I am a Hunter/Jumper, but see so many Eventers that are independent, brave, and savvy. How do you do it? I need advice.
I am a 30+ year horsewoman and have shown moderately in the past with a trainer. I am confident with my horses and my riding, but just can’t seem to get myself out there. I don’t have a trainer to go to shows with and have gone by myself a few times. But now my horse is ready and I keep making excuses. I’m scared of driving my truck/trailer by myself in case I wreck or break down. I’m scared I’ll fall off in the ring and no one is there to take my horse or take me to the hospital. I’m not afraid of not placing or even having some bad rides. I love and miss showing.
How do you handle this? Do you hire a helper? Do you not worry about it? I would feel so much better even having a non-horsey person with me. Would love to hear how you do it.
I am a Hunter/Jumper, but see so many Eventers that are independent, brave, and savvy. How do you do it? I need advice.
The nice thing about eventing is it fosters a sense of community through volunteering at events. I have seen the community step in and help when I rider and/or helper needs it. It’s one of the main reasons I event.
I do worry about not being able to get my horse and myself home if I were to get hurt. I generally try to go somewhere with a friend or a helper who at the very least knows how to haul. If I can’t, I make sure I’m not so far away from home that I can’t call someone up to rescue me!
Your feelings are perfectly valid & not uncommon, imo. My sense is that it isn’t that all eventers show without having a trainer along. It is just that in the US, eventing is much less trainer-centric/trainer driven than Hunters. And it is absolutely fine to take someone with you. Even if that someone is not a trainer or even horsey!
I went to a dressage competition (my 1st comp of any kind since I was 15) without my trainer because she had a conflict that weekend. Sounds brave.However, the circumstances were such that it was feasible: Intro level tests at a local show with a teenaged horse that had competed PSG, who might get happy about being there but could be relied upon not to do anything genuinely stupid or dangerous. And I’ve ridden for 40 years & am objectively more skilled than I give myself credit for here on COTH. Lol. Plus, we weren’t alone. We hitched a ride with another boarder since I don’t have a trailer. If it had been something closer to my edge: reactive horse, 2nd-3rd level tests, etc, I would have wanted the trainer there & I’m sure she would have agreed. She took roadies with her whenever she did a horse trial with her horse. He was such that you needed an extra set of hands.
I say take a buddy with you to start. Even just someone who can keep an eye on the horse while you run to the port-a-potty. Someone who can support you, if even just to hand you a bottle of water & remind you that you need to hydrate before you pass out. The previous poster is correct. If you do go alone, you aren’t going to be alone. People will help. My teenager likes me at shows but does better not talking to me once it is time to warm up & get on deck. She goes off with her trainer & I am there hanging around until it is time to watch her rounds. I have cheerfully held many a horse, retrieved numbers that blew away in the wind, bought water for complete strangers, & even held an AA’s phone while she jumped her courses. And I know I’m not the only one!
I have the same worries running through my head. So I like you are trying to put some plans in place.
First going with a buddy, I have a riding friend who is getting into eventing so she and I will meet at some non eventing events together. Events that she cannot go to, I have the option of hiring a “groom” for the day. Lots of people do it around my area, Facebook groups are full of people who are either offering or looking for a groom positions. Many can also drive a truck and trailer in an emergency. It also seems like it a great way to have a relaxing day, someone is there to bring you a drink, wipe your boots and hopefully meet a new friend.
Next, a yearly membership to US Rider. These people are great and will arrange to get you, your rig and your horse to the right place and home safe. A friend has this and she said it was a godsend when her truck blew a turbo.
Third, I will be showing with my coach the first couple outings, so I will have the benefit of my barn on those occasions.
The horse world is a social and helpful place, you make friends fast and people do look out for one another. I have seen this for many years, we all help out and the case of an emergency or unplanned issue, you will be amazed at the amount of support you have from strangers.
Either way, you can do it!
I hate driving even in the car-- but I love showing more than I fear all the other stuff, I guess. But there’s also nothing wrong with hiring someone or even just offering to drive (or take turns driving) a friend in exchange for their company and mutual support.
I am not an eventer. But I am fine to drive alone to a local trail ride destination and then ride, or to ship a horse between barns, or to a lesson.
However I can’t see going to a competition totally alone. If I couldn’t have my coach, I would want to have a competent buddy on the ground to hold my horse while I went to the bathroom, dust off my boots, and bring me water. I’ve done this for friends. You can often find someone around the barn who thinks it would be fun and buy them breakfast and lunch
As far as trailering you just need to get used to driving alone in small increments. On the other hand distance matters. Where I live, if you leave the metro area in any direction you are quickly in high mountain passes. I’m OK driving my car alone out of town, I may end up driving my rig alone at some point, but I recognize having another person is smart for a 5 hour trip up a mountain highway that has its own reality show.
Why not team up with another person from your barn that wants to show?
