Taking a horse to their first ever one day event can be a nerve wracking experience, however it can also be the most rewarding experience. I love their innocence and willingness to learn, and the way they seem to ask for your help and guidance in the new unknown environment. Therefore, it is important as riders we make it an enjoyable and educational experience.
It is important when riding around we are sympathetic and encouraging to make them feel at ease in the new environment, however we still need to be firm and clear in what we are asking. This is so they don’t start to become distracted in a new environment. As nice as it would be to come out to their first competition and win, you really can’t come out with any expectations or pressure. Take it all as a learning experience and most importantly enjoy it!
To ensure you are correctly prepared, try attending a few training events and a small dressage competition beforehand, therefore you’ve already met the scary white boards and flower pots. Make sure you don’t worry too much if they are so intent on watching their neighbour in the next arena, they make a good impression of a giraffe! As long as they are obedient, stay relaxed and feel confident then they will only get better the more miles they get under their belt.
During the jumping phase it is important to let them take their own time, remember there is nothing wrong with trot! They will learn so much more from fumbling and finding their feet around the showjumping and cross country than being rushed and pushed at the fences against the time. A top rider tip which I always try to remember is to keep your hands wide and your back soft, some vocal encouragement and praise is usually well received.
If at the end of the day you’ve managed to get around all three phases with a smile on both your faces then I’d call that a massive success. It is definitely more important for them to learn at this stage than to win. When your young horse has just completed their first event you will feel like you’ve won anyway!