With government restrictions in place in light of the Covid-19 outbreak, everybody's competition plans are on hold. Whilst disappointing for many, it is a great time to plan your return to Eventing. We ask the experts for their top tips...
1. Fit and Ready
Before you enter your first event, consider your horse's level of fitness and current ability for the class/level you are wishing to enter. How much work has your horse been in? Are they competition ready? "Make sure your horse is fit enough, always make sure you warm up and cool down effectively post any piece of work. It is important to know your horse's body inside and out (not just the legs!) and how it feels day in day out and after a hard piece of work or jumping - what is their 'normal' and then try to proactively spot niggles before they turn into something more significant - every horse is different" - Bill Levett
2. "Perfect Conditions"
Choose your venue carefully... How far is the venue from your yard? Is your horse used to travelling? It might be a good idea to stay local for your first event back post lock-down and carefully consider ground conditions. With reduced opportunity to ride on different surfaces and ground during this time your horse's legs may not be used to the ground you are going to reintroduce them to. A great way to do this is gradually by heading out to several clinics or course hire days prior to your first event back.
"Our top tips are: to make sure the horse's legs are accustomed to the ground they will be working on. This is to be done with thought and care. If the ground is hard you need to carefully get your horse's legs used to the hard ground without over doing it."
"Be careful when using gallops when the ground is hard, most gallops get deep from the lack of water on them, this can cause strains too. Tailor each gallop to the surface of the gallops and the ground that you will be competing on."
"Work closely with your vets, physio and farrier, they may notice a change first which will later come out. If you think there is a problem: stop, rest and reassess after a break." - Paul Tapner
3. Stay Protected
Using Eventing Boots protects the legs against strikes and knocks over cross country fences. Whilst offering protection, your cross country boots need to offer breathability and ensure that the horse's legs do not overheat.
You should also consider regularly checking your riding hat and body protector to ensure they are up to date with the current standard and have not suffered excessive wear & tear, especially if you are competing at an unaffiliated event where there are typically less protective equipment checks.
Regularly check all of your equipment to ensure that it is fit for purpose.
4. Effective Warm Up
Aim to reach your venue in plenty of time and be organised so that you get a good amount of time to warm up for each phase. An effective warm up is the foundation for injury prevention in the ring/on the field.
5. Riding The Course
As it is your first time back and you've carefully selected a venue and level suitable for your horse's level of fitness, enjoy it! Listen to how your horse is feeling throughout the day/course and be mindful not to push your horse too hard. You can use this first outing as a warm-up for the rest of the season to take the pressure off.
6. Cool Down
After you've finished, spend time cooling your horse off effectively to prevent injury and recover from the strenuous exercise. Make sure you have water prepared before you go to the cross country course, for use upon your return. Sponsored rider Paul Tapner, takes us through his cool-off routine...
"Firstly the horse is untacked and offered a drink. We would then wash the horse's body using soapy water. We use an antibacterial shampoo every time the horse has been cross country to make sure no nasty bacteria from water jumps etc is left lingering and to remove any event grease or products that could get on the horses coat and form a barrier stopping the water getting through the horses coat and on to its skin."
"We would then remove boots and studs and wash the horse's legs thoroughly. We would scrape down any excess water from under the belly to check it was clean. If this water comes off hot or dirty we would wash the horse until it came off cool. Once we have finished washing we would put on the cold water boots. We would then walk the horse and wash off again if needed." - Paul Tapner
Once your horse has been effectively cooled down it is time to dry them off, walk them off and go and check your results! use a technical wicking rug to draw away the moisture from the coat and prevent chills in the cooler weather. "We use the Premtex Cooler in the spring months after the horse has exercised and been washed off or after the horse has had a bath. The rug visibly wicks the moisture from the coat which appears on the outside of the rug, but with it's clever technology it stays dry underneath meaning the horse does not a catch a chill and remains warm whilst it dries. For warmer months the Buster Waffle Cooler is the ideal wicking cooler rug." - Paul Tapner
Once you are home and your horse is enjoying time in the field or tucked up in bed, take some time to reflect on your day - making a note of what went well, what could be improved and what goals you are going to set yourself for your next outing. How did your horse feel? Is there particular training you feel you need to complete?
Plan your next event! Dig out the calendar and gauge how you and your horse felt at your debut event. Plan accordingly with a fitness regimen and action path to reach your goals. It can be helpful to discuss with your trainer, coach or even a friend about the challenges you faced and how you are going to overcome them.
10. Injury Prevention Technology
Innovation has led the way to incredible advancements in injury prevention. Premier Equine have led the way for horse boot technology for over a decade to offer exceptional protection and breathability for the ultimate range of protection and cool therapy solutions.
“We have used the Air Cooled Eventing Boot range since 2003. They are durable, light and fit extremely well. The air cooling technology is great necessity as they provide a cooling system for the horses legs which help to keep the core temperature of the leg down, helping to reduce any heat that may cause tendon damage. The strike guards provide the best protection against solid rails or strikes from the legs. They are easy to clean and they do not hold water meaning that they do not become heavy and do not slip."
"We highly recommend the Premier Equine Eventing Boot range for all types of event horses and we are impressed with the technology, materials and fit – with the all-important air cooling technology”
“We very much like the tall ice boots with the pockets. We use these a lot. Especially if we have access to ice and a stable at a competition.” “When we are at a 3 day event we would use the cold water boots (we refrigerate ours) to get back to the stable as they are secure and straight away remove them putting on the full ice boots for ultimate cooling.” “We then do 20 mins on 20 mins off for a couple of hours, before leaving the legs to dry naturally." "In the morning we would ice again until trot up, let the legs dry and then apply the magnetic boots until we tacked up for show jumping.” - Paul Tapner
Whether you are aiming for your first unaffiliated event, competing at 3* or just heading out for a blast on your local gallops, take a look at our range of rider-championed, market-leading leg protection and therapy products below to help your horse maintain optimum health and performance.
Good luck for your first event back from the PE team!