When I was competing, I don’t think I went to a single event alone. I knew a lot of folks who also rode with my instructor, so the competitions were more group efforts than solo ones. I’m surprised it isn’t the same for H/J people – is that because you trailer in and out to get your lessons and don’t “live” at the barn your trainer is at? Eventing with just one horse means a LOT of sitting around over the course of 3 days – one really needs to make some quick friends just to keep from getting nutso bored.
My small forays into H/J/ land also kind of had a team feel, but maybe that was because of the individual trainer? I dunno.
It sounds to me like you need a circle of show friends. Maybe you could volunteer to help out another competitor at shows for a little while, to get an “in”, and then you can begin bringing your horse to the same circuit they are doing?
I’ve shipped out alone for shows quite a bit. I don’t mind it at all, but it does take some practice, lots of organization, and good time management. So just think through your day really well! Having a buddy on the ground after not having one feels like the absolute height of luxury.
Do you have anyone in your horsey life that you can have a reciprocal arrangement with? You come help at their shows, they help with yours? Or, can you go help someone who’s accustomed to a DIY approach, so you can observe their habits and absorb the ones that will serve you well?
Personally, I don’t worry about it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan though.
If you keep your horses at home, you could post on Facebook or somewhere to get a ‘trailer pool’ going to horse shows and split the cost of gas. If you have friends from other barns traveling to shows, you could ask if you could meet up with them an join a convoy to the show. Someone mentioned US Rider, that may give you some peace of mind to travel alone.
I’ve never been in an accident (knock on wood) with the horse trailer, but I have broken down. It’s annoying. You figure it out. Much the same as you would if you broke down any other time. I always have water and a bucket on the trailer and usually a bit of extra hay. Also, always travel with a horsey first aid kit. Including sedation, banamine, etc.
As far as what happens if you fall off or get hurt, there is always someone willing to catch up a loose horse, figure out where it came from, and get it back to where it needs to go. At the very least, show officials will make sure the bare necessities are met. If you are incapacitated, there is a vet on the grounds to see to any medical care your horse may need. If you need a hospital, there should be an ambulance on the grounds. I’ve also seen someone associated with a show volunteer to drop someone not seriously injured at the hospital to be checked out.
I’m so used to showing alone (dressage for many years, now eventing) that when I do have a helper I feel awkward and try to do everything myself anyway!
I’m kinda the same for both dressage shows and events!
OP - I have a US Rider membership and have had to use it (they offer great service and cover you and your horse in any vehicle), so that gives me peace of mind while driving alone and I understand basic vehicle maintenance (like what to do if the engine overheats and where to add washer fluid, coolant, etc). I travel with a basic first aid kit for me and my horse and I know how to use them. The eventing community is pretty supportive, so I don’t really think, or worry, about falling off or getting hurt. All events have vets and an ambulance on site or on call, so a real emergency will be handled appropriately. I am also confident someone would step up and assist if I really needed it and asked.
On a practical level, it takes extra thought and organization - there is no one to run back to the trailer or stall if I discover I forgot something when I get to the ring, so I make sure I don’t forget things and I have plenty of time, just in case I did! I also make sure I have equipment that makes doing things alone easier, like carts so I make less trips from the trailer to the stall, or having two saddle racks so I can have both my saddles at the stall rather than having to hike to the trailer to swap them, or having a bale bag so I can move a whole bale of hay to my stall by myself.
I also volunteer a fair amount at the events in my area so even if I am there alone (which I almost always am!), there are usually at least a few people I at least sorta know or recognize that I’m confident would help if I was really in a bind. When I move to a new area (which I’ve done more than once), I try to volunteer at a few events before I consider showing to get a feel for, and be seen in, the community. I also often volunteer even if I’m showing, if practical (that works better with 3-day events than 1-days!).
Thank you everyone, sounds like I need more friends!
That reminds me: I’ve seen people post on equine-related FB groups for help in emergencies, to. Usually the USEF Zone group. A storm last month caused a 6-8 hour backup on parts of I-95 south of DC. Someone got stuck in it with a trailer & posted on our USEF Zone group asking if anyone with a barn along there had room for them to stop if traffic didn’t start moving --she feared for the condition of the horses after being stuck for so long. It got shared into other local groups & they got many offers of help.
Two years ago there was a bad wreck on R7 involving a trailer. The trailer & horses were thankfully all right but the truck was a total loss & iirc the driver was hospitalized for a few days. Someone they knew locally took the horses in. They posted in the local groups asking if there was anyone with a large truck that could help them haul trailer/horses home to PA & got help.
I know everyone on here always does this anyway, but make sure you have current copies of Coggins & other applicable health records with you. I actually started getting Coggins pulled on the pasture puffs that never left the farm after reading a news piece about a woman in Spotsylvania or environs finding a lady grazing a horse on the grassy strip of a Home Depot parking lot. Turned out they were from FL & had evacuated ahead of whatever that big hurricane was. Unfortunately, the horse owner had no Coggins for the horse & was basically camping out in the truck. By divine intervention, the local woman happened to own a place with a small horse set up & no horses & was able to take them in. But yikes! Got me thinking about what would happen if I had to evacuate with the pasture puffs Had the vet out that week to pull Coggins for each.
