lines while warming up and jump off a 10m circle in the practice arena so it’s not a surprise to the horse when you ask him to do that in the arena.”

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3. If possible enter multiple classes

“Often the horse can be overawed by the atmosphere, particularly if it’s young or hasn’t been out for a while and they can lose their way, but they learn quickly and the second class is usually more comfortable,” explains eventer Kylie Roddy.

Don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (4 January 2017) with our full feature about arena eventing — and how to have success this winter