If you know your horse is ready, how about planning a campaign that carefully builds up your confidence? Everything in one go can be totally overwhelming. Break down the issues, find a practical solution. If you are unfamiliar with the rythmn and practices of an event, visit and watch or perhaps volunteer to meet some people, too. If you fear driving with a trailer, get someone else to do that part. Pay them if necessary. One less fear. Eventually you might decide to do it yourself. Or not. Have a friend along to hold the horse when you rush off to the portapotty before your round, that is another fear sorted. Have the same friend holding a glass of champagne for a successful completion, that is another fear dealt with. Have a companion who is calm in a crisis if you do have a problem but events are well organised and will have help on hand. The more organised you are, the better you will be able to cope.
If you are there alone, make up an envelope with In Case Of Emergency and leave one on your stall with contact info and a description of your truck and trailer, and then leave another set of info in your trailer where it can be accessed (not locked in the dressing room.)
It’s probably in The Rules anyway, but make sure your horse it wearing its number at all times so that you can be identified. Speaking of, getting a Road ID or another similar ID bracelet might give you some peace of mind.
I am very confident that if you are injured and have to go to the hospital, the horse community will step up to care for your horse and either get it back home or to a local place until other arrangements can be made.
To get comfortable with your truck and trailer… practice. Just yesterday I hooked up and drove in a loop around town and back home with the empty trailer, then loaded my horse and did it again. In my case I need to take the ancient one to the vet and he hasn’t been anywhere in forever, but also I have not driven the truck and trailer in a long time and need to re-learn how it corners, to slow down early, etc. etc.
Make a checklist of everything you need to do before heading out – and print it out and cross things off. If your anxiety kicks in with “OMG did I lock the dressing room door?!” when you are half an hour down the road, you can glance at your list and reassure yourself.
I have never gone to a show alone, as for the very reason if I get hurt, who’s driving my rig home and my horse home. Although I know there is an excessive amount of support at shows, my horse would stay at the farm we showed at, or an amazing fellow eventer would take him home or to their barn. The community is truly amazing in eventing.
I travel mostly to lessons alone, and my lessons are always a trailer ride away unfortunately. Something about it gives me a confidence boost. Look what I can do, by myself. It’s always, always, always nice to have a friend tag along. Makes the drive more fun, tacking up or cooling out easier. There are added bonuses to having a horse savvy friend.
I am 33, I will easily drive 2 hours alone without issue. My worry is if I break down, I do my best to keep the trailer in tip top shape for any travel, and always do a circle check before leaving or even when I make a stop.
I am all for having a friend join you, or even meet you at the event. Makes it a little easier, but the more you’re able to push yourself out of your comfort zone (isn’t that eventing in iteslf?) the more comfortable you’ll become.
The evnting community is honestly my favourite out of all the disciplines I’ve been able to experience.
In 4 years when my kid goes off to college and I don’t know what to do with myself having free weekends again I will gladly go with someone who needs a companion for a show!
This reminds me of a phone call I got at 3 AM (more than 20 years ago, so pre- Facebook groups) from someone I knew, but not very well, who was stuck in a snowstorm on I-95 with two horses in her trailer. She wanted the phone number of the barn manager of a specific barn in Woodbridge, as she didn’t think she was going to make it home. Luckily I had the number, and I also told her I was sure it would be OK to go there even if she could not get hold of the barn manager.
To the respondents in general, I think the OPis looking for advice from eventers (seen as more independant) on going to hunter/jumper shows on her own. I don’t think she is asking for advice about going to a horse trial. But I might be mis-reading.
More than one person on Shite Eventers Unite admits to heading out for a show & realizing a good way down the road that they’d forgotten their HORSE . Once, after the Short Stirrup division at a schooling show, we heard a racket & looked up to see a young mom/self-trainer sort pulling out with the back ramp of the trailer still down. Poor thing was so frazzled from loading kids & ponies that someone had to run after her shouting to get her attention. More sympathetic, I could not be!
@Janet, I got the same impression. The vast majority of shows I attend are Hunter/Jumper. People don’t know each other from volunteering like they do in Eventing, but I think the OP will still find plenty of helping hands when needed. The only time I’ve ever sweat bullets being left with a horse wasn’t with any of the stallions or young draft horses I’ve handled. It was during the leadline at Upperville when someone asked if we could hold their obviously 6-figure pony while she went to the rail to watch. It was one of those fancy, impeccable little Welsh geldings that are so calm & polite that you wonder if they’re actually humans in a costume. Almost expected him to start making polite small talk about the weather & what local restaurants might be nice to try that evening
If you don’t have a regular trainer, you can ask one you know and like if you can be part of his/her group at the next event. Then you’ll get the coaching and assistance you need without having to be a regular student. A friend does this and it works out well for